November the 13th brought a shocking Love Island-esque announcement from the Government as the Conservative twitter page tweeted “He’s back.” Which new bombshell would be entering Downing Street? Well the answer to this was disgraced former Prime Minister David Cameron. He would be installed as foreign secretary as Suella Bravermen was dismissed as her relentless stream of hateful remarks got too much even for Rishi Sunak.
Cameron would take a place in the House of Lords, better known as the House of Cronies, to avoid the issue that he was not elected and therefore did not have a seat in the House of Commons. This is not a move that is without precedence. Former Prime Minister and Conservative leader Margeret Thatcher appointed Lord Carrington as Foreign Secretary in 1979 despite him not having a seat in the commons, while Former Prime Minister and Labour leader Gordon Brown appointed a number of ministers from the House of Lords, most famously putting Peter Madelson into the House of Lords before making him the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills.
Precedence however, does not change the fact this is steeped in constitutional issues that raise serious questions of the nature of our democracy. David Cameron while he sits in the House of Lords is unable to enter the house of commons, meaning our foreign secretary at one of the most geo-politically unstable periods we have seen in decades, is unaccountable to both the electorate, as well as the House of Commons. One of the core tenets of democracy is accountability and we have a situation where one of most important positions in government is only accountable to a media which has shown itself to be biassed and incapable of holding right-wing politicians to account.
One might ask how in one of the world’s supposed oldest democracies was something like this able to happen? It all comes down to issues relating to our constitution. We in the UK have an unwritten constitution, which relies on precedent and a trust that elected officials will uphold our fundamental British values. Through this, despite the obvious issues it poses, David Cameron’s appointment is lawfully able to occur.
This is a system not suited to a 21st century democracy. Relying on precedence and the continuation of tradition is not robust within a system that into the 1970s, was restricting Catholics the vote in Northern Ireland through property qualifications that limited the vote to just the occupier of a property and their wife, thereby removing the franchise from any other children or subtenants within this property. We need a written constitution that protects us from both these sorts of abuses and the situation we find ourselves in with David Cameron. More fundamentally, an unwritten constitution relies on the public belief that politicians can be trusted to uphold it. At a time where just 4% of British voters believe the parliamentarians are “doing the best for the country,” a written constitution is needed to restore faith in our democracy.