Throughout history there have been many actions taken to promote expanding the franchise in Britain, from the execution of Charles I to the suffragette movement during the early 20th century. Indeed there have been lawful acts passed during this time, all contributing to the UK’s modern day uncodified constitution. For example, during the time period from 1265-1832, less than 5% of the population could vote, which normally comprised of wealthy Barrons and land owners. The reform acts of 1832, 1867 and 1884 gradually grew the franchise to allow lower land requirements for the right to vote, followed by ‘ The Representation of the people act’ of 1969 in the UK allowing all enfranchised citizens over the age of 18, the right to vote.
However, I personally believe the formation of the Magna Carta, of 1215 was the most significant moment in the history of the formation of the UK’s constitution because it was a vital first step in removing all the powers from King John marking our first step towards a constitutional rather than an absolute monarchy. Within the Great Charter, the 61st clause, which was known as the Security Clause, states,
a council of 25 barons be created with the power to overrule the will of the King, by force if necessary
This was the first time in history that there had been a successful rebellion that dissolved some of the powers of the king by granting the 63 rules with his well recognised, stamped crest.
Pre 1215, King John and many of his pre-descending relatives and monarchs abused their powers as King of England, constantly changing the country’s religious focus, seizing farmers or citizens lands (in return for rent), raising taxes and executing anyone they pleased. The barons during 1215 were all so outraged with King John that they rebelled, marching towards London, with a growing force of rebels as they marched. They forced King John to sign the Charter, allowing more power and a voice from the Barons when it came to ruling the country. Prospects such as the right to a free trial were implemented, where before anyone King John disliked could be sentenced to jail or executed.
Without the Magna Carter, we could still be living in a dictatorship if no one successfully rebelled and decided to limit the powers of the monarch, which is why I have concluded that it is the most significant moment in British constitutional history. Acts such as the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 do rightfully improve our voting system and constitution, but the main idea of a liberal democracy is to prevent dictatorship so dissolving the powers of the monarchy to a wider group is more significant moment in history in my opinion than expanding the number of citizens with the right to vote.