July 13, 2024


Equality opinion

Starmer’s imminent constitutional overhaul, courtesy of Gordon Brown

Starmer’s imminent constitutional overhaul, courtesy of Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown is a longstanding supporter of constitutional reform. When he initial entered parliament at the 1983 election, he picked up the trigger for Scottish dwelling rule enthusiastically — championing proposals which would eventually bare fruit in the 1998 Scotland Act. Make no miscalculation about it: the previous primary minister is a fully commited devolutionista.

Brown also made a important contribution for “No” in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Earning a passionate enchantment for wavering Labour voters, he referred to as on his audience “to combat for what is our aspiration, what is our need: a earth not of a independent condition, but a environment of social justice individuals can believe in”.

In pursuing these strong rhetoric on the structure, Brown wilfully taps into a prolonged legacy of Labour innovation on the trigger of reform. 

Whether it is Clement Attlee’s reforms to the Property of Lords, Harold Wilson’s patronage of the “Royal Commission on the Constitution” (1969-1973) or Tony Blair’s introduction of the Supreme Court, robust constitutional reform has been a big portion of successive Labour governments.


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So when Sir Keir Starmer charged Brown with overseeing a new constitutional commission as one particular of the to start with acts of his leadership in 2020, he sought to draw on the memory of these election-profitable forebears.

In simple fact, Starmer has billed the commission, which is owing to report any working day now, as making ready proposals “every bit as daring and radical as the programme of devolution that Labour delivered in the 1990s and 2000s”. 

Tackling democratic disparity on just one hand and economic injustice on the other, Starmer views constitutional reform as central to the eyesight the centre-still left can supply the region.

The Household of Lords 

Brown’s forthcoming constitutional evaluation seems to be set to consider intention at the Home of Lords initially and foremost.

A part of Gordon Brown’s report was leaked in September of this year, and it unveiled that Labour was thinking about abolishing the Lords and replacing it with an higher household of nations and locations elected instantly by the people today.  

It is major that Brown’s constitutional overview seems set to link abolishing the Dwelling of Lords with phone calls to raise regional and nationwide electrical power. This politically savvy move squares the instincts of his party on levelling up and constitutional democracy — crucially combining two intersecting tracts of political discourse.

Without a doubt, Andy Burnham, who is a vocal proponent of the two these challenges, has notably voiced aid for “an elected senate of the nations and regions” in spot of the Lords. The policy is also backed by the Scottish Labour chief Anas Sarwar. 

Considering the fact that the leak, which to start with appeared in the Observer, Starmer has published to Labour friends, informing them that reform is important to restore the have faith in of the community in governing administration. Keen to undertake a higher ethical floor on the issue of restoring believe in in politics, Starmer utilised to the letter to criticise previous key minister Boris Johnson for appointing “lackeys and donors” and riding “roughshod above the appointments system”.

Substantial to Starmer’s pitch to “clean up” politics, the proposed reforms would conclude the means of key ministers to appoint people to the second chamber.

It is also noteworthy that abolishing the Home of Lords was one particular of Starmer’s 10 marketing campaign pledges when he ran for occasion leader in 2020. But whilst numerous of these commitments have because been deserted or watered-down, Starmer now sights Lords reform as a conduit as a result of which Labour can “clean up politics” and, simultaneously, “level up” the U.K.

English devolution

As well as the Property of Lords, Starmer has discovered the harmony of electrical power between the centre, nations, locations and localities as ripe for reform.

When Starmer announced the commission in 2020, he said that “Too often the British isles government’s strategy has been to pit council from council, town against city, city in opposition to city, mayor in opposition to mayor”.

And the leaked segment of the report found by the Observer, also laid out designs for new tax powers for some devolved governments, like stamp obligation.

Brown also wishes area mayors to be in management about regional instruction and additional instruction budgets along with even more powers in excess of transportation, infrastructure, organizing and even the allocation of research-and-improvement funding in universities.

