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Referat: Government and Politics in the UK

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The Political system in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom there is no written constitution, they refer to documents from the middle-age and precedents.
Although the Queen is head of state, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lead the Parliament, which consists of two main chambers: the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
Prime Minister
House of House of
Commons Lords
Democratic Highest Court
Authority of Appeal
Citizens above 18
Like already mentioned, the British Parliament consists of two chambers.

Firstly, the House of Commons. It is elected and has about 660 Members of Parliament (MP). Each MP represents one constituency. The main functions are:
to pass laws
to control government policy and administration

to debate current issues
The House of Commons is the democratic authority which is elected by the adult citizens. The MPs meet every day to debate about the daily issues. They are all full-time politicians.
You can compare the House of Commons with the German federal diet.
The House of Lords stands in contrast to the House of Commons. This authority is not elected and is highly traditional. It consists of the Lords Spiritual (archbishops and bishops) and the Lords Temporal (the hereditary peers, the life peers and the Law Lords). The power of the House of Lords has been highly reduced in the last century. In former times, it was able to reject a legislation but nowadays it can only delay or change bills, but it has not the power to avoid them. The House of Lords is also the highest court of appeal. It is represented by the Law Lords, who are leaded by Lord Chancellor.
Because its members are free from party discipline, they are like moderators in the debates. Their debates are more balanced and independent. The House of Lords members are politicians in a honorary.
You can compare the House of Lords with the German federal council.
British Government is led by the Prime Minister and his/her Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the majority in the House of Commons.

His/her functions are:
to choose and dismiss Cabinet members
to lead the Cabinet
to be responsible for the administration of political affairs
to determine the principles of government policy
to inform Parliament and the Queen of the activities of government
The Cabinet consists of about 20 senior MPs, called Ministers and Secretaries. It is responsible for making important government decisions.
Officially, the Queen, you can also say the Sovereign, is the head of state of the United
Kingdom. But in the course of time, the Queen has lost nearly all of her political
power. Her role is not as important as we would suppose; in fact the sovereigns

functions today are mostly symbolical. These functions are:
Head of state of the United Kingdom and commonwealth states
Head of the English church
Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces
to summon and dissolve Parliament, to hold a speech at the opening and to agree with bills
to talk about the political situation of the UK with the Prime Minister
to appoint life and hereditary peers of the House of Lords and the Prime Minister
representative activities like state visits and national ceremonies
Today, the Queen and the Royal Family are still accepted and popular because the UK is very traditional. Nevertheless, the privilege of the Royals is also criticised by a big part of the British population.
In the United Kingdom, there are two major political parties, it is a great example for the two-party system.
On the one hand, there are the conservatives, traditionally the party of upper and middle class. On the other hand, there is the labour party which is voted for by workers and many of Britain’s coloured people.
Since 1945 the majority of members in the parliament has changed between these two parties, but now the labours are in power in Great Britain.
In both parties there are two opposing tendencies.
To start with the conservatives, one difference within this party is, that one group supports the European union and the other is against the European union.

But in general, the conservatives have got these aims:
free market and privatization of national industries
firmness in foreign politics
better targeting of government expenditure
limitation of the power of trade unions
Like it is already told, also the Labour party is divided into two interest groups.
The first one contains socialistic topics like demanding “the redistribution of private property, state control and the nationalisation of major industries” (Quotation: “Abiturwissen Landeskunde”, Ekkehard Spann, Stuttgart 1990, p.14). The second one supports the welfare-state and prefer a mixed economy policy. Tony Blair for example belongs to this group, which has got the tendency to be the strongest group since the mid-nineties.

These aims are pursued by the labours:
unemployment-rate shall be reduced
support of social welfare and National Health Service
support of the manufacturing industries
defence expenditures shall be diminished
improvement of the system of education
devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
In the UK dominates the majority election, i.e. the candidate with the largest numbers of votes in each constituency wins, no matter how small the constituency is! One Parliament governs maximal 5 years, but it may be dissolved and a general election can be held at any time during these 5 years. The Prime Minister decides when to hold an election. He asks the Queen to dissolve the Parliament.
The citizens of the UK and the commonwealth states above 18 are allowed to vote. In each constituency there is one person of each party who can be elected. The party of the person with the majority in the constituency gets one seat in the House of Commons. So, the party with the most seats wins the election and the leader of this party becomes the Prime Minister. So, the voters do not directly elect the Prime Minister or the party.
To be a candidate in an election you must be a citizen of the UK or commonwealth. You have to be at least 21 years old.

Vocabulary List:
to elect – to vote (e.g. a party in the parliament)
court – a place, where a witness gives an evidence and a judgement is spoken
constitution – Verfassung
peer – member
appeal – Berufung
bill – a proposed law
to dissolve – auflösen
administration – management
Schaubild vom Aufbau der Regierung, Funktion und Aufgaben vom Parlament (House of Commons, House of Lords), Prime Minister, Cabinet und der Queen, etwas über die beiden bekanntesten Parteien (Conservatives, Labours) und über das Wahlsystem (1066 Wörter)
von unbekannt
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