Gordon Brown's statement to the Commons today should be warmly welcome by all reformers. A quicker move to elected Peers, the hope of a new, more proportional voting system, stronger select committee (my own favourite reform), and the prospect of a written constitution. Wow. Here's a chunk of Brown's statement:
"It is to some people extraordinary that in britain we still have a largely unwritten constitution. i personally favour a written constitution but i recognise that changing this would represent an historic shift in our constitutional arrangements so such proposals will be subject to wide public debate and ultimately the drafting of such a constitution would be a matter for the widest possible consultation with the british people themselves."
Full marks to Gordon then. Just two challenges, though. The commitments to involve people in the decision-making are weak: there's no mention of a Citizens Convention, called for by a number of contributors to our What Next for Labour? report published tomorrow, and trialled by Demos and IPSOS/Mori last week. The fact the the National Democratic Renewal Council is composed of ministers does not bode well.
The second issue is whether Brown has the authority to lead such a sweeping reform of our political system. I hope so, but fear not. It is yet another Brownian tragedy: he has always believed in these reforms, and signalled that they might be on the way when he took over in Number 10. Then everything went quiet. Gordon Brown, with a reputation for conviction and a literary interest in courage, has never, tragically, had the courage of his own convictions. Is it too late? For the sake of our politics, let us pray not.