Crucially, Brown has consulted Labour’s regional Mayors as component of the critique course of action. In a joint assertion, Dan Jarvis (Sheffield), Jamie Driscoll (North of Tyne), Steve Rotherham (Liverpool), Sadiq Khan (London), Andy Burnham (Larger Manchester) and Susan Hinchcliffe (West Yorkshire Combined Authority), collectively explained the constitutional status quo as “broken”

They identified as on Brown to introduce “stronger devolution within just England” as “an integral part of generating a improved Britain that provides ability nearer to the men and women and allows us all choose back control”.

Labour’s motivation to increased regional clout, established to be laid out in Brown’s evaluation, will give the get together some a great deal-necessary plan ammunition heading into 2024. The occasion wants to acquire decisively in the North and the review’s proposals will be central to its appeal. 


Gordon Brown was an critical voice in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and he has since vocally advocated for an enhanced devolutionary settlement for the Uk.

Brown’s fee appears to be like set to outline actions to give Scotland enhanced nationhood in the Uk, to specified Scotland a louder both equally in and with no Westminster.

As section of a broader press to verify the attractiveness of independence, Brown seems to be established to market a refreshing slate of powers for Holyrood. Under the new proposals, social stability and economic policy are places which could be further devolved to Holyrood below a Labour government. 

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that Holyrood does not have the competency to rule on IndyRef2, quite a few see the national dilemma as possessing become too binary. Brown’s evaluation may perhaps offer you a valuable “third way” for Scottish Labour heading into 2024, just one involving the standing quo and the SNP’s eyesight of independence. 

Starmer is aware of that if he is to secure a strong the greater part immediately after 2024, the Labour celebration needs to consider seats off the SNP in Scotland. Broader legislative liberty for Holyrood will be central to Scottish Labour’s pitch.

MP’s 2nd work opportunities

Constructing on Starmer’s pitch to “clean up politics”, the Brown assessment appears established to affirm Labour’s commitment to ban most second employment for MPs.

Starmer said in November very last 12 months: “On consultations and directorships et cetera, we have been declaring for a lot of, a lot of years that they must go . . . We went a stage additional in 2019 to say no second work, with obvious exemptions. No consultants has been a very long-standing position in the Labour Bash.”

Even so, 2nd work opportunities that market the “public good” will be untouched by Labour’s new proposals. This indicates that Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow health minister, will be equipped to keep on practising medicine while an MP. 

Electoral reform 

1 location that Brown’s evaluation is searching to keep very clear of is electoral reform. 

This has led to an outcry from inside of Labour circles that any constitutional overhaul will be incomplete devoid of proportional representation. 

The Labour Get together convention this yr in Liverpool was dominated by calls for electoral reform and the alternative of the current to start with-earlier-the-put up voting process. A movement was handed by delegates to this outcome. This was considered as a triumphant instant by delegates who favour a move to proportional illustration. Talking to Politics.co.uk earlier this thirty day period, Labour MP Clive Lewis explained the move as “a vote for a unique variety of politics”.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has also been a notable advocate of electoral reform. Composing in the Observer earlier this year, he issued a guarded concept to Starmer, contacting on the Labour leader to “seize the moment” on proportional representation. 

In which do we go from in this article? 

The Labour celebration, Harold Wilson once noticed, is “like a stagecoach. If you rattle alongside at wonderful speed most people is also exhilarated or seasick to trigger any trouble. But if you cease, every person receives out and argues about where by to go next”.

The bind Starmer faces around constitutional reform is consequently a familiar issue. 

But the Labour chief plainly believes that Britain is overdue a constitutional overhaul. In truth, in outsourcing the accountability of reform to Brown, a trenchant advocate of change, Starmer issued a statement of intent.

The evaluation will in the long run offer a intriguing perception into the point out of Starmer’s leadership. Now only just one concern stays: does the Labour leader have the self-assurance to adhere to via?