The Bonfire of the Decencies

Peter Hennessy and Andrew Blick

The British constitution matters. Its observance is crucial to the well-being of all our people, to every state and deployment of government power. It is crucial to the face our society presents to itself as well as to those who observe us from overseas.

For all its importance, however, the British constitution is a thing of considerable mystery and elusiveness. It does not reside inside any set of hard covers.

But the decency of government and the constitution from which they draw (or should draw) their sap and vitality, find themselves at a low ebb in the wake of the Boris Johnson premiership. There has been a serious seepage of trust, which has generated a pessimism of the spirit. The Bonfire of the Decencies offers a range of suggestions about what might be done to repair and restore the British constitution. Time is pressing for what needs to be a shared national endeavour; a story of restoration, revival, and creative purpose.

Andrew Blick and Peter Hennessy compel us to look anew at our constitutional procedures. The recent past has shown us we cannot keep muddling through. Only this way can we keep the United Kingdom safely in the very highest ranks of the rule-of-law nations ― a gift we assumed was so securely banked that, until recently, we did not have to worry about it.

PETER HENNESSY is one of the UK’s leading contemporary historians and is the author of definitive books on the UK’s prime ministers, constitution, civil service, and intelligence agencies. His recent works include Winds of Change: Britain in the Early Sixties and A Duty of Care: Britain Before and After Covid. He is the series editor of Haus Curiosities.

ANDREW BLICK is Professor of Politics and Contemporary History, and Head of Department of Political Economy. He is the editor of The Constitution in Review, a six-monthly analysis of developments in the UK constitution produced by the United Kingdom Constitution Monitoring Group.

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