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Rebuilding and renewing the constitution: Options for reform

How political parties can rebuild the UK constitution.

The House of Commons flag and two Union Jack flags outside the Houses of Parliament.

This joint report by the Institute for Government and UCL’s Constitution Unit sets out a menu of constitutional reforms available to political parties to strengthen the UK’s constitution and governing institutions. It brings together existing recommendations made by the IfG, the Constitution Unit and others, including the ongoing IfG and Bennett Institute Review of the UK Constitution which will publish its final conclusions and recommendations in September. 

It is designed to inform manifesto preparations for all political parties ahead of the next general election – as well as putting forward proposals that the Sunak government could implement immediately – and sets out how these constitutional reforms could be achieved.

Political parties are under pressure to respond to increasing public concern about the health of democracy. A tumultuous period in UK politics has led to increased tensions between parliament and the executive, a deteriorating relationship between ministers and the civil service, friction between government, parliament and the courts, and questions being asked about electoral integrity. 

The report draws together achievable proposals – most of which are already carefully thought through and supported by multiple organisations – that could alleviate constitutional concerns and pressures. These include “quick wins” which could be delivered by the government now or by government within the first 100 days of a new parliament, alongside moderate changes which require consultation or legislation, and larger more controversial reforms which could meet political resistance.

While “quick wins” would require limited coordination or resources, political parties should use the run-up to the next election to plan carefully how to deliver larger changes. This would include prioritisation, and thinking through timing. In government, a cabinet committee chaired by a senior figure, who could be designated as minister for the constitution, might help ensure coordination. On many measures it is also desirable to prioritise building both public and cross-party support.

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