Lord Lester, writing in the Guardian today, explains why he resigned as the government’s independent adviser on constitutional change. I have some sympathy for Lord Lester – he had the experience (that many civil servants have had) of finding out his role and position was in reality quite different from the one he was offered, and of discovering that ministers were not so committed to constitutional change as he’d thought. But I see it through different lenses. While I agree with a number of Lord Lester’s ideas, I certainly don’t agree with all of them: I think a War Powers Act is unnecessary; I do not share the fashionable view that the Attorney General’s role must be significantly reformed; and I think adopting a written constitution would be a historic blunder.

I see this as a story of constitutional whimmery, alighted on by a new Prime Minister in search of purpose – a whimmery that has slowly retreated as the relative sense of Jack Straw, Baroness Scotland and their allies have won the arguments. Two things Lord Lester says I agree strongly with, however.

First, he’s right that the Consitutional Reform and Governance Bill is “a mouse”. I said it was watered down to a homeopathic degree. Second, he’s right to say that the government has no mandate for constitutional reform. That does raise the question of what Lord Lester thought he was doing pressing it to make radical changes, and why he says it had the “opportunity of a generation” – but in any case, I’m glad it’s given up on the more controversial, less sensible of its earlier ideas.

By the way, I find one of the things Lord Lester says a little mysterious. He talks of

a modern democratic system of government… and a new constitutional framework… That would strengthen… our bargaining position within the EU.

I’m not sure how he thinks constitutional reform could strengthen our hand in European negotiations, unless he means the UK should have compulsory referenda for all new EU treaties – as Ireland does.