Slippery as she goes, milord

December 8, 1995

Max Beloff argues approvingly of Vernon Bogdanor's view that the monarch acts as a "constitutional guardian" (Thes, December 1). The problem with this idea is that the British constitution, being unwritten, possesses no set of fixed constitutional rules - unlike the United States and virtually every other country. Thus, any supposed "guardian" of the constitution (or, for that matter, any "constitutional expert") is, of necessity, hardly neutral; when they pronounce they are doing little more than simply proclaiming their own views and often their own vested interests.

Beloff seems unable to comprehend that Britain's constitution has no codified, inherent or timeless, rules. Indeed, it is so slippery that essentially it is made up as we go along. For politicians this is very convenient, for it means that they can deem "constitutional" anything that they can get away with. And they get away with quite a lot. For instance, what real written constitutional system - with a constitutional court - would possibly tolerate such a strange anachronism as the House of Lords, where unelected persons not only help determine the laws under which we live, but use their unelected perches to lecture the rest of us on "constitutionalism".

Stephen Haseler

London Guildhall University

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