Constitutional Law Matters: A new project and a job opportunity

During the academic year 2021­-22, Professor Alison Young and I will be leading a new project entitled ‘Constitutional Law Matters’. At the heart of the project, which is generously supported by the Gatsby Foundation, will be two objectives. First, the project will engage with and attempt to answer the question, ‘Does the UK constitution (still) work?’ Second, in considering that question, the project will put public understanding of constitutional issues front and centre, with a view to fostering well-informed public debate.

Asking whether the UK constitution (still) works is particularly timely at present, given the several respects in which the constitution is currently in a state of flux or under pressure. Prominent examples of these phenomena include the current condition and possible future trajectory of the territorial constitution, not least in the light of the possibility of a second referendum on Scottish independence; the ongoing legal and constitutional reverberations of Brexit; increasing tension between the political and judicial branches of government; changing understandings of the relationships between Ministers, civil servants and Special Advisers; recent and ongoing reviews of administrative law and of the Human Rights Act 1998; a perceived imbalance of power between Parliament and the Executive (as evidenced by the mountain of regulations produced in response to Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic), and growing concerns about the protection of the right to peaceful protest.

The project will have two main strands. A website, to be launched later this year, will bring together a collection of resources that will be of use to anyone who wishes to engage with these questions. It is intended that, over time, the website will develop into a valuable source of information for members of the public, Law students and others who wish to inform themselves about Constitutional Law matters. In addition, four major public debates will be held, concerning Parliament’s place in the constitution, the role of the judiciary, the territorial constitution, and the relationship between the Executive and the civil service. These public events will feature a range of speakers and will draw on the expertise of academics, judges, politicians, civil servants and others. It is hoped, the public health situation permitting, to hold the events in-person in Cambridge while also making them available online. Further information about the events will be published in due course.

We are currently in the process of recruiting for a one-year fixed-term Research Associate post. Details of the position can be found on the University of Cambridge jobs website.