The National:

The great constitutional scholar Professor Vernon Bogdanor once said: "In Britain, a constitutional expert is a historian who has given a journalist their phone number."

There’s probably more truth in that than I would like to admit, but he makes a good point. Since we do not have a proper constitution, and because so much rests on unwritten conventions, a constitutional expert in Britain must be able to dig deep into the constitutional archaeology of historical precedent.

While other countries look up their constitutional rules in a handy pocket-sized book with the words "The Constitution" on the front, we past-dwelling sons and daughters of Albion must shovel our way through the mud of time to find the answers to fundamental constitutional questions.

When a good find comes up – the gentleman’s agreement between Viscount Cranborne and Lord Addison in 1945, or the pseudonymous letters to The Times written by the Queen’s Private Secretary in 1950 – we pick at them with mental trowels, extract them carefully, dust them off, and call them "The Constitution".

We are left with the constitution of Gormenghast, a gothic ruin tumbling in on itself, rotten at the core and sustained only by ritual

Of course, one need not confine one’s digging to these soggy climes; the great British Constitution once held "dominion over palm and pine", and no constitutionalist can be regarded as fully-trained who has not spent happy hours sieving through what Lord Byng of Vimy did to Mackenzie King in Canada in 1926, or how Sir Patrick Duncan treated General Hertzog in South Africa in 1939, or what went down between Sir John Kerr and Gough Whitlam in Australia in 1975. Or, for that matter, who isn’t at least broadly conversant with what Nehru got up to in the Indian Constituent Assembly.

READ MORE: Elliot Bulmer: This is what Fiji can teach us about Scottish independence

All thrilling stuff, of course, but it boils down to just two over-riding principles. First, it is easier when you write the rules down, and not hard to do so. We really should get around to that sometime soon.

Second, because we haven’t done that, we have a constitution of the dead, not of the living. We need to do archaeology, because no-one is doing any architecture.

The creation of the office of Minister for the Union, the Prime Minister’s personal sinecure, is just another example of constitutional dilapidation. No one knows exactly what it is for, because it is not for anything. It just is.

It is not even a proper ruin, just a folly, erected to one man’s vanity. Yet this too has its historical precedents. There are many empty titles, clinging on to a ghostly existence when all purpose is gone. Just ask the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

READ MORE: Dr Elliot Bulmer: Brexit hurricane may break Britain’s rotten Heart of Oak

While these follies appear, other foundations – the independence of the civil service, the privileges of Parliament, and the integrity of the judiciary – are being blasted away. That should worry us.

We are left with the constitution of Gormenghast, a gothic ruin tumbling in on itself, rotten at the core and sustained only by ritual: all past, scant present, no future.

The old stones have their value – I am not for casting them carelessly aside – but we must learn to be constitution builders if the country our children inherit is to be habitable.

Dr Elliot Bulmer’s latest book, Westminster and the World: Commonwealth and Comparative Insights for Constitutional Reform, is available soon from Policy (Bristol University) Press.