Reforming an unwritten constitution? the UK's constitutional reform 1997-2010 in perspective

P.J. Cardwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers the major constitutional reforms which have taken place in the United Kingdom during the period of government by the Labour Party, 1997- 2010. Within the context of the UK?s unwritten constitution, the article first considers how ?constitutional? law can be identified when compared with a written constitution, such as that of the Republic of Lithuania. The article then analyses the major reforms which have taken place since 1997, the political reasons behind them, the processes of reform and their impact on the constitution. The four areas examined--reform of the House of Lords; the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998; devolution; and the changes to the judiciary in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005--have all had a significant impact on the way in which the UK is governed. The article argues that these are all welcome developments, but that in many cases they are incomplete. In the absence of the likelihood of a future written constitution for the UK, sustained efforts by future governments are needed by to ensure that the reforms fulfil their aim of modernizing the democratic system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-95
Number of pages23
Issue number121
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • United Kingdom
  • constitution
  • reform
  • Labour Party
  • democracy
  • human rights
  • devolution
  • House of Lords


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