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Excerpts from: http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Britishpoliticalsystem.

html A SHORT GUIDE TO THE BRITISH POLITICAL SYSTEM


BACKGROUND HISTORY

The single most important fact in understanding the nature of the British political system is the continuity of that system. We have not had a revolution of the kind experienced by so many other countries and Britain has not been invaded or occupied for almost 1 !!! years. The last invasion was in 1066 by the No !"n#$ "ome might argue that the #nglish $ivil War %1&'()1&*1+ was ,our, revolution but the main constitutional conse-uence . the "bo%ition o& the !on" 'hy ( on%y %"#te) 11 ye" # and the /estoration of the 0onarchy has so far lasted 1*! years There was a time in our history which we call the 2lorious /evolution but it was a very #nglish revolution in the sense that nobody died3 "o the British have never had anything e-uivalent to the 4merican /evolution or the 5rench /evolution they have not been coloni6ed in a millennium but rather been the greatest coloni6ers in history and in neithe o& the t*o *o %) *" # were they invaded or occupied. This explains why:

almost uni-uely in the world *e h"+e no * itten 'on#tit,tion our political system is not neat or logical or always fully democratic 'h"n-e h"# been +e y - "),"% "n) . "-!"ti' "n) b,i%t on 'on#en#,#

To simplify our political history very much it has essentially been a struggle to shift political power and accountability & o! the "%%(.o*e &,% /in- *ho '%"i!e) th"t he obt"ine) hi# i-ht to ,%e & o! Go) to " n"tion"% ." %i"!ent that was increasingly representative of ordinary people and accountable to ordinary people. There have been many milestones along this long and troubled road to full democracy. 4 key date in this e+o%,tion *"# 1011 *hen Kin- 2ohn *"# &o 'e) to #i-n the M"-n" C" t" which involved him sharing power with the barons. This is regarded as the first statement of citi6en rights in the world . although 7ungarians are proud of the 2olden Bull of 8ust seven years later. The so.called 0odel 9arliament was summoned by :ing #dward ; in 1(<* and is regarded as the first representative assembly. =nlike the absolute monarchs of other parts of #urope the :ing of #ngland re-uired the approval of 9arliament to tax his sub8ects and so then as now central to the exercise of power was the ability to raise funds. The bi'"!e "% n"t, e o& the B iti#h P" %i"!ent ( Co!!on# "n) Lo )# ( e!e -e) in 1341 and the two.chamber model of the legislature has served as a model in very many other parliamentary systems. 4nother important feature of our political history is that three parts of the =nited :ingdom . S'ot%"n)5 6"%e# "n) No the n I e%"n) ( h"+e " #.e'i"% #t"t,# "n) h"+e %o'"% ")!ini#t "tion# with a wide range of responsibilities. 7owever #ngland . which represents "bo,t 748 o& the tot"% UK .o.,%"tion of around &! million . does not have a clear and strong sense of regionalism. "o the British political system does not have anything e-uivalent to the federal system of the *! states in the ="4. The final important part of our political history is that #in'e 19:35 *e h"+e been " !e!be o& *h"t i# no* '"%%e) the E, o.e"n Union ;EU<= This now h"# 0: Me!be St"te# covering most of the continent of #urope. Therefore the =: 2overnment and 9arliament are limited in some respects by what they can do because certain areas of policy or decision. making are a matter for the #= which operates through a #uropean $ommission appointed by the member governments and a #uropean 9arliament elected by the citi6ens of the member states.

THREE ARMS O> THE STATE ;B "n'he# o& Po*e <

The British political system is headed by a monarchy but e##enti"%%y the .o*e # o& the !on" 'h "# he") o& #t"te ( ', ent%y ?,een E%i@"beth II ( " e 'e e!oni"%A &o !"%= The most important practical power is the choice of the 0ember of 9arliament to form a government but invariably the monarch follows the 'on+ention th"t thi# o..o t,nity i# - "nte) to the %e")e o& the .o%iti'"% ." ty *ith the !o#t
#e"t# in the Ho,#e o& Co!!on#=

The monarch is determined on the hereditary and primogeniture principles which means that the o%)e#t !"%e 'hi%) o& " !on" 'h i# the neBt in %ine to the th one= =nder the terms of the 4ct of "ettlement o& 1:015 the monarch and the monarch,s spouse cannot be $atholics because the =: monarch is also the 7ead of the $hurch of #ngland. %These archaic arrangements are currently under review.+ ;n classical political theory there are three arms of the state: 1. The eBe',ti+e ) the 0inisters who run the country and propose new laws (. The %e-i#%"t, e ) the elected body that passes new laws %9arliament+ 1. The C,)i'i" y ) the 8udges and the 'o, t# who ensure that everyone obeys the laws ;n the political system of the Unite) St"te# the constitution provides that there must be a strict separate of powers of these three arms of the state so that no individual can be a member of more than one. "o for example the 9resident is not and cannot be a member of the $ongress. This concept is called D#e." "tion o& .o*e #D a term coined by the 5rench political5 enlightenment thinker Monte#E,ie,= This is not the case in the =::

"%% Mini#te # in the -o+e n!ent " e !e!be # o& the %e-i#%"t, e some very #enio C,)-e# sit in the upper house of the parliament the formal he") o& the C,)i'i" y is a senior minister %>ord $hancellor+

The >ord $hancellor is a $abinet minister and currently a 0ember of the 7ouse of $ommons. /ecent reforms including the creation of the 0inistry of ?ustice and the election of a Lord Speaker for the House of Lords have significantly altered the role of >ord $hancellor. @n < 0ay (!!A the Mini#t y o& 2,#ti'e *"# ' e"te). The 0inistry of ?ustice is responsible for courts prisons probation and constitutional affairs. The Se' et" y o& St"te &o 2,#ti'e "n) Lo ) Ch"n'e%%o is the /t 7on :enneth $larke B$ 09. @n ' ?uly (!!& 0embers of the 7ouse of >ords elected their first >ord "peaker. This new role assumed some of the >ord $hancellor,s responsibilities such as chairing debates in the >ords, chamber and speaking for the 7ouse on ceremonial occasions. The reform of the >ord $hancellor,s role #e." "te# it# )i&&e ent e#.on#ibi%itie# "n) !"/e# " '%e" )i#tin'tion bet*een -o+e n!ent5 P" %i"!ent "n) the C,)i'i" y= This is an illustration of how pragmatic and flexible the British political system is. C http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps.and.lords/principal/lord.chancellor/D
THE U=K= PARLIAMENT

