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Introduction
An unwritten constitution
What are constitutions for
Support for the unwritten constitution - the Whig view
Support for the unwritten constitution - westminster model
Support for the Unwritten Constitution - From the 1970s
What is the British Constitution - Common Law
The Common Law - The Royal Prerogative
The British Constitution - Statute Law
More on Statute Law
The British Constitution - Constitutional Conventions
Authoritative Sources
New Labour and Devolution
New Labour and FOI
New Labour and Human Rights
New Labour and Local Government
New Labour and Monetary Policy
New Labour and Political Parties
New Labour and the House of Lords
New Labour and the Judiciary
Significance since 1997
The Coalition
Introduction
An unwritten constitution
What are constitutions for
Support for the unwritten constitution - the Whig view
Support for the unwritten constitution - westminster model
Support for the Unwritten Constitution - From the 1970s
What is the British Constitution - Common Law
The Common Law - The Royal Prerogative
The British Constitution - Statute Law
More on Statute Law
The British Constitution - Constitutional Conventions
Authoritative Sources
New Labour and Devolution
New Labour and FOI
New Labour and Human Rights
New Labour and Local Government
New Labour and Monetary Policy
New Labour and Political Parties
New Labour and the House of Lords
New Labour and the Judiciary
Significance since 1997
The Coalition
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University 18 Yrs + | Constitutional Change

Support for the Unwritten Constitution

In the interwar and postwar periods in Britain the view amongst academics and the political elite was that Britain’s unwritten constitution worked well. Two sets of ideas underpinned this; the Whig view of history and the Westminster model

The Whig View of History 

The Whigs were the mildly reformist group that developed in Parliament in the late 17th century who believed in limiting the power of the Monarch and in religious toleration towards the groups of the population and, by the end of the 18th century, were more sympathetic towards electoral reform, tolerance towards Catholics and the ideals of the French Revolution. They had the support of urban business and commercial groups while their rivals, the Tories, tended to represent the landowners.  

Writers in the Whig tradition, especially Macaulay, saw Britain as a successful State slowly modernising and becoming more democratic and adapting to change in a pragmatic and non-ideological way and argued that the unwritten and flexible British constitution was an important part of this success. Dicey in his 1885 book Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution sets out the ways in which the Constitution is meant to work and argued that the gradual development, case by case, of individual rights by judges was more successful than abstract statements in written constitutions. Politicians also argued that the Constitution worked well and Attlee in his book on the British system in the 1950s saw the Constitution as near perfect.

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