Purpose and role of the Alliance for a Citizens’ Convention on the Constitution

Draft proposal by Assemblies for Democracy
for discussion

Purpose of the Alliance

  • promote the necessity of a citizen-led convention on the constitution
  • garner the support and resources required to make a convention a reality
  • convene a process leading up to a convention itself
  • campaign for the creation of a citizens’ convention on the constitution.

draftRole of the Alliance

  • raise awareness about what a constitution is and its significance
  • explain the crisis and undemocratic nature of the present UK constitution
  • make the case for a new, democratic constitution for the 21st century
  • link the case for a new constitution to health, housing, care, corporate power, the environment   and other social issues
  • build support and the resources for a citizens’ convention on the constitution
  • consult on various options for how participants are chosen.

Next Steps

Stage 1 – Galvanising public support for a citizen’s Convention on the Constitution.

We need to make the arguments why a citizen’s constitutional convention is necessary. See our Guardian letter.

We also need evidence from convincing, publicised experiments that demonstrate that citizens of differing perspectives and backgrounds can come up with a credible consensus, a “We The People” constitution.

For this we would need to instigate a well-publicised, funded process of at least one expertly-facilitated “mini convention” working on values and principles for a new constitution.

There are previous processes we can draw from, including, for example, the 1991 Canadian experiment. The People’s Verdict. Options for selecting participants could include, for example, random selection based on region, socio-economic status, ethnicity etc.

An initial draft of values and principles created by a relatively small number of diverse UK citizens would be less costly as an initial step.

Requirements would include providing a venue and stipend for participants over a series of weekends, facilitators, experts on tap and having adequate media reporting for it to be meaningful. Ideally, first stage “mini-conventions” could be held in different parts of the UK.

draftStage 2 – a full convention

One way forward would be a convention on a grander scale with large assemblies (day events) in several regions from which smaller working groups are constitute. They would continue the work over several weekends supported by experts on tap, with feedback from citizens online and in gatherings.

As an entirely independent process it could suffer from criticism of not being a legitimate convention. However the work having been done and the creation of a “We The People” voice would be powerful result that would create a precedent and shift political thinking, creating the conditions for eventual adoption.

The  findings would be presented to people all over the UK. This could be, for example, either entirely funded by a nationwide funding/crowd funding effort or endorsed by Parliament and funded by government.

Our view

Some democratic principles

Assemblies for Democracy has held several events, and worked with other campaigns, since its formation in July 2014, to take forward the idea of a new written constitution as well as the purpose and process of a convention.

Our planning group believes that the democratic principle that power should rest with the people is a starting point for promoting the case for a convention.

Given the broken nature of the present constitution, it would be difficult to imagine a process that did not include an examination of the present relationship of the different countries and regions of the UK within a framework of the principle of self-determination.

However, a convention should deliberate on what goals and values should guide our system of governance and then set its agenda accordingly.

draftA citizens-led process

We advocate and support a constitutional convention that is an independent, citizens-led process, where:

  • the deliberations of the convention and its working bodies are comprised of citizens only
  • citizens set the agenda and bring forward proposals
  • participants reflect the UK’s diverse communities, including the different countries within the UK, and be gender balanced
  • the convention moves around the UK to take evidence and consider local and national issues
  • the process is transparent and non-partisan
  • an online platform is used to report on the work of the convention and its groups so that citizens can feed back into its work
  • the convention is able to call witnesses, ask for submissions, and gain expert advice
  • the process is supported by a broad-based secretariat and expert facilitators
  • civil society organisations (including political parties) are encouraged to engage with the convention process and submit proposals
  • a convention maintains its independence from existing political institutions and parties
  • political parties encourage their membership to engage in the process
  • the convention is tasked with making proposals for implementing their proposals for a new constitution in order to seek the agreement of the people.

25 September 2017