The British 9arliament is often called Westminster because it is housed in a distinguished building in central >ondon called the 9alace of Westminster. The British 9arliament ) like most in the world ) is bicameral that is there are two houses or chambers. The only exceptions to this practice around the world are some small countries such as ;srael and Eew Fealand.

The Ho,#e o& Co!!on#


This is the lower chamber but the one with the most authority. ; worked there as a /esearch 4ssistant to 0erlyn /ees 09 then >abour,s @pposition spokesperson on Eorthern ;reland from 1<A(.1<A'. The 7ouse of $ommons sits each week day for about half of the weeks of the year. The precise hours of sitting are: o 0onday (.1! . 1!.1! pm o Tuesday (.1! . 1!.1! pm o 6e)ne#)"y 11=30 "! ( :=30 .! o Thursday 1!.1! am . &.1! pm o 5riday <.1! am . 1 pm The $ommons is chaired by the "peaker. The post is non(.o%iti'"% "n) in)ee) by convention the political parties do not contest the 9arliamentary constituency held by the "peaker. The 7ouse of $ommons currently comprises 610 0embers of P" %i"!ent o MP# ;the n,!be +" ie# #%i-ht%y & o! ti!e to ti!e to e&%e't .o.,%"tion 'h"n-e<= This is a large legislature by international standards. 3Before the last 2eneral #lection the $onservative 9arty said that it wished to reduce the number of $ommons seats by around 1!G %&* seats+ and the >iberal Hemocrats said that the $ommons should be reduced by 1*! 09s. The ne* Co"%ition Go+e n!ent has now announced that it plans legislation to reduce the number from &*! to &!! as part of a wider change to the number and si6e of constituencies. /ather oddly there is insufficient seating capacity in the chamber of the 7ouse of $ommons for all the 09s. 0embers do not sit at desks %like most legislatures+ but on long green.covered benches and there is only seating capacity for 43: MP# o,t o& the tot"% o& 610= #ach member in the 7ouse of $ommons represents a geographical constituency. Typically a 'on#tit,en'y *o,%) h"+e " o,n) 605000(705000 +ote #5 depending mainly on whether it is an urban or rural constituency33 #very citi6en "-e) 17 o o+e '"n +ote on'e in the constituency in which they live. Ioting is not compulsory %as it is in 4ustralia+. ;n the last 2eneral #lection of ?une (!1! &*G of the electorate actually voted. 0ost democratic countries use a method of election called proportional representation which means that there is a reasonable correlation between the percentage of votes cast for a particular political party and the number of seats or representatives won by that party. However, much of the AngloSaxon world the USA, Canada, and the UK but not Australia or ew !ealand uses a method of election called the simple majority system or 'first past the post'. ;n this system the country is divided into a number of constituencies each with a single member and the "art# that wins the largest number of votes in each constituenc# wins that constituenc# regardless of the "ro"ortion of the vote secured$ The #i!.%e !"Co ity #y#te! o& e%e'tion tends to under.represent less successful political parties and to !"Bi!i#e the 'h"n'e o& the !o#t .o.,%" .o%iti'"% ." ty *innin- " !"Co ity o& #e"t# n"tion*i)e e+en i& it )oe# not *in " !"Co ity o& the +ote# n"tion*i)e= ;n the =: unlike many countries there are not fixed term parliaments. 4 2eneral #lection ) that is a nationwide election for all &*! seats ) is held when the 9rime 0inister calls it but the election cannot be more than five years after the last one and it is usually around four years after the last one. ; fought the 2eneral #lections of 5ebruary 1<A' and @ctober 1<A' as the >abour candidate for the north. east >ondon constituency of Wanstead J Woodford. The new $oalition 2overnment plans to introduce legislation providing for fixed five.year parliaments which implies that the next 2eneral #lection will be on A 0ay (!1*.

The %"#t Gene "% E%e'tion was held in M"y 0010 and the result was as follows: $onservative 9arty: 1!& seats %up <A+ with a voting share of 1&.1G %up 1.KG+ >abour 9arty: (*K seats %down <1+ with a voting share of (<.!G %down &.(G+ >iberal Hemocrat 9arty: *A seats %down *+ with a voting share of (1.!G %up 1.!G+ @ther parties: (K seats %down 1+ with a voting share of 11.<G %down 1.'G+

Eote : ;n practice the S.e"/e . notionally $onservative . i# not 'o,nte) "-"in#t "ny .o%iti'"% ." ty be'",#e he i# eE,i e) to be ne,t "%=

