United Kingdom Political System

Topics: House of Lords, Parliament of the United Kingdom, United Kingdom Pages: 14 (5049 words) Published: January 27, 2014
The United Kingdom is a unitary democracy governed within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, in which the Monarch is the head of state and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by Her Majesty's Government, on behalf of and by the consent of the Monarch, as well as by the devolved Governments of Scotland and Wales, and the Northern Ireland Executive. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as in the Scottish parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The highest national court is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The UK political system is a multi-party system. Since the 1920s, the two largest political parties have been the Conservative Party and the Labor Party. Before the Labor Party rose in British politics the Liberal Party was the other major political party along with the Conservatives. Though coalition and minority governments have been an occasional feature of parliamentary politics, the first-past-the-post electoral system used for general elections tends to maintain the dominance of these two parties, though each has in the past century relied upon a third party to deliver a working majority in Parliament. The current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is the first coalition since 1974. With the partition of Ireland, Northern Ireland received home rule in 1920, though civil unrest meant direct rule was restored in 1972. Support for nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales led to proposals for devolution in the 1970s though only in the 1990s did devolution actually happen. Today, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each possess a legislature and executive, with devolution in Northern Ireland being conditional on participation in certain all-Ireland institutions. The United Kingdom remains responsible for non-devolved matters and, in the case of Northern Ireland, co-operates with the Republic of Ireland. It is a matter of dispute as to whether increased autonomy and devolution of executive and legislative powers has contributed to a reduction in support for independence. The principal pro-independence party, the Scottish National Party, won an overall majority of MSPs at the 2011 Scottish parliament elections and now forms the Scottish Government administration, with plans to hold a referendum on negotiating for independence. In Northern Ireland, the largest Pro-Belfast Agreement party, Sinn Féin, not only advocates Northern Ireland's unification with the Republic of Ireland, but also abstains from taking their elected seats in the Westminster government, as this would entail taking a pledge of allegiance to the British monarch. The constitution of the United Kingdom is uncodified, being made up of constitutional conventions, statutes and other elements such as EU law. This system of government, known as the Westminster system, has been adopted by other countries, especially those that were formerly parts of the British Empire. The United Kingdom is also responsible for several dependencies, which fall into two categories: the Crown dependencies, in the immediate vicinity of the UK, and British Overseas Territories, which originated as colonies of the British Empire. The British Monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is the Chief of State of the United Kingdom. Though she takes little direct part in government, the Crown remains the fount in which ultimate executive power over Government lies. These powers are known as Royal Prerogative and can be used for a vast amount of things, such as the issue or withdrawal of passports, to the dismissal of the Prime Minister or even the Declaration of War. The powers are delegated from the Monarch personally, in the name of the Crown, and can be handed to various ministers, or other Officers of the Crown,...
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