This year is the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta, a document which agreed how England was to be ruled. But what has this got to do with modern politics?
It’s a document written in 1215 which recorded “the liberties of England”. Basically a posh word for the laws of the land.
Most importantly the Magna Carta stated that the ruler of England (at that point King John) had to obey the law just like anyone else. At that point the laws were agreed by the King and his barons so this didn’t exactly affect ordinary people. Who needs fairness anyway?
Nonetheless the Magna Carta document is still regarded as an important step to creating the constitution of the United Kingdom.
A Constitution is a set of principles and rules which determine how a country is governed. It is the supreme law; which means how the country is run and outlines the rights and freedoms of the citizens of that country. No biggie.
One of the most famous examples is the Constitution of the United States of America. This lays down how the power lies in the USA and outlines the civil rights belonging to citizens of the US. Woo, freedom!
That’s right. The UK is one of a very small number of modern countries which doesn’t have a written constitution.
Before you panic; things like your human rights and the laws of the country are set down in different treaties, documents and traditions which have existed for centuries. What we don’t have is one single document which brings all these different parts together.
The “Unwritten Constitution” is a group of traditions and practices for how the UK is run. For example, the idea of having a Prime Minister and how they are appointed (by gaining a majority in the House of Commons) is a convention. Whereas in America the Presidency is written in law by the constitution.
Last year the government held a committee exploring the idea of creating a constitution for Great Britain. They found that people liked the idea of having a constitution or a “second Magna Carta”, but couldn’t agree what should go in it. Go figure.
A written Constitution would make it clear who governs and how they are appointed. At the moment the UK head of state is the Queen. One of the options explored by the committee was having an elected head of state (like the Presidency in the USA) rather than a monarch. Bye-bye Queenie?
A new Magna Carta or Constitution would mean the UK would also have constitutional laws. These would ensure citizens cool stuff like “all men and women are equal” and the right to a private life in a widely acknowledged way, which could be referred to. So if a new law was proposed which could threaten those civil liberties the court can throw it out for being “unconstitutional”. Would this protect the rights of the people, or do you think it would slow the work of government?
Magna Cartas and Constitutions can lead to a LOT of legal headaches. In some cases it just makes things more complex. US Lawyers constantly find loopholes within the writings of their constitution.
Example: The US Supreme Court is currently deciding if there is a constitutional right for Gay Marriage. Supporters of Same Sex Marriage say that banning it is discriminatory which is against the constitution of the United States. Time to get lawyered up.
Once the Constitution is put into law it is extremely difficult to get rid of it or even change it. The American constitution has had only 27 amendments added since its creation in 1787. Realise a few years down the line that you missed something major? Tough Cookies.
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The 2015 Liberal Democrat Manifesto has now been released. Want to make some sense of it…read on.
In a sentence: Opportunity, equality and prosperity to all!
Sound fair? Read on…
Raise tax-free allowance to £12,500.
Lib Dems are giving themselves until 2017/2018 to BALANCE THE BUDGET. How? By cutting less than the Tories, and spending less than Labour. Sounds like middle child syndrome.
Make sure the rich “pay their share” and corporations are unable to avoid the right taxes… ahem Amazon.
Local areas will have more control with the economic decisions that affect them.
This will be easier with an extra £2.5 billion to be added to England’s education budget.
Guarantee education funding and support from nursery all the way to the grand old age of 19.
Put qualified teachers in every class AND they’ll have to have a minimum of a B grade in GCSE English and Maths in order to teach.
Free school meals for all primary school pupils.
No more state schools that make profit.
Promote STEM subjects in schools and encourage those young entrepreneurs.
How many times have you had to use osmosis since you left school? Lib Dems will introduce a “curriculum for life” – so that’s actually learning useful things such as finance skills (seriously how do you even do a tax return?), first aid, lifesaving skills, citizenship, sex and relationship education.
Aim to double the number of businesses offering apprenticeships.
Throw in an extra £8 billion to the NHS.
Mental health = physical health = same status and importance. How? Throw in extra £500 million to mental health care.
Get tough with tax evasion and avoidance by removing lots of loopholes for the sneaky peoples.
Finish what they started: something called Universal Credit – which means people will always be better off in work than on benefits.
If your company has more than 250 employees, you better start publishing differences of pay between the hes and the shes. This sounds familiar…I think this was poached from the Conservative Manifesto, or vice versa. Funny that.
Leading by example: by April 2016 all those working in government departments will receive a living wage, and the Lib Dems will encourage all public sectors to pay a fair living wage too.
Can you say DaDa? Expand “shared parental leave” and paternity leave to encourage fathers to take time off with their young children.
Increase free childcare for all 2 year olds from 15 hours a week to 20.
Too many free bee’s for Nana: if you’re a pensioner and receiving an income that pays tax at the higher rate of 40% (aka. a larger income), Lib Dems are cutting you off from Winter Fuel Payments and free TV licenses BUT you will still keep your free bus pass.
Plant a tree for every child born. Yep, that’s a lotta trees.
Waste not, want not: aim to have England recycling 70% of their rubbish.
A Green Transport Act: every new bus/taxi must be ultra low emission by 2030, and every car by 2040; low emission zones in busy towns and cities.
A Zero Carbon Britain Act: all about reducing greenhouse gases, so that’s less coal and more of this buzzword: decarbonizing.
A Green Buildings Act: painting the houses green? Not far off. Lib Dems will introduce a discount on council tax for homes that improve their energy efficiency – that’s what you call an incentive.
Rent To Own: where your monthly payments slowly buy you a stake in the property. KaCHING!
Help to Rent: deposit loans to help the young’uns get their first place.
Almost every household to have high speed broadband.
A sort of mansion tax but with a different name: High Value Property Levy (see what they did there?). This will be for properties over £2 million and will have a banded structure, like council tax, so it is proportionate to the value of your home.
Keep the current cap on a household’s benefits and try and measure this against what the average family income is. What even is an average family?
Encourage landlords to lower their rent by paying them this thing called Housing Benefit directly.
16 and 17 year olds: you have the vote.
Give more powers to Wales, just like Scotland. These are called devolved powers.
Make actual rules for these election TV debates, because, let’s be honest, the will they/won’t they saga has been annoying/boring.
Better border checks because we wanna know who’s coming in and who’s going out.
End FGM in the UK and abroad – yes FGM, that’s female genital mutilation, happens right here in the UK with an estimated 20,000 girls at risk.
Remain in the EU.
16-21? Say hello to your new discount bus pass.
Rail upgrades across the country and general transport improvements.
Opposed to airport expansion and any new airport in Greater London area.
Enough with the Facebook stalking: Lib Dems will protect your internet privacy rights with a Digital Bill of Rights so everyone can control their own personal data.
The General Election is just around the corner…
Will you be voting for the Liberal Democrats on May 7th?
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What else do you feel the Lib Dems aren’t quite covering? Let us know in the comment box below.