Total turnout nationwide was &*.1G up '.!G on (!!*

The Ho,#e o& Lo )#


This is the upper chamber but the one with less authorit#. ;ts main roles are to revise legislation and %ee" a chec% on &overnment b# scrutini'ing its activities . Sin'e 19115 its power to block F!oney bi%%#F i# %i!ite) to one !onth and its power to block other bills is %i!ite) to one #e##ion5 so ultimately it cannot block the will of the 7ouse of $ommons3. There is no &iBe) n,!be o& !e!be # in the Ho,#e o& Lo )#5 b,t ', ent%y the e " e " o,n) 730 !e!be # ( !"ny !o e th"n in the Ho,#e o& Co!!on#= The number was actually halved to &&& in the reforms of 1<<< but since then succesive 9rime 0inisters have been adding new life peers much faster than members are dying. 7istorically most members of the 7ouse of >ords have been what we called he e)it" y .ee #= This mean that years ago a king or -ueen nominated a member of the aristocracy to be a member of the 7ouse and since then the right to sit in the 7ouse has passed through the family from generation to generation. $learly this is totally undemocratic and the %"#t L"bo, Go+e n!ent "bo%i#he) the i-ht o& "%% b,t 90 of these hereditary peers to sit in the 7ouse. 4lmost all the other members of today,s 7ouse of >ords are what *e '"%% %i&e .ee #= This means that they h"+e been 'ho#en by the ?,een5 on the ")+i'e o& the Go+e n!ent5 to #it in the Ho,#e &o "# %on- "# they %i+e5 but afterwards no member of their family has the right to sit in the 7ouse. M"ny " e &o !e #enio .o%iti'i"n#= @thers are very )i#tin-,i#he) &i-, e# in &ie%)# #,'h "# e),'"tion5 he"%th "n) #o'i"% .o%i'y= 4 small number of other members ( 06 ( " e A 'hbi#ho.# "n) Bi#ho.# of the $hurch of #ngland. ;ran is the only other country in the world that provides automatic seats for senior religious figures in its legislature.
7ouse of >ords reform is unfinished business. The 9arliament 4ct of 1<11 first raised the prospect of an elected upper house but it has still not happened. There is a cross.party consensus that it should become a mainly elected body although there is as yet no "- ee!ent on the )et"i%# o& the neBt #t"-e o& e&o !=

So!e )i#tin-,i#hin- &e"t, e# o& the B iti#h P" %i"!ent" y #y#te!


0uch of the work of 9arliament is done in $ommittees rather than on the floor of the chamber. The Ho,#e o& Co!!on# h"# t*o ty.e# o& 'o!!itteeG o Se%e't Co!!ittee# are appointed for the lifetime of a 9arliament ,shadow, the work of a particular

2overnment Hepartment conduct investigations receive written and oral evidence and issue reports. 0embership is made up only of backbenchers and reflects proportionately the balance of the parties in the $ommons. o Gene "% Co!!ittee# %previously known as St"n)in- Co!!ittee#< are temporary bodies most of them 9ublic Bill $ommittees formed to examine the detail of a particular piece of proposed legislation and consider amendments to the Bill. 0embership includes 2overnment and @pposition spokepersons on the sub8ect mater of the Bill and overall membership reflects proportionately the balance of the parties in the $ommons. o The Ho,#e o& Lo )# on%y h"# Se%e't Co!!ittee# %it does not need "tanding $ommittees because the details of Bills are considered on the floor of the chamber+. o 5inally there are some ?oint $ommittees of the $ommons and the >ords. Hiscussion and debate involve -uite a gladiatorial or confrontational approach. This is reflected in the physical shape of the chambers. Whereas most legislatures are semi.circular both the 7ouse of $ommons and the 7ouse of >ords are rectangular with the 2overnment party sitting on one side and the @pposition parties sitting on the other side. The Ho,#e o& Lo )# alone has cross.benches for independent

peers. ;t is -uite normal for speakers in debates to be interrupted by other members especially of another party and in the $ommons cheering and 8eering is a regular occurrence. ;n the $ommons there is a P i!e Mini#te D# ?,e#tion ;PM?< Ti!e &o 30 !in,te# "t 10 noon e+e y 6e)ne#)"y= Buestions can be asked on any sub8ect. This is fre-uently a heated affair with the >eader
of the @pposition trying to embarrass the 9rime 0inister and it is the one part of the week,s proceedings guaranteed to attract the interest of the media. ;n his book L4 ?ourneyL former 9rime 0inister Tony Blair wrote: L90Bs was the most nerve. wracking discombobulating nail.biting bowel.moving terror.inspiring courage.draining experience in my prime ministerial life without -uestion.L (he &overnment is normall# assured of a ma)orit# in the House of Commons for an# measure or

vote. This is mainly because in the $ommons there is a strong D*hi..in-D #y#te! in *hi'h .o%iti'"% ." tie# te%% thei !e!be # ho* to +ote on every significant )i+i#ion though a weekly set of instructions. The importance of actually bein- . e#ent to +ote in the !"nne in#t ,'te) depends on whether the D*hi.D i# one(%ine5 t*o(%ine o ( the !o#t #e io,# ( th ee(%ine= #ven when there is a rebellion by members of the ma8ority party the 2overnment usually obtains its wish because all 0inisters and their 9arliamentary 9rivate "ecretaries %99"s+ are re-uired to vote for the 2overnment or resign their 0inisterial or 99" position. 3.. The official record of the proceedings of the $ommons and the >ords is called 7ansard. The press and broadcasters are "resent all the time and live audio and visual broadcasting can ta%e "lace at an# time$

THE LEGISLATIHE PROCESS ;n the British political system almost all legislation is proposed by the 2overnment and much of it comes from promises made in the manifesto of the relevant political party at the last election. 4t the beginning of each annual session of the 9arliament the !"in Bi%%# to be considered are announced by the Bueen in a speech opening that year,s session of 9arliament. ;n each 7ouse of 9arliament a proposed piece of legislation ) called a Bill ) goes through several stages. CBills: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/2overnmentciti6ensandrights/=:government/9arliament/H2M!A1&A1 D
4 Bill is a proposal for a new law or a change to a law presented before 9arliament. When the contents of a Bill have been debated and agreed by both 7ouse of 9arliament it gets approved by the 0onarch %called /oyal 4ssent+ before becoming an 4ct of 9arliament and law. P,b%i' Bi%%# are the most common type of Bill and change the law that applies to the general public. 2overnment ministers propose the ma8ority of 9ublic Bills. P i+"te Me!be #D Bi%%# are 9ublic Bills introduced by 09s or >ords who are not ministers. #ven if they do not become law they can be an effective way to bring an issue to public attention. P i+"te Bi%%# are usually promoted by organi6ations like local authorities or private companies to give themselves powers beyond or in conflict with the general law. They change the law as it applies to specific people or organi6ations rather than the general public. 9rivate Bills must be advertised through newspapers and in writing to all interested people. 4ny group or individual affected by a Bill can ob8ect to it through petitions which are then examined by committees of 09s and of >ords. 4ll legislation has to be approved by both 7ouses of 9arliament.

