Sincerest Form of Flattery

Did anyone else think the constitutional reform initiatives announced today by brand-new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (see news coverage here and here) sounded familiar? Among the proposed changes: Parliament will have the power to declare war, ratify treaties, and approve appointments of judges and certain key administrative personnel; the government will form a National Security Council; and a process will begin to consider (yet again) enactment of a written Bill of Rights. Brown unveiled the plans in his first House of Commons speech as PM, a real marquee moment and probably the closest thing he has to an inaugural address.

It’s nice to know that, despite all its flaws and foibles, our governmental structure still has features that others consider worth emulating. Happy Fourth of July! (And if you haven’t done so yet, you should take another moment to celebrate the day by reading the Declaration of Independence.)

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2 Responses

  1. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    I thought the British system was fine as it was (evolving and adapting to new conditions to be sure, but not so insecure as to look to us as a solution to what ails them) and thus that it’s a mistake to believe they needed to emulate our system. The British have developed a constitutional monarchical democracy that works rather well, comparatively speaking. As I noted once over at PrawfsBlawg in a post on reforming the House of Lords, even many of the proposed reforms (some already implemented) of the House of Lords are unnecessary and wrong-headed.

  2. They must be familiar indeed! It’s funny that this aspect of the proposed reforms – the similarity of many of them to long-standing US practice – hasn’t been commented on more here in the UK, since we know Brown is seriously interested in the US and its politics – much more so than Tony Blair ever was.

    There’s no doubt quite a few of the reforms are inspired by what you guys do – but I wouldn’t push the similarities too far. I think we’ll be cautious about making “confirmation hearings” as political as yours sometimes seem to be; and giving Parliament the final say over war and treaties isn’t nearly as radical as giving Congress those powers. Don’t forget, we have a parliamentary system so, unless his or her majority is on a knife-edge, the PM will always have the initiative, and will have no trouble getting proposals through. There’ll never be a situation like President Bush finds himself in now, following mid-term elections.