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Constitutional paradox

Labour's constitutional reforms are designed to devolve power. But to succeed they must first centralise it

By Robert Hazell   December 1996

The last two Labour governments attempted major constitutional reform and came spectacularly unstuck. Dick Crossman’s 1968 bill to reform the House of Lords had to be abandoned after high level filibustering by Michael Foot and Enoch Powell. The following Labour government’s travails over devolution consumed two whole parliamentary sessions, and led eventually to Jim Callaghan’s downfall in 1979, when the government failed to deliver on devolution and the Scottish National party withdrew support. There are lessons to be learnt from these failures if a Blair government is not to risk the same fate with its “most extensive package of constitutional…

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