In e"'h Ho,#e o& P" %i"!ent5 " . o.o#e) .ie'e o& %e-i#%"tion ) called a Bill ) goes through the &o%%o*in- #t"-e#G

>i #t Re")in- ) the Bi%% is introduced with simply a reading by a 0inister of the long title of the Bill Se'on) Re")in- ) the general principles of the Bi%% are debated by all the members of the 7ouse and a formal vote is taken Committee Stage ) each clause and schedule of the Bill plus amendments to them and any new clauses or schedules is examined in detail in the $ommons by a small specially chosen group of members meeting as 9ublic Bill $ommittee in the >ords by the members as a whole on the floor of the 7ouse *e"ort Stage ) the changes made to the Bill in the $ommittee are reported to and debated by the whole 7ouse which is invited to consider the Bill as a whole approve the changes by the $ommittee and consider any further proposed changes that might be suggested Thi ) Re")in- ) the final version of the Bill is considered by the whole 7ouse in a short debate %in the $ommons without the facility for further amendments+ *o#al Assent . the $rown gives assent to the Bill which then becomes an 4ct the provisions becoming law either immediately or at a date specified in the 4ct or at a date specified by what is called a $ommencement @rder "everal points are worth noting about the legislative process: =nder normal circumstances "%% the#e #t"-e# !,#t be 'o!.%ete) in both Ho,#e# in one #e##ion o& P" %i"!entN otherwise the process must be-in "%% o+e "-"in= Deb"te# on !o#t Bi%%# are timetabled through a programme motion %when 2overnment and @pposition agree+ or an allocation of time motion which is popularly known as a ,guillotine, motion %when 2overnment and @pposition do not agree+. A# *e%% "%!o#t "%% %e-i#%"tion 'o!in- & o! the Go+e n!ent5 almost all successful amendments originate from the 2overnment. The 7ouse of >ords has much !o e %i!ite) %e-i#%"ti+e .o*e # th"n the Ho,#e o& Co!!on#= Money Bi%%# '"n on%y be initi"te) in the Co!!on# "n) the Lo )# '"n on%y eCe't %e-i#%"tion & o! the Co!!on# &o one ye" = 5urthermore there is a convention . called the "alisbury $onvention . that the >ords does not block legislature in fulfillment of the election manifesto of the elected 2overnment. POLITICAL PARTIES The idea of political parties first took form in Britain and the $onservative 9arty claims to be the oldest political party in the world. 9olitical parties began to form during the #nglish civil wars of the 1&'!s and 1&*!s. 5irst there were /oyalists and 9arliamentariansN then Tories and Whigs. Whereas the Whigs wanted to curtail the power of the monarch the Tories . today the $onservatives . were seen as the patriotic party. Today there are three ma8or political parties in the British system of politics: The L"bo, P" ty %often called Eew >abour+ ) the centre.>eft party currently led by E) Mi%ib"n) The Con#e +"ti+e P" ty %fre-uently called the Tories+ ) the centre./ight party currently led by D"+i) C"!e on The Libe "% De!o' "t P" ty %known as the Lib De!#+ ) the centrist libertarian party currently led by Ni'/ C%e-

;n addition to these three main parties there are some much smaller =: parties %notably the =: ;ndependence 9arty and the 2reen 9arty+ and some parties which operate specifically in "cotland %the "cottish Eational 9arty+ Wales %9laid $ymru+ or Eorthern ;reland %such as "inn 5ein for the nationalists and the Hemocratic =nionist 9arty for the loyalists+.

By convention the %e")e o& the .o%iti'"% ." ty *ith the %" -e#t n,!be o& !e!be # in the Ho,#e o& Co!!on# be'o!e# the P i!e Min#te ;&o !"%%y "t the in+it"tion o& the ?,een<= 9olitical parties are an all.important feature of the British political system because: The three main political parties in the =: have existed for a century or more and have a strong and stable ,brand image,. ;t is virtually impossible for someone to be elected to the 7ouse of $ommons without being a member of an established political party. 4ll political parties strongly D*hi.D thei e%e'te) !e!be # *hi'h !e"n# th"t5 on the +"#t !"Co ity o& i##,e#5 Me!be # o& P" %i"!ent o& the #"!e ." ty +ote "# " Db%o'/D=
7aving said this the influence of the three main political parties is not as dominant as it was in the 1<'!s and 1<*!s because: The three parties have smaller memberships than they did since voters are much less inclined to 8oin a political party. The three parties secure a lower overall percentage of the total vote since smaller parties between them now take a growing share
of the vote. Ioters are much less ,tribal, supporting the same party at every election and much more likely to ,float voting for different parties at successive elections. The ideological differences between the parties are less than they were with the parties adopting more ,pragmatic, positions on many issues.

;n the past class was a ma8or determinant of voting intention in British politics with most working class electors voting >abour and most middle class electors voting $onservative. The#e )"y#5 '%"## i# !,'h %e## i!.o t"nt be'",#eG

6o /in- '%"## n,!be # h"+e #h ,n/ "n) no* e. e#ent on%y 438 o& the e%e'to "te= EB'e.t "t the eBt e!e# o& *e"%th5 %i&e#ty%e# " e !o e #i!i%" = $lass does not determine voting intention so much as values trust and competence.

