'Constitutional theorists who wish to hold our attention must charm as well as instruct; this is not so, I think, in other countries,' writes Ferdinand Mount. Who better to illustrate the claim? Few figures in the world of English letters possess such a combination of credentials. Author of a number of novels; columnist or leader-writer for half of the nation's press, with a record of service from the Sketch to the Spectator; champion of family values; political counsellor at Downing Street: the editor of the Times Literary Supplement seems the ideal candidate for the task in hand. Nor is the success of The British Constitution Now in fulfilling the first part of the requirement in doubt. Mount's account of the framework of the United Kingdom, and what repair it may call for, has already beguiled readers across the political spectrum. Commentators on right and left alike have praised its wit and acumen. If few have seen eye to eye with every proposal it makes, virtually all have agreed that this is the work of an enlightened reformer, of liberal temper, within the party of tradition. Here, so it would appear, is a rare conservative who might even be regarded as an ally, in his own fashion, of the franc-tireurs around Charter 88.
LRB 22 October 1992 | PDF Download