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Smoke but No Fire? The Politics of a ‘British’ Bill of Rights

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Abstract

This article systematically explores the political context behind Labour and the Conservatives' new commitment to a British Bill of Rights. This is linked to conflicting incentives to resist the current trajectory towards rights constitutionalism (‘Constitutional Freeze’), to further encourage further rights constitutionalism (‘Constitutional Fire’) and to engage in largely cosmetic change (‘Constitutional Smoke’). Ultimately, the latter has proved dominant for both parties. This demonstrates the difficulty of building political momentum behind significant revision of institutional responsibility for protecting human rights in stable, democratic settings. It specifically illustrates the strong barriers which both a hegemonic policy preserving and an ‘aversive’ constitutionalising dynamic must overcome to succeed.

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