;n the British political system there is a broad consensus between the ma8or parties on: the rule of lawN the free market economyN the national health serviceN =: membership of #uropean =nion and E4T@. The main differences between the political parties concern: how to tackle poverty and ine-ualityN the levels and forms of taxationN the extent of state intervention in the economyN the balance between collective rights and individual rights THE U=K= GOHERNMENT 7istorically most British governments have been composed of ministers from " #in-%e .o%iti'"% ." ty which had an o+e "%% !"Co ity o& #e"t# in the Ho,#e o& Co!!on# and the D&i #t(."#t(the(.o#tD ;>PTP< e%e'to "% #y#te! ;#i!.%e !"Co ity #y#te!< greatly facilitates and indeed promotes this outcome. 7owever occasionally there have been minority governments or coalition governments. $urrently the =: has its &i #t 'o"%ition -o+e n!ent in 61 ye" # #in'e5 in M"y 00105 the Con#e +"ti+e# *ent into 'o"%ition *ith the Libe "% De!o' "t# because in the Gene "% E%e'tion they )i) not #e', e " !"Co ity o& the #e"t# . ;n this coalition the >ib Hems h"+e 1: !ini#te # %e) by the De.,ty P i!e Mini#te Ni'/ C%e--=

The P i!e Mini#te $onstitutionally the he") o& #t"te i# the !on" 'h *ho i# " he e)it" y !e!be o& the Roy"% >"!i%y= 7owever the monarch has very &e* &o !"% .o*e # "n) #t"y# "bo+e ." ty .o%iti'#= "o in . "'ti'e5 the !o#t i!.o t"nt .e #on in the B iti#h .o%iti'"% #y#te! i# the P i!e Mini#te = The first modern 9rime 0inister was "ir /obert Walpole who served from 1A(1.1A'( so the ', ent PM ( D"+i) C"!e on ( i# the 13 ) %and on first taking office the youngest since 1K1( a few months younger than when Tony Blair became 90 in 1<<A+. ;n theory the 9rime 0inister simply choses the ministers who run 2overnment departments and chairs the $abinet ) the collection of the most senior of those 0inisters. ;n practice however the P i!e Mini#te i# " +e y .o*e &,% &i-, e "n) in' e"#in-%y h"# been beh"+in- !,'h %i/e " . e#i)ent in othe .o%iti'"% #y#te!#5 e#.e'i"%%y in the " e" o& &o ei-n .o%i'y= The o&&i'i"% e#i)en'e o& the P i!e Mini#te i# "t 10 Do*ninSt eet=

Go+e n!ent De." t!ent#: The most important political departments are:
The T e"#, y ) ;n most countries this would be called the 0inistry of 5inance. ;t is responsible for the raising of all taxes and the control of all government expenditure plus the general management of the economy. The head of the Treasury is called the Ch"n'e%%o o& the EB'heE,e "n) is currently 2eorge @sborne %who on taking office was the youngest $hancellor for more than 1K! years+. The Ho!e O&&i'e . ;n most countries this would be called the 0inistry of the ;nterior. ;t is responsible for criminal matters policing and immigration. The 7ead of the 7ome @ffice is called the Ho!e Se' et" y and is currently Teresa 0ay. The >o ei-n "n) Co!!on*e"%th O&&i'e ) ;n most countries this would be called the 0inistry of 5oreign 4ffairs. ;t is responsible for all our international relationships especially our membership of the #uropean =nion. The head of the 5oreign @ffice is called the >o ei-n Se' et" y and is currently William 7ague.

0any other =: 2overnment Hepartments are similar to those in other countries and cover sub8ects such as education health transport industry and 8ustice. 7owever there are also departments for "cotland Wales and Eorthern ;reland. When talking about the British 2overnment the !e)i" will often use the term 6hiteh"%% because a number of 2overnment Hepartments are located along a central >ondon street very close to 9arliament called Whitehall. Go+e n!ent Mini#te # 4ll 2overnment Hepartments are run by Mini#te # who are either 0embers of the Ho,#e o& Co!!on# o Me!be # o& the Ho,#e o& Lo )# . %#.g.: "ecretary of "tate for Transport+. We have three classes of Mini#te #G Se' et" y o& St"te ) This is usually the head of a Department. Mini#te o& St"te ) This is a middle.ranking minister. P" %i"!ent" y Un)e (Se' et" y o& St"te ) This is the most 8unior class of ministers.

The P i!e Min#te "n) "%% the Se' et" ie# o& St"te to-ethe 'o!. i#e "n eBe',ti+e bo)y o& -o+e n!ent '"%%e) the C"binet= The $abinet meets usually once a week on Tuesday morning. $abinet meetings are confidential and all members are bound by any decision that it takes in a practice called collective responsibility. 4n extensive system of $abinet $ommittees considers matters either before they go to $abinet or %more usually+ instead of them going to $abinet. 4lthough all 0inisters are appointed by the 9rime 0inster and report to him ultimately all 0inisters are accountable to 9arliament:
4bout once a month they have to face -uestions in the 7ouse of $ommons about the work of the Hepartment. #ach government department has a special committee of the 7ouse of $ommons which watches the work of that Hepartment. 4ny government initiative or important statement concerning a Hepartment must be the sub8ect of an appearance in the 7ouse of $ommons by a minister from that Hepartment.

