Contributions to Books

Changing the United Kingdom Constitution: The Blind Sovereign

Richard S. Kay, University of Connecticut School of Law


The traditional doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament in the United Kingdom is being transformed. The change is the cumulative result of a series of legislative acts, judicial decisions, statements of officials and academic opinions. This paper is not directed to the extent or to the propriety of this change. It examines rather the process by which it has been effected. In most of the world, wholesale constitutional revision is an event. It takes place in a defined period of time and is the work of an identifiable group of people. The striking thing about the changes in the UK constitution is that they are almost universally regarded as arising from a series of uncoordinated events by different actors. The new constitution has not been designed; it has been revealed over time, the work of a “blind” sovereign. I survey these developments, contrast them with constitutional orthodoxy elsewhere and, finally, qualify the comparison by raising doubts about the vision of the standard model of constitution-making.

Suggested Citation

Richard S. Kay. "Changing the United Kingdom Constitution: The Blind Sovereign" Sovereignty and the Law: Domestic, European and International Perspectives. Ed. Richard Rawlings, Peter Leyland and Alison Young. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. Available at: