EVERY country is only as good as its government. The difference between Luxembourg and Liberia, or between Norway and Nicaragua, lies not in their natural resources, but in how well the state and its public institutions able to translate potential wealth into actual well-being.

Anthony King and Ivor Crewe in the book The Blunders Of Our Governments, revealed that the United Kingdom has a worrying deficiency in governance capacity.

That has been a persistent problem, identified long before Brexit or Boris entered the scene. The symptoms are economic, social and political. They can be seen in the UK’s poor economic record, in its social deterioration, in the rise of poverty and insecurity, in the radicalisation and polarisation of politics, the rise in corruption, and in the collapse of standards of conduct in public life.

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The relative inability of the British state to act in the interests of ordinary people, to shield and protect them at this time of severe economic crisis, is currently causing pain and suffering in millions of households. The country is not living up to its full potential. It is not at peace with itself.

Nearly one in three children are living in poverty. More than two million people rely upon food banks. Untreated sewage is being poured into the rivers and onto the beaches. Energy prices – caused not by the war in Ukraine, but by the structure of the energy market as a result of privatisation and lack of investment in generation, storage and network capacity – threaten to break the economy.

Outside the Customs Union and the Single Market, we are economically isolated from our European neighbours – essentially under a self-imposed blockade that continues to cripple businesses and punish consumers. For the majority of people, quality of life has declined in the last 15 years.

Constitutional disintegration, accelerating since 2016, has exacerbated these problems: a divided governing party, jealous backstabbing Cabinets, a rapid turnover of prime ministers, a general lack of both inclusion and accountability in decision-making, inharmonious relations between Whitehall and the devolved governments, and general ethical collapse at the highest levels, have facilitated corruption, incompetence and misgovernment on a hitherto unimaginable scale. Draconian measures have been enacted to prevent protest. Human rights, the judiciary and the rule of law are under sustained attack.

It is obvious now, in a way that it has not been before, that we live in an ill-constituted, or rather un-constituted state; there is no foundation of “common right and freedom” on which to base the exercise of public power, no overarching principles to guide it. Everything looks and feels unsettled, shaky, and fragile – as if it is held together, if it all, only by the cobwebs.

The UK Government’s latest tax plan U-turn is not just a popcorn-grabbing political drama. It also shows why the constitution matters. It is a prime example of how constitutional failure begets a failure of governance, which begets unwise policy decisions, which in turn begets poor outcomes.

The policy, according to the Prime Minister, was not discussed or agreed in Cabinet. In other words, the traditional, conventional, policy-making processes, which are supposed to ensure that policy is considered and co-ordinated, have broken down.

Instead, policies are nurtured in private radical right-wing think-tanks, which are able to put their own people into No 10. Announcements are made and unmade on the fly. They change tack when it suits them. There is no careful consideration of evidence, negotiation, scrutiny and debate; just rash action and hasty reaction. That is no way to run a government. It is no way to run a country.

Unless power can be institutionalised rather than personalised – unless it can be made to flow through established public institutions, such as the Civil Service, the Cabinet and Parliament – then those think-tanks and lobby organisations will continue their privatisation of policy-making.

Ministers will keep on bouncing around, promoting ideological nonsense or special interest favours. There will be no certainty, substance, coherence, or public rationale, for anything that they do. The economic consequences will be felt by all of us.

Fixing the constitution, far from being a distraction from the bread and butter issues of everyday life, is the precondition of being able to address those issues effectively through a functioning, inclusive and resilient democratic state that is orientated to the public interest.

A proper written constitution specifying the roles and powers of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Civil Service and Parliament; proportional representation; a stronger second chamber; judicially enforced rights – all these things would moderate the exercise of power.

They would filter out the noise and dampen-down excess. They would force governments to think before they act, to build consensus, to reach agreement. That would lead to better policy decisions and better governance outcomes.

Scotland needs to think about these things too – to ensure we do not make the same mistakes. That is why a proper constitution is central to Scotland’s independence prospectus.

Join us at 7pm next Wednesday for another great guest on the TNT show.