The 'i+i% #e +i'e #ach "ecretary of "tate is able to appoint a couple of political advisers ) formally known as S.e'i"% A)+i#e # ) to serve him or her. ; was a "pecial 4dviser to 0erlyn /ees in the Eorthern ;reland @ffice from 1<A'.1<A& and in the 7ome @ffice from 1<A&.1<AK while my son /ichard was a "pecial 4dviser to /uth :elly in the Hepartment for #ducation J "kills in (!!* and a "pecial 4dviser to Houglas 4lexander at the Hepartment for ;nternational Hevelopment in (!!<.(!1!. But "pecial 4dvisers are simply advisers. They have no line management responsibilities in respect of the staff of the Hepartment3.. (he inde"endence and "rofessionalism of the +ritish civil service is a fundamental feature of the +ritish "olitical s#stem$ 3. DEHOLHED GOHERNMENT The =: has a devolved system of government but this is categorically not a system of federal government such as in the =nited "tates or 4ustralia partly because less than a fifth of the citi6ens of the =: are covered the three bodies in -uestion and partly because the three bodies themselves have different powers from one another. The three devolved administrations are: The S'otti#h P" %i"!ent
This came into operation in 0ay 1<<< and covers the *0 citi6ens of "cotland. ;t has 1(< members elected by a system of proportional representation known as the mixed member system. 4s a result A1 members represent individual geographical constituencies elected by the ,first past the post, system with a further *& members returned from eight additional member regions each electing seven members. 4ll members are elected for four.year terms. The "cottish 9arliament meets in 7olyrood #dinburgh. ;t has legislative powers over those matters not reserved to the =: 9arliament and it has limited tax.raising powers. ;n the election of 0ay (!11 for the first time a single political party gained an overall ma8ority of the seats in the "cottish 9arliament. That party is the "cottish Eational 9arty which intends to hold a referendum seeking support for "cottish independence from the remainder of the =:. The 6e%#h A##e!b%y

This came into operation in 0ay 1<<< and covers the 10 citi6ens of Wales. ;t has &! members elected by a system of proportional representation known as the mixed member system. 4s a result '! members represent individual geographical constituencies elected by the ,first past the post, system with a further (! members returned from five additional member regions each electing four members. 4ll members are elected for four.year terms. ;t meets in the "enedd $ardiff. When first created the 4ssembly had no powers to initiate primary legislation. 7owever since (!!& the 4ssembly now has powers to legislate in some areas though still sub8ect to the veto of the Westminster 9arliament. The 4ssembly has no tax.varying powers. The Welsh 4ssembly therefore has less power than either the "cottish 9arliament or the Eorthern ;reland 4ssembly because ) unlike "cotland and Eorthern ;reland ) Wales does not have a separate legal system from #ngland. The No the n I e%"n) A##e!b%y The present version of the 4ssembly came into operation in 0ay (!!A and covers the 1.*0 citi6ens of Eorthern ;reland. ;t has 1!K members . six from each of the 1K Westminster constituencies . elected by a system of proportional representation known as the single transferable vote. ;t meets in the 9arliament Building Belfast. ;t has legislative powers over those matters not reserved to the =: 9arliament but it has no tax.raising powers. 4 5irst 0inister and a Heputy 5irst 0inister are elected to lead the #xecutive $ommittee of 0inisters. 4s a result of the sectarian division in Eorthern ;reland the two must stand for election 8ointly and to be elected they must have cross. community support by the parallel consent formula which means that a ma8ority of both the 0embers who have designated themselves Eationalists and those who have designated themselves =nionists and a ma8ority of the whole 4ssembly must vote in favour. The 5irst 0inister and Heputy 5irst 0inister head the #xecutive $ommittee of 0inisters and acting 8ointly determine the total number of 0inisters in the #xecutive.

THE UK 2UDICIARY The British 8udicial branch is extremely complex. =nlike most countries which operate a single system of law the =: operates three separate legal systems: one for #ngland and Wales one for "cotland and one for Eorthern ;reland. 4lthough bound by similar principles these systems differ in form and the manner of operation. $urrently a process of reform is in operation. The Lo ) Ch"n'e%%o D# o&&i'e . which for 1 '!! years maintained the 8udiciary . has now been e.%"'e) by the Mini#t y &o 2,#ti'e *hi'h ")!ini#te # the 'o, t #y#te! . 4 ?udical 4ppointments $ommission has been set up to advise the head of the 0o? on the appointment of new 8udges. The A..e%%"te Co!!ittee o& the Ho,#e o& Lo )# . "reviousl# the highest court in the land - was by way of the $onstitutional /eform A't 00015 replaced by the S,. e!e Co, t in O'tobe (!!< to allow the 8udiciary to operate in total independence from the 2overnment. The S,. e!e Co, t i# no* the ,%ti!"te 'o, t o& "..e"% in "%% %e-"% !"tte # othe th"n ' i!in"% '"#e# in S'ot%"n)= It 'on#i#t# o& 10 C,)-e# and sits in the 0iddlesex 2uildhall in P" %i"!ent SE," e= The =: does not have its own Bill of /ights. 7owever since 1<*1 it has been a signatory to the #uropean $onvention on 7uman /ights %part of the $ouncil of #urope+ and since 1<&& it has allowed its citi6ens the right of individual petition enabling them to take the government to the #uropean $ourt of 7uman /ights in "trasbourg. The Blair 2overnment incorporated the provisions of the #uropean $onvention in =: domestic law in (!!! so that citi6ens can now seek to have the provisions enforced in domestic courts.

