Thursday, April 02, 2020

Neal Ascherson on the nature of the British state

Embed from Getty Images

Neal Ascherson reviews Richard Norton-Taylor's 'pugnacious' The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain for the London Review of Books.

His second paragraph runs:
The structure of the ‘British’ state is still essentially monarchical. Constitutionally, the rest of the democratic world has moved on, adopting variants of the Enlightenment notion of popular sovereignty. Power resides in theory with the people, whose communities lease upwards only those functions they cannot exercise themselves. But in Britain, its archaisms only lightly reformed, power still flows downwards. The absurd doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty – that weird English scrap of parchment – in effect means parliamentary absolutism, a hasty 1689 transfer from the divine right of kings. We don’t have ‘inalienable rights’, but are allowed to vote and speak freely only because the government, through Parliament, generously lends some of its power to its subjects.

No comments: