Past Debates: Watch the Videos

Watch Videos of past Putney Debates 2017-19

The first Putney Debates, which took place at St Mary’s Church, Putney in 1647, was one of the few constitutional conventions in modern British history. In the wake of the EU Referendum in 2017, the Oxford Foundation for Law, Justice and Society revived the Putney Debates to assess the constitutional questions raised and the respective actions of parliament, the executive, and the courts.

Over 500 people attended the debates, thousands more watched online, and a collection of essays was published and sent to every MP and High Court judge in the land, to provide a grounding in the issues confronting the nation’s decision-makers at this critical juncture in our history.

The Oxford Putney Debates have since become established as the pre-eminent annual forum to examine constitutional issues of contemporary importance, aimed at informing members of the public and helping them to understand better the constitution in all its dimensions.


The Putney Debates 2019: The Courts: Friend or Foe?

13–14 March 2019

St Mary's Church, Putney

Session I: What Is Judicial Independence and Why Is It Important? 


Session II: Is Judicial Independence Under Attack? If So, How - and Why?


Session III: How Can We Defend Judicial Independence? 


The Putney Debates 2018: Powers to the Peoples: Electoral Reform & a Federal UK?

2 February 2018

St Mary's Church, Putney

Session I: A Federal UK? The Pros and Cons


Session II: The Electoral System: Is it Time for Reform?


The Putney Debates 2017: Constitutional Crisis in the United Kingdom

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Session I: Parliament and the People

2.00-4.00pm, Thursday 2nd February

Denis Galligan (CHAIR), Oxford Socio-Legal Professor and Putney Debates convenor: Parliament and the People

Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Law Professor, Queen Mary University: Parliamentary Sovereignty v Popular Sovereignty

David Runciman, Cambridge political theorist and London Review of Books columnist: The electoral system and the constitution

Michael Mansfield QC, human rights barrister: Valuing the Vote

John Rees, author and spokesperson for The People's Assembly: The Levellers and the Sovereignty of the People

Sir Richard Sorabji, Oxford philosopher and historian: Athens, 17th century England and the Contrast with 18th-19th century America

Akeel Bilgrami, Philosophy Professor, Columbia University: Contemporary Populism and What it Signifies

Vernon BogdanorProfessor of Government, KCL: Popular Sovereignty

Anna Coote, Social Policy Analyst, New Economics Foundation: Building a New Social Commons: People and Parliament Working Together

Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy: Brexit and the Case for a Peoples Constitution


Session II: Changing and Strengthening the Role of the People

5.30-7.30pm, Thursday 2nd February

Paul Craig (CHAIR), Oxford Law Professor & Member of Venice Commission: Changing and Strengthening the Role of the People

Philip Kay, Businessman and author of Rome's Economic Revolution: Is Representative Democracy Ripe for Review and Modification in Favour of More Direct Democracy?

Will Hutton, Writer and Political economist: Empowering the Local

John Howell, Governance, finance & development advisor: Unfinished Revolution

Philip Schofield, Professor of Legal & Political Thought, UCL: ‘The People is my Caesar’ Jeremy Bentham’s Radical Democratic State

Robert Hazell CBE, Founder of the Constitution Unit, UCL: We Need Fewer Referendums, with Higher Thresholds

Anne Deighton, Oxford Professor of European Politics: Referendums for EU Politics?

Talha Ahmad, Solicitor and Muslim Council of Britain Committee Member: Muscular liberalism vs inclusive pluralism in post Brexit Britain

Linda Risso, Senior Fellow, Institute of Historical Research, London: Social media and democracy

Mark Knights, History Professor, University of Warwick: Pre-Modern Petitioning and its Implications Today


Session III: Parliament, the Executive, the Courts and the Rule of Law

2.00-4.00pm, Friday 3rd February

Joshua Rozenberg (CHAIR), legal commentator: Parliament, the Executive, the Courts and the Rule of Law

Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of Appeal & ad hoc ECtHR judge: Does the Separation of Powers Still Work?

Alison Young, Oxford Professor of Public Law: Prerogative Powers: Are they still needed in the 21st Century?

Adam Wagner, Barrister & Founder of UK Human Rights Blog: The Case for Judicial Review and Human Rights Law

Rob Murray, lead partner at Mishcon de Reya LLP, representing Gina Miller in Article 50 case: The Key Findings of the Supreme Court in the Miller/Article 50 Case

Jonathan Lis, Deputy Director, British Influence: Enemies of Democracy: Taking Back Control through the Courts

Catherine Barnard, Cambridge EU Law Professor: The Legal Constraints on Moving Forward

David Vines, Director of Oxford Programme on Political Economy of Financial Markets: The Role of Experts in Parliamentary Democracy

Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law, Liverpool University: The UK’s Institutional Balance of Power After Leaving the EU


Session IV: Preserving the Liberal Constitution

5.30-7.30pm, Friday 3rd February

Baroness Onora O’Neill (CHAIR), Cross-Bench Peer and Cambridge philosopher: Preserving the Liberal Constitution

Timothy Garton Ash, Oxford Professor of European Studies and Guardian columnist: Voice, Free Speech and Democracy

Frank Vibert, Senior Visiting Fellow, LSE: Rights in the Liberal Constitution

Michael Keating, Professor & Director of Centre on Constitutional Change: Plurinational Democracy

Ailsa Newby, Rector of St Mary's Church, Putney: The Judeo-Christian Principles Underlying the Constitution

Anthony Barnett, Founder of openDemocracy: Democracy Started Here and is Still Just Beginning

AC Grayling, Philosopher and prominent Brexit critic: Constitutionalism: Why it has to be written

Richard Clary, Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP: Thoughts from Across the Pond: The US Constitution and Representative Democracy (1787, 2017)

Denis Galligan, Oxford Socio-Legal Professor and Putney Debates convenor: The Putney Debates 2017: Concluding comments