CIHIL SOCIETY
@ne cannot explain a liberal democracy such as the =nited :ingdom simply by talking about the formal political and governmental institutions any more than one can understood fish without talking about water. Hemocratic government cannot operate with a strong civil society to support it and hold political and governmental bodies to account. The special history of the =: ) involving gradual changes over long periods ) has created a subtle but effective civil society that outsiders often find a little difficult to understand. "o it is useful to list some of the more important elements of such a civil society: Bi%% o& Ri-ht# ) 4lthough Britain does not have a written constitution it does have a Bill of /ights because it is a signatory to the #uropean $onvention on 7uman /ights which was drawn up by a body called the $ouncil of #urope. The #uropean $onvention is part of our domestic law so that it can be enforced in our domestic courts as well as in the #uropean $ourt of 7uman /ights. In)e.en)ent C,)i'i" y ) @ur 8udges are appointed through an independent process and operate totally independently of government. They can find that a 2overnment 0inister has acted against a law of the =: 9arliament or a Hirective of the #uropean =nion or against the #uropean $onvention and re-uire the 0inister to change his actions. A & ee !e)i" ) 4s long as they are not being libelous newspapers radio and television can say what they want about the 9arliament the 2overnment and politicians. 4n important new development is the ;nternet. Web sites and blogs can say what they want about politicians and political issues. ; have a web site and a blog and ; often write about political issues. There is no need in the =: to register a newspaper or web site or to obtain permission to run it. > ee)o! o& in&o !"tion %e-i#%"tion ) We have a 5reedom of ;nformation 4ct which is a piece of legislation that obliges national government local government and most public bodies to provide any information re-uested by an citi6en. The only exceptions are things like information which concern national security commercial confidentiality or the private matters of citi6ens. T ")e ,nion# . 4bout a -uarter of workers in Britain are members of trade unions representing different occupational groups or industries. These trade unions are totally independent of government and employers. ; was a national trade union official for (' years and believe strongly in independent trade unions. P e##, e - o,.# ) We have lots and lots of organisations that campaign publicly on political issues such as poverty pensions and the environment. They perform an invaluable role in putting forward ideas and holding politicians to account. Ch" itie# "n) +o%,nt" y - o,.# ) "imilarly we have lots and lots of organisations that do some of the things that governments does as well such as running schools and hospitals looking after the poor and old and cleaning up the environment. CONSTITUTIONAL AND POLITICAL RE>ORM $ompared to many other democracies institutional and procedural reform in the British political system has been very slow gradual and piecemeal. 7owever there has been a growing movement for more fundamental reform. The appetite for constitutional change became much stronger in the aftermath of the M"y 0009 #'"n)"% o+e the eB.en#e# o& Me!be # o& P" %i"!ent= Then the &o !"tion in M"y 0010 o& " Con#e +"ti+eALibe "% De!o' "t 'o"%ition Go+e n!ent o.ene) ,. ne* .o##ibi%itie# &o 'h"n-e *ith " n,!be o& #.e'i&i' !e"#, e# #et o,t in the "- ee!ent bet*een the ." tie# e#t"b%i#hin- the ne* -o+e n!ent=

The proposed changes on the agenda of the ', ent Co"%ition Go+e n!ent " e "# &o%%o*#G Mo e .o*e to b"'/ben'h Me!be # o& P" %i"!ent . ;n the British political system the party in 2overnment has considerably more power in the legislature than the @pposition parties and in all the political parties the whips have considerable power over backbenchers. @rdinary 09s could be given more influence by measures such as more independent and stronger all. party "elect $ommittees more unwhipped votes %especially during the $ommittee "tage of Bills+ more support for 9rivate 0embers, Bills %those initiated by backbenchers rather than 0inisters+ more power to scrutinise 2overnment spending and a new power to sub8ect ministers to confirmation hearings. The parties will bring forward the proposals of the Wright $ommittee for reform to the 7ouse of $ommons in full . starting with the proposed committee for management of programmed business and including government business within its scope by the third year of the 9arliament. The .o*e to &o 'e " by(e%e'tion . $urrently a by.election occurs only when an 09 dies or resigns or is sentenced to more than one year in prison. The 2overnment has published a Bill proposing that a by.election could be forced if 1!G of eligible constituents . around & K!! in a typical constituency . voted for a recall. The ousted 0ember of 9arliament would be free to stand for re.election. 7owever the proposal has been criticised on the grounds that the recall peitition would only be triggered by a vote of no confidence in the 7ouse of $ommons or a prison sentence. >iBe) te ! ." %i"!ent# . ;n the past elections to the 7ouse of $ommons had to be held within five years of the previous 2eneral #lection but the 9rime 0inister had complete discretion over the actual date which was often the sub8ect of considerable speculation and fre-uently a year or more before an election was legally necessary. The coalition parties agreed to the establishment of five year fixed.term parliaments and the necessary legislation has now been enacted. Therefore sub8ect to at an earlier time either a vote of no confidence in the 2overnment or a two.thirds ma8ority vote each 2eneral #lection will now be held on the first Thursday of 0ay five years after the previous election. A ne* e%e'to "% #y#te! &o the Ho,#e o& Co!!on# . Britain is unusual in #urope in having an electoral system which is ,first.past.the.post, %59T9+ and there are advocates for a system of proportional representation %9/+ versions of which are already used for elections to the "cottish 9arliament the Welsh 4ssembly and the Eorthern ;reland 4ssembly and for British elections to the #uropean 9arliament. 4s a vital component of the coalition agreement legislation was carried to enable a referendum to be held on an electoral system called the alternative vote %4I+ which enables the voter to number candidates in order of preference and re-uires a winning candidate to secure more than *!G of the votes which if not achieved on the first count is achieved through successive withdrawal of the lowest.polling candidate and redistribution of that candidate,s preferences. The referendum . only the second =:.wide referendum in our history . was held on * 0ay (!11 but the current electoral system was supported by a margin of more than two to one %; voted for a move to 4I+. >e*e "n) !o e eE,"% #i@e) 'on#tit,en'ie# . $urrently the 7ouse of $ommons has &*! seatsN the $oalition 2overnment intends to cut this to &!!. $urrently the number of electors in each 9arliamentary constituency varies -uite considerablyN the $oalition 2overnment has legislated that no constituency should be more than *G either larger or smaller than a national average of around A& !!! electors %which could eliminate some '! >abour.held seats+. The 2overnment included these measures in the /eferendum Bill on electoral reform and it is intended that the new constituencies will come into effect at the next 2eneral #lection. E%e'tion o& the Ho,#e o& Lo )# . 4t present no member of the upper house is actually electedN most are appointed on the nomination of party leaders with a small number remaining from the originally much larger group of hereditary peers. The 2overnment has outlined two initiatives: first a draft 7ouse of >ords /eform Bill that would reduce the membership from over K!! to 1!! of whom K!G would be elected by the single transferable vote form of proportional representation and second a White 9aper containing proposals for a 1!!G elected upper house. Both proposals are to be scutinised by a cross.party committee of 09s and peers but this examination will take at least a year and neither the $ommons nor the >ords is keen on either of the proposals for very different reasons %09s do not want the >ords to gain more legitimacy and nominated peers do not want to be replaced by elected representatives+. Mo e )e+o%,tion n"tion"%%y "n) %o'"%%y . The "cottish 9arliament the Welsh 4ssembly and the Eorthern ;reland 4ssembly all have devolved powers and all of them want more while many local authorities feel that over past decades their powers have been eroded by the national parliament. "ome believe that a revitalisation of the British political system re-uires more devolution of power. The parties have agreed to the implementation of the $alman $ommission proposals on further "cottish devolution and the offer of a referendum on further Welsh devolution. 4lso the parties intend to promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a full review of local government finance. U#e o& e(.etition# . $iti6ens are to be encouraged to use the 2overnment web site Hirect.gov to create electronic petitions to promote specific political reforms. ;t is likely that the most popular petition will be drafted as a Bill and presented to

