Democracy and national identity

David Howarth MP

There was an interesting comment yesterday in the debate about the government’s green paper on a new Bill of Rights. Justice secretary Jack Straw introduced the debate, with a proposal to put down in writing more detail about citizens’ rights and responsibilities in the UK.

Jack Straw explained that in the various constitutional documents in operation in different countries around the world, there is a spectrum of justiciability. Some rights are directly enforceable in the courts, while others are more declaratory. A lot of the concern expressed by the opposition rests on which rights are which. Until this is set out more clearer, we can’t be sure.

But the interesting comment came from Liberal Democrat David Howarth MP:

“Does the Secretary of State not agree that it is not a text in itself but the experience of acting together to govern one’s own community that creates a sense of democratic identity? National identity itself very rarely creates democracies—in fact, things might be the other way round: too strong a sense of national identity might have been destructive of democratic ideals in the past century.”

Read the debate here.

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