British politics

Essay by dawn_19University, Master's March 2004

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"Britain has an unwritten constitution, it includes sovereignty in a parliament dominated by political parties. At the same time the British political system allows for the adequate representation of the people of Scotland."

For over a century the most visible features of British politics have remained the same: the unelected House of Lords, the government-dominated House of Commons, the major parties, the London based Civil Service and the national press. There have been some changes to British politics as in 1980's Margaret Thatcher centralised state power and reformed the Civil Service. New Labour's election victory in 1997 brought devolution to Scotland and Wales and attempts at a political settlement in Northern Ireland. Hereditary membership of the House of Commons has also been abolished.

Britain is a liberal-democracy. Liberal democracy means that institutions such as the civil service and the armed forces, which administer and defend the national territory, operate under the supervision of a regularly elected government.

These arrangements guarantee citizens certain rights and freedoms. Free elections to choose governments define Britain as a democracy, while the liberal element comes in the form of restriction on the power of politicians and the state to interfere in the lives of private individuals and families.

British institutions, such as Parliament and political parties, are broadly similar to those that operate in other democracies. This is particularly so where other countries are 'parliamentary democracies' like Britain. In a parliamentary democracy the members of the government are drawn from the national legislature or parliament, and the government itself depends on the support of parliament. Britain was the first parliamentary democracy in Europe. Many of the other European countries modelled their political institutions and ways of doing things on the Britain when they too introduced responsible governments and elected parliaments. Good examples are the ways...