Ruling the Ruler? Britain’s legacy of political freedom will change post-referendum politics, says Politeia pamphlet
Publication: Monday 20th June 2016
For many people, the EU referendum is about ‘Who should rule Britain?’. That question, says Sheila Lawlor, Politeia’s Director in Ruling the Ruler: Parliament, the People and Britain’s Political Identity, has been the key to Britain’s political evolution over centuries.
As Dr Lawlor, a British political historian explains, the freedom to decide the laws of the country, and hold the executive, whether king or government to account, has marked this country out for centuries, reinforced by the separation of powers.
- By the 19th century politics had a unique flavour. Nowhere was there such a lively interest in and knowledge of the politics of the day as in Britain, as people and politicians made common cause on the great matters of the day – free trade, the vote and parliamentary reform.
- By the 20th century Britain’s parliament was perceived to be the focus for that freedom, allowing the country protection against the autocratic rule of left and right that scarred continental countries. The fruits of that freedom could be seen in Britain’s constitutional stability, security and ordered progress.
Many people have recently despaired that parliament’s place as both symbol and guardian of freedom has been eroded; that the accountability of government to parliament, and of both to the people, have been snuffed out; that parliament has been emasculated by the manner in which recent governments use power and patronage to dupe the people and over ride the will of parliament.
But, says the author, the Brexit debate has revived this parliamentary tradition, as many MPs defy their party leaders and the government, risking their political careers to make common cause with the British people to back Brexit. As Dr Lawlor concludes:
As much of the law is now made by foreign authorities, unelected, unaccountable and for the most part unknown, it goes against the British political character and identity … which goes back one thousand years or more. The Brexit debate has rekindled the spirit of parliamentary independence and responsibility. It has struck a blow against overweening government power … MPs have rekindled the role of parliament as the focus for Britain’s liberties and people’s freedom …
Professor David Abulafia, the distinguished Cambridge historian and chairman of Historians for Britain, says:
In this beautifully clear and accessible account of how the political culture of the United Kingdom has developed over time, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Dr Sheila Lawlor leads us to reflect on the distinctive political culture of a country (or rather collection of countries) that stands apart from the rest of Europe and can surely find a route to success outside the European Union if the British public so decides.
Ruling the Ruler: Parliament, the People and Britain’s Political Identity is published by Politeia, Monday 20th June, www.politeia.co.uk, 14a Eccleston St, London, SW1W 9LT.
The author, Sheila Lawlor is Director of Politeia. She is a 20th century British political historian, and the author of Churchill and the Politics of War. Her next book will be onChurchill and the Politics of Peace (working title). She is a member of the Board ofHistorians for Britain.
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