How have things come to this sad and dangerous pass? Why is it possible to introduce major changes to the UK system of government without full public discussion and without the clear majorities in favour of change required for constitutional amendments in most other countries?
One of the most effective undercover agents of constitutional revolution is a small lobby of civil servants, headed by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell and academics and journalists such as Robert Hazell of UCL, and Peter Riddell, formerly political editor of The Times. Their project is being significantly helped by the apparently bottomless pockets of the Labour peer David Sainsbury, a minister in Tony Blair's government, who has so far sunk £15 million into the enterprise via the think-tank, the Institute for Government. Another key player is the Constitution Unit at UCL, also funded in its early days by a Sainsbury-backed trust.
O'Donnell is known throughout Whitehall by his initials — GOD. One might call his reform group the GOD Squad.
The GOD Squad's effectiveness has stemmed from their "below the radar" character. The core objective of most of them is to destroy Britain's two-party system. This is something in the obvious interests of the Liberal Democrats, though some centrist politicians in each of the main parties have lent their support. The arrangements agreed for the Coalition government provide the opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to drive forward further changes which may radically alter the British political system in their favour. Vital components of the Civil Service and other parts of the Establishment have had close links with constitutional reform lobbies; and Civil Service action helped to introduce innovations which significantly assisted the Liberal Democrats in the inter-party negotiations after last year's general election.
A prime example of the persistent stealth attacks on the British constitution was the launch by O'Donnell in February 2010 of a preliminary chapter of a so-called Cabinet Manual. This was rushed out in anticipation of the forthcoming general election. The full draft was published months later in December 2010. Its legitimacy has been the subject of unusual criticism within a series of parliamentary select committees.
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