United Kingdom Politics

State Structure and Political System of United Kingdom


According to microedu, Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy. Unlike most countries in the world, the UK does not have a constitution that would be a single document, it consists of various acts of parliament – statutes, court decisions and constitutional customs. The constitution may be amended by an act of parliament or by general agreement to change constitutional custom.

The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II (born April 21, 1926), who ascended the throne in February 1952. In the last century, there has been a tendency to transfer power directly to the government, but the queen continues to take part in the implementation of a number of important functions of state power. She retained the right to convene and dissolve parliament, appoint the prime minister: the queen invites the leader of the political party that makes up the majority in the House of Commons to form a government. The Queen approves laws passed by Parliament. By law, she is the supreme commander in chief and, on the proposal of the government, appoints the highest military commanders. As head of the judiciary appoints judges, and as head of the Church of England, bishops.

Great Britain includes 4 historical and geographical regions (historical provinces) – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (Ulster) – part of Ireland – 6 north-eastern counties (according to the Treaty of 1921 included in Great Britain as an autonomy). Administratively, Great Britain is divided into counties, districts and cities. The UK includes independent administrative units – the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, as well as 15 dependent territories. Local authorities are responsible for housing, education, social security, police and fire service. They are financed by funds received from the collection of municipal taxes, local taxes and subsidies from the central government.

The highest body of legislative power is the parliament. It consists of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Parliament is engaged in legislative activity. Bills (bills) go through 3 readings. As a general rule, bills must be passed by both houses. Before laws can take effect, they must receive royal assent. In practice, this is a pure formality. In the absence of a written Constitution as a single document and under the provision of “parliamentary sovereignty”, the Parliament can cancel acts of constitutional significance. Parliamentary committees play an important role in drafting laws. The leading role in the activities of Parliament belongs to the House of Commons. It is elected for a term of no more than 5 years and has 659 members – 1 representative from each of the 659 constituencies.

All citizens of Great Britain, as well as other Commonwealth countries and the Republic of Ireland, who have reached the age of 18 and permanently reside in Great Britain, have the right to vote. Since 1945, the Conservative Party has won 8 times in general elections, and the Labor Party 8 times. As a result of the general parliamentary elections in June 2001, the majority in the House of Commons, as in the previous elections in 1997, was won by the Labor Party – 412 seats (40.7% of the votes received). The Conservatives – 166 seats (31.7%), the Liberal Democrats – 52 (18.3%), the Scottish National Party – 5 (1.8%), Cymru Plaid – 4 (0.75%), the Ulster Unionist party – 6 (0.8%), Democratic Unionist Party – 5 (0.7%), Sinn Fein – 4 (0.7%), others – 4 (0.8%).

The upper house – the House of Lords – consists of hereditary and life peers (who received the title for services to the country), archbishops and senior bishops of the Anglican Church, Lords of the Supreme Court of Appeal. Acts of Parliament of 1911 and 1949 significantly limited the rights of the House of Lords. Its main function is to consider and amend the drafts submitted by the House of Commons. Since 1949, the House of Lords retained only the right of a suspensive veto—a short-term postponement of bills passed by the House of Commons. Bills of a Financial Character, Relating to Taxation and Public Expenditures, are passed by the House of Lords as they appear before the House of Commons. In 1999, the House of Lords Act was passed, which reduced the number of hereditary peers from over 750 to 92. It is proposed to completely abolish the institution of hereditary peers. In 2001, a White Paper was published providing that the majority of life peers would be appointed by an independent cross-party commission and on the advice of political parties in proportion to the size of factions in the House of Commons. The 120 members of the House of Lords will be elected.

The head of the executive branch is the monarch. The head of government is the prime minister. The government is formed by the leader of the party that won the majority or the largest number of seats in parliament in the elections (since 1997 – Labor MP Tony Blair). The government consists of cabinet members (c. 20), non-cabinet ministers and junior ministers (usually parliamentary deputy ministers). Most ministers are members of the House of Commons. At the disposal of the Prime Minister is the apparatus of civil servants.

The party system includes the following parties: The Conservative Party – organizationally took shape in 1867, has approx. 300 thousand members, leader – Ian Duncan Smith. After World War II, she was in power in 1951–64, 1970–74, and 1979–97. The Labor Party was formed in 1890, unites collective (trade unions and cooperative societies) and individual members, has 260,000 members, and is led by Tony Blair. After World War II, he was in power in 1945-51, 1964-70, 1974-79. It has been the ruling party since 1997. The Liberal Democratic Party was formed in 1988 by the merger of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties, has approx. 82 thousand members, leader – Charles Kennedy. National parties are also represented in Parliament: Plaid Camry (founded in Wales in 1925, leader I. Vic Jones); Scottish National Party (founded in 1937, leader John Swinney); Ulster Unionist Party (founded in the early 20th century, leader David Trimble); Democratic Unionist Party (founded in 1971, leader Ian Paisley); The Social Democratic and Labor Party of Northern Ireland (founded in 1970, leader Mark Derken), Sinn Fein – the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA, formed at the end of the 1st World War, leader Jerry Adams), the party refused to take its seats in the House of Commons.

United Kingdom Politics