The very people that Truss set out to help with tax cuts and reinstating banker’s bonuses are the ones who are sinking the pound.
This confirms what we already knew, the state isn’t neutral, and neither are constitutions. Constitutions are framed by the powerful to serve their own needs and to shape the state for future generations.
The fact that the UK doesn’t have a written constitution may in theory make it easier to change. On the other hand the British state is one of the most centralised in the western world. Ultimate power is theoretically concentrated in the sovereignty of Parliament.
Constitutions are not just structures for governing. Most modern constitutions serve as both political and economic frameworks either implicitly or more commonly now explicitly guaranteeing the free market.
Socialists quite rightly question whether there is a Parliamentary route to socialism? If there is any hope for this it must involve us in changing our constitution. For this to be possible we need to identify what constitutional changes could alter the balance of power in favour of working people and how we can bring them about? Can we frame a debate on the constitution in class-based politics?
Most discussions on the constitution are conducted in abstract terms about what constitutes the best democracy. I would instead want to consider what is the best framework for giving power to the people and to protecting that power in the most effective way possible.
How do we break up the tight centralised control of power in Parliament?
How do we achieve democratic control over our state and our economy?
We can start by exposing the class-based privileges that must be challenged. Parliament, the city of London and the state broadcaster are all based within a few square miles of London creating a self-serving establishment that work together, socialise together and have the same vested interests. I would argue for powers to hold Westminster to account through a Senate of the nations and regions.
Devolved administrations should have powers over their local economies including utilities and essential services but also taking ownership of companies that would otherwise be targeted by hedge funds.
This must be a challenge to the primacy of the House of Commons and acknowledge the rights of the other nations and give powers the regions of England.
I think the time for this has never been better. There is growing support for diluting the sovereignty of the House of Commons. The role of elected mayors has created centres of power in some English regions and Andy Burnham has become a recognised spokesperson for constitutional change.
What is lacking is a radical Labour Party to make the most of the disillusionment with Westminister.
How did Labour squander a popular majority?
It failed at both a UK wide and Scottish level. The Labour Government was concerned about having a radical Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly. It may have been convinced that radical positions would cost them votes in England, but personally I think that Blair and Brown didn’t want their policies exposed as being to the right of a radical Welsh or Scottish labour. The Constitution of the Scottish Parliament was deliberately designed to keep it as a junior parliament and it was intended to ensure that no one Party could gain power. The reason given was to generate consensual politics but what it achieved was weak politics.
By the time the SNP became the majority government in 2011 consensus was not an issue. There was only one debate in Scotland, independence or status quo. The formation by Labour, LibDems and the Tories of Better Together to fight for a no position in 2014 was the final nail for the Labour Party. The 2015 General election saw the Party punished for its years of complacency and its failure to represent the working class.
Where ever we go from here we need to recognise that in a country split 50 50 there will not be an easy solution. It is no way to launch a new nation with half the population opposed to it, but neither is it acceptable to continue with the status quo when it is failing the vast majority of people in Scotland.
Not everyone wants to have to make a choice between the two ends of a spectrum independence or the status quo. They deserve greater choice. Part of that choice should be finding common cause with people throughout the UK.
Working people throughout the UK have shared interest in making their local economies work in their interests.
The Scottish Governments have shied away from using the powers that they have. The SNP Government has pointed to EU rules as a reason not to support local industries and have allowed important manufacturers to go under when they could have intervened to ensure skilled, high paid jobs in wind turbine manufacturing stayed in Scotland.
So it isn’t just having the powers it’s about having a radical government that rejects neoliberal policies. Federalism gives the opportunity for nations and regions to encourage and support each other to adopt policies that wrench powers away from the city of London and to place them in democratic control.
All this can seem a long way from the industrial struggles that are lighting the flame of resistance all over Britain. People are getting involved in campaigns that cross industrial and community issues. Such struggles can be politicising and draw people into struggles beyond their immediate motivation. But what keeps them there if not the belief that things can change.
Constitutional change can sound dry and technical, or it can be seen as an essential part of class struggle. The demand to change our constitution must be based on redistributing wealth and power, gaining democratic control of our economy and it building and maintaining the class solidarity that has held together the trade unionists in dispute no matter what part of the UK they come from.