Governing Britain

Parliament, ministers and our ambiguous constitution

By Philip Norton

Governing Britain


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4545-1
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: September 2020
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / Constitutions, LAW / Government / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, Humanities / British & Irish history, Society & social sciences / Comparative politics, Society & social sciences / Politics & government


Who governs Britain? Is Parliament sovereign? Who chooses the Prime Minister? And who enforces the rules?

The United Kingdom is in the throes of political and constitutional conflict. Tensions between different Westminster and Holyrood, and between the UK and the European Union, are part of a wider picture of constitutional flux. The United Kingdom is one of only three nations that does not have the principal provisions of the organs of state, nor is how they relate to one another and to the citizen embodied in a single document. Devolution and Brexit have given rise to calls for a codified constitution, but the debate has taken place against a background of confusion and uncertainty as to existing constitutional arrangements. We must first understand what already exists and how our constitution works today.

This deeply informed and elegantly written book addresses the problems that have arisen in the context of the greatest political crisis our country has faced in decades.


'If the last few years have shown us anything, it is that we need to understand the British constitution, yet that too few of us do. This excellent book guides the reader through a dozen key constitutional debates. It should be read by all those be interested in how we are governed - and especially by those who want to do the governing.'
Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics, Queen Mary University of London

'Philip Norton has written a much-needed, clear and judicious guide to the complexities of our constitutional arrangements, and the stresses placed on them by devolution, Brexit and judicial review. It carries the authority one would expect from a formidable scholar and a participant-observer of parliament in action.'
Sir Ivor Crewe, Master of University College, Oxford

'No one knows more about Parliament than Philip Norton. I can think of very few books that are more timely than this clear, concise and popular exposition of some of the most important issues in the British Constitution.'
Matt Qvortrup, Professor of Political Science, Coventry University

'Majestic and enthralling. Philip Norton's insightful analysis provides a lucid account of the workings and evolution of the Constitution. Bridging legal and political science, he explains how the Constitution comes together, where it may work best and how constitutional reforms might best be considered. Highly topical and extremely relevant.'
John McEldowney, Professor of Law, University of Warwick


1 Britain's uncodified constitution
2 Constitutional twin pillars: does parliamentary sovereignty trump the rule of law?
3 Constitutional conventions: when is a convention not a convention?
4 The constitution, the EU and Brexit: who governs?
5 Parliament and referendums: direct or representative democracy?
6 Parliament and the courts: strangers, foes or friends?
7 The law of Parliament: who polices the rules?
8 Fixed-term Parliaments: fixed or not so fixed?
9 Choosing, and removing, a Prime Minister: who decides?
10 A deputy to the Prime Minister: a deputy but not a successor?
11 Ministerial responsibility: responsibility for what?
12 Devolution: a disunited union?



Philip Norton (Lord Norton of Louth) is Professor of Government at the University of Hull

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