The David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights’ Constitutional Roundtables are an annual series of lunchtime discussion forums that provide an opportunity to consider developments in Canadian constitutional theory and practice. The Constitutional Roundtable series promotes scholarship and aims to make a meaningful contribution to intellectual discourse about Canadian and comparative constitutional law.
On Thursday January 11, 2024, the Asper Centre presented a lunchtime Constitutional Roundtable with
The Sir David Williams Professor of Public Law & Director of Research at the Cambridge University Faculty of Law, about her new book, Unchecked Power? How Recent Constitutional Reforms Are Threatening UK Democracy (2023, Bristol University Press)
Time: 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Location: (Room FA2), Falconer Hall 84 Queen’s Park, Faculty of Law
All Are Welcome * No Registration Required * Light Lunch Provided
About the Book
Is the UK government really acting for the people? Or does this rhetoric simply justify an executive power-grab? For some, Boris Johnson’s premiership epitomised how far the UK’s democracy has been captured by populism and the Prime Minister seemed more concerned about fulfilling the wishes of the British people than with following the rules or listening to Parliament.
Events like ‘Partygate’ grabbed the headlines. Criticisms of Boris Johnson’s actions eventually led to his resignation and replacement as leader of his party and Prime Minister. Some feel that this shows that the UK’s constitution is healthy, with checks and balances in place to prevent any possible abuse of power.
While these events attracted much media attention, other constitutional changes have been taking place with little public awareness. These have strengthened governmental powers and weakened political and legal checks over governmental actions. Deliberation is being replaced by rhetoric and principles of good government no longer seem to restrain the actions of those in power.
Alison Young provides the first consolidated account of these changes, arguing that the UK is currently on a constitutional cliff-edge which endangers democracy and good constitutional government. She argues that more is needed to shore up the UK’s post-Brexit constitution to prevent it collapsing into a system of unchecked power.
“Professor Young’s Interests
I research in all aspects of public law, both of the UK and the EU. My main interest is in constitutional theory, particularly dialogue theory, where I draw comparisons between different means of protecting human rights. I’m also interested in comparative public law, specifically drawing comparisons between UK law, EU law, the law in other commonwealth countries and France. I also have research interests in freedom of expression and in the protection of human rights through private law.
I have published widely in all of these areas, and am the author of Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Human Rights Act (Hart Publishing, 2009). I was the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 2015. The Fellowship enabled me to write a book on dialogue theory, Democratic Dialogue and the Constitution (OUP, 2017), which was a runner up for the main Inner Temple Book Prize, 2018.
Professor Young’s CV / Biography
I am the Sir David Williams Professor of Public Law at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Robinson College. I am also currently a legal advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution and an academic associate at 39 Essex Chambers. I am a member of the Editorial Board of European Public Law, and of Public Law. I’m also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I’m a trustee of The Constitution Society and a member of the UK Constitution Monitoring Group. I’m affiliated with the Oxford Human Rights Hub and with the Programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government, both at the University of Oxford. I am also an Emeritus Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford.
Before joining the University of Cambridge I studied for a Law (with French) degree at the University of Birmingham, spending a year at the Université de Limoges as part of my degree. I then completed the BCL and D Phil at Hertford College, University of Oxford. I spent three years as a Tutorial Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford, before returning to Hertford as a Fellow in Law and later Professor of Public Law at the University of Oxford. At Oxford I completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and received awards for Teaching Excellence and Innovation from the University of Oxford.”