From Political to Collaborative Constitutionalism

UK public law theory has long been dominated by a juxtaposition between political and legal constitutionalism. Scholars argue fervently in favour of rival conceptions of the constitutional order, where each camp defends either the political or judicial actors as having the lead role in the constitutional scheme.  In this paper, I will argue that this oppositional narrative of ‘political versus legal constitutionalism’ has engendered an unduly polarised, dichotomised and reductivist picture of the constitutional order.  In order to understand and illuminate key features of the working constitution, I argue that we need to move beyond the polarities of legal versus political constitutionalism towards a more inclusive and relational account of the constitutional order grounded in the value of collaboration.  Moving from political to collaborative constitutionalism helps us to put political constitutionalism in its place i.e. as one dimension of a multi-dimensional order where all three branches of government have a valuable role to play.