Two centuries ago, Edmund Burke famously mocked the intellectuals of revolutionary France for trying to devise a perfectly rational constitution for their country. The Abbé Sieyès, he wrote, had whole nests of pigeon-holes full of constitutions, ready made, ticketed, sorted and numbered, suited to every season and every fancy . . . so that no constitution-fancier may go unsuited from his shop.The Abbé Sieyès has had his imitators in England lately. The last government devoted much intellectual energy and parliamentary time to producing a theoretical separation of the judiciary from the legislature and the executive, when a practical separation had existed for years. The current coalition has devoted at least as much attention to the organisation and membership of the legislature: a smaller House of Commons, an elected House of Lords, fixed-term parliaments, equal constituencies, the alternative vote.