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Martin Loughlin: Tax Credits, 19 November 2015

... On 26 October​ the House of Lords considered the government’s new tax credit regulations. A motion to reject them was defeated, an unremarkable event, but then the Lords went on to delay further consideration of the regulations until transitional protections for adversely affected low-income families had been adopted. Suddenly we had a ‘constitutional crisis’ provoked, according to the Daily Mail, by ‘egos in ermine who gave two fingers to democracy ...

The End of Avoidance

Martin Loughlin: The UK Constitutional Crisis, 28 July 2016

... Through​ a failure of statecraft on a scale unmatched since Lord North lost the American colonies, David Cameron has managed to convert a problem of party management into a constitutional crisis. The result of the EU referendum raises serious constitutional issues which haven’t been properly confronted. The media are now comfortably immersed in the political consequences of the result – the tenor of a Theresa May government, the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn – and lawyers have been called on to consider the status of the referendum vote and the technicalities involved in triggering Article 50 ...

Active, Passive, or Dead?

Martin Loughlin: Sovereignty, 16 June 2016

The Sleeping Sovereign: The Invention of Modern Democracy 
by Richard Tuck.
Cambridge, 295 pp., £17.99, February 2016, 978 1 107 57058 0
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... In the run-up​ to the EU referendum, the Leave campaign has struggled to win the argument about jobs, prosperity, the value of the pound in your pocket and world peace, but has felt on safer ground invoking the threat to sovereignty. Yet the Leavers’ confident use of the term masks its ambiguity. We understand that Parliament and not the reigning monarch is sovereign, in the sense that Parliament is the highest law-making institution in the land ...

What’s it for?

Martin Loughlin: The Privy Council, 22 October 2015

By Royal Appointment: Tales from the Privy Council – the Unknown Arm of Government 
by David Rogers.
Biteback, 344 pp., £25, July 2015, 978 1 84954 856 4
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... Is there anyone​ nowadays who boasts a sure understanding of the laws and practices of the British constitution? Who today extols the ‘matchless constitution’? It was commonly accepted not so long ago – and not only by the British – that while Western civilisation had drawn its religious beliefs from the Middle East, its mathematical knowledge from the Arabs, its artistic sensibility from the Greeks and its laws from the Romans, it was from the British that it had derived the arts of political organisation ...

Breaking Point

Martin Loughlin: Militant Constitutionalism, 25 April 2024

Tyranny of the Minority: How to Reverse an Authoritarian Turn and Forge a Democracy for All 
by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
Viking, 368 pp., £20, October 2023, 978 0 241 58620 4
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... In​ 1831, a young French aristocrat, charged by his government with reporting on American prison conditions, spent the year travelling in the United States. Alexis de Tocqueville’s inquiries into the penitentiary and its ideological underpinnings led him also to think about the character of the political regime. He published his reflections as Democracy in America (1835 ...

Cloudy Horizon

Stephen Sedley: Constitutional Business, 13 April 2023

Against Constitutionalism 
by Martin Loughlin.
Harvard, 258 pp., £34.95, May 2022, 978 0 674 26802 9
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... the weather. Even the worst-governed states have a constitution in this sense. When, therefore, Martin Loughlin characterises constitutionalism as ‘a theory concerning the role’ of ‘the documentary constitution’, resting its authority on ‘two great pillars’, representative government and the separation of governmental powers, he is ...

Beware Kite-Flyers

Stephen Sedley: The British Constitution, 12 September 2013

The British Constitution: A Very Short Introduction 
by Martin Loughlin.
Oxford, 152 pp., £7.99, April 2013, 978 0 19 969769 4
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... and his predatory barons, now coming up for its 800th anniversary and due for another reappraisal. Martin Loughlin arguably gets it in one: ‘By establishing the principle that acts of the king had an official character exercisable through certain forms, the charter constituted a landmark in the emergence of English governing arrangements.’ What ...

Short Cuts

Tormod Johansen: Lawless v. Ireland, 17 November 2022

... off to a bad start. State sovereignty isn’t allowed to trump all other considerations, but, as Martin Loughlin at the LSE has argued, at the core of public law is the productive tension and legitimating force created when power restricts itself. The power of the state does not rest on its freedom from restraint, but is strengthened by the restraints ...

On the Window Ledge of the Union

Colin Kidd: Loyalism v. Unionism, 7 February 2013

Belfast 400: People, Place and History 
edited by S.J. Connolly.
Liverpool, 392 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 1 84631 634 0
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Ulster since 1600: Politics, Economy and Society 
edited by Liam Kennedy and Philip Ollerenshaw.
Oxford, 355 pp., £35, November 2012, 978 0 19 958311 9
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The Plantation of Ulster: Ideology and Practice 
edited by Eamonn O Ciardha and Micheál O Siochrú.
Manchester, 269 pp., £70, October 2012, 978 0 7190 8608 3
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The End of Ulster Loyalism? 
by Peter Shirlow.
Manchester, 230 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 0 7190 8476 8
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... and massacres of innocent men and women whose only offence was their Protestantism’. James Loughlin notes in his essay in Ulster since 1600, that ‘former Presbyterian rebels’, keen in the early decades of the 19th century to reinvent themselves as loyal Britons, were ‘only too ready to frame the rebellion through the lens of 1641 as a vast Popish ...

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