9arliament while those petitions that reach a certain level of support . probably 1!! !!! signatures . will be guaranteed a debate in the 7ouse of $ommons. >,n)in- "n) %obbyin- . 4ll political parties find it difficult to raise the funding necessary to promote their messages and run their election campaigns and in practice the >abour 9arty receives much of its funding from a small number of trade unions and the $onservative 9arty is backed mainly by large companies. ;t has been argued that democracy would be better served and parties could be more independent if there was public funding of political parties with the actual level of funding depending of some combination of candidates and votes. The parties have agreed to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove ,big money, from politics. 4lso the parties intend to tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. $andidates for further change would include the following proposals: A *i)e & "n'hi#e . 4t present every citi6en over 1K can vote but it has been suggested that the voting age should be lowered to 1&. A *i)e . o'e## &o #e%e'tin- P" %i"!ent" y '"n)i)"te# . Today candidates are selected by meetings of members of the political party that the candidate will represent in a future election but it has been proposed that the process could be opened up to anyone in the relevant constituency who has declared themselves a supporter of that party a process something like the primaries in the =nited "tates. A !o e !o)e n ',%t, e &o the Co!!on# . 0any of the traditions and much of the language of the $ommons date back centuries and reformers argue that it is time for change to make the proceedings more accessible and acceptable to the public and electorate. The sort of changes mooted are no ceremonial dress for $ommons staff reform of terms such as L0y right honourable friendL and a less gladiatorial version of 9rime 0inister,s Buestions. Li!it# on the Roy"% P e o-"ti+e . 4t the moment the 9rime 0inister alone can exercise powers which once used to belong to the monarch such as the right to apppoint certain 8udges and bishops the signing of international treaties and the declaring of war but this could be changed so that 9arliament has to decide such matters. A )o!e#ti' Bi%% o& Ri-ht# .The =: has a Bill of /ights but it is the #uropean $onvention on 7uman /ights which since (!!! has been part of the domestic law and therefore enforcable in national courts as well as the #uropean $ourt. "ome people believe that Britain should draft its own specific Bill of /ights. A * itten 'on#tit,tion . 5or historical reasons the =: is one of only three countries in the *o %) not to h"+e " * itten 'on#tit,tion %the others are Eew Fealand and ;srael+. The most radical proposal for constitutional change . supported especially by the >iberal Hemocrat 9arty . is that the country should now have a formal written constitution. See also:

http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/questions/government/government.htm http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/economies/Europe/United-Kingdom-POLITIC !O"E#$%E$T-&$'-T&(&TIO$.html)i*++,-./a 0n1

Parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom:


http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections.and.voting/general/ When Parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant and a general election is held. Each constituency in the UK elects one MP (Member of Parliament) to a seat in the House of Commons. The political party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons usually forms the Government. How often are general elections held? The date of the next general election is set at 7 May 2015 after the Fixed Term Parliament Act was passed on 15 September 2011. Last general election in the UK took place on 6 May 2010.

The act provides for general elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every five years. There are two provisions that trigger an election other than at five year intervals: - A motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty's Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed - A motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons including vacant seats (currently 434 out of 650) Previous to this act, the duration of a Parliament was set at five years, although many were dissolved before that, at the request of the Prime Minister to the Queen. How does it work? MPs are elected from a choice of candidates by a simple majority system in which each person casts one vote. The candidate with the most votes then becomes the MP for that constituency. Candidates may be from a political party registered with the Electoral Commission or they may stand as an 'Independent' rather than represent a registered party. Where do people vote? Most voting takes place in polling stations but anyone eligible to vote can apply for a postal vote. British citizens living abroad are also entitled to a postal vote as long as they have been living abroad for less than 15 years.

Electoral system: UK
http://encyclopedia.farlex.com/electoralOsystemG14O=:
In England, elections have been used as a parliamentary process since the 13th century. The secret ballot was adopted in 1872 and full equal voting rights won for women in 1928 . All

registered members of the public aged 18 and over may vote in parliamentary elections. The British House of Commons is elected for a maximum of five years; the prime minister can call a general election at any time. The calling of an election the election writ The royal proclamation announcing the dissolution of Parliament and the summoning of a new Parliament is the authorization for the writs for a general election. The decision to dissolve Parliament is made by the sovereign on the advice of the prime minister. Under the Parliament Act 1911 the maximum duration of a Parliament is five years. A general election normally takes place within 21 days of a dissolution, although the announcement that the prime minister intends to advise a dissolution may take place several days before the date of dissolution. Vacancies in the House of Commons between general elections are filled by means of by-elections. Election campaigns and expenses

The election expenses of each candidate are strictly controlled. The purposes of election expenses are also strictly controlled and all expenses must be declared and published. All election literature must include the name and address of the publisher (usually the candidate's election agent) and of the printer. Each candidate is allowed, however, to send one electoral communication (usually his electoral address) free to every elector in the constituency. http://www.woodlands junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/questions/government/government.htm See also:
http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/economies/Europe/United-Kingdom-POLITIC !O"E#$%E$T-&$'-T&(&TIO$.html)i*++,-./a 0n1