The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy organized
as a democratic and parliamentary unity state. The country
has no written constitution. The form of governance has
evolved gradually and is based on tradition and customs.
Although the United Kingdom is formally a monarchy, the
supreme executive power lies with the government, which is
based on the majority in the elected House of Commons. The
royal power is hereditary and can be taken over by both man
and woman, but brothers go before sisters. The monarch must
belong to the State Church, the Church of England.
legislative authority has Parliament, which consists of two
houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Of the
two houses, the former is by far the most important. The
upper house can only review, amend, or defer legislation for
one year, but does so in an inactive way. Budget proposals
can stay over 30 days for the House. After 1997 the
authority of the House of Commons has been cut. The lower
house is directly elected and has 651 members after the 2010
election; 533 from England, 59 from Scotland, 40 from Wales
and 18 from Northern Ireland. In addition comes the Speaker
of the House of Commons.
From the election in 2005, the number of seats in
Scotland was reduced from 72 to 59 as a result of the
establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The
members are elected from one-man constituencies and so that
the candidate with the most votes, so-called simple
majority, takes the mandate. Thus, winning the mandate does
not require more than 50 percent of the vote. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how UK can stand for United Kingdom.
The lower house is selected for up to five years, but can
be dissolved at any time with a few weeks' notice. The
voting age is 18 years.
In 1998, before the constitutional reform came into
force, the House of Commons consisted of 1191 members; of
these, about 4/5 had inherited the seat, the others hold the
seat for life - either by virtue of position (as the
foremost cleric) or by reason of life peers. In 1999, the
House decided that only life peers should have voting
rights. A total of 667 inheritance orders lost their powers,
92 were allowed to retain their seats. In 2006, the upper
house consisted of 741 members; Of these, 623 were life
The government is formed and headed by a Prime Minister
(Prime Minister) and is collectively responsible to the
House of Commons. The prime minister is the largest party's
deputy leader. Most other ministers have also been in the
lower house; however, some come from the upper house.
The entire government can include up to 100 members. The
government in our sense of the word, the Cabinet, has 22
members. Most of these are called Secretaries of State, a
legacy from the time when the ministers constituted the
king's private office. Furthermore, the government includes
30 Ministers of State, and 34 others (called parliamentary
secretaries, sub-secretaries of state and the like).
Within the Cabinet, an internal cabinet is often formed
of the Prime Minister (who is also titled First Lord of the
Treasury) and his closest associates - notably the Deputy
Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of
Finance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of
the Interior and the Defense Minister, formerly also the
Lord Chancellor (High).) Chancellor).
The opposition party in the Lower House has an official,
state-paid leader. The opposition leader also forms a "
shadow government ".
Britain has had an approximate two-party system, and the
government has more or less regularly switched between the
two major parties, now The Conservative Party and Labor
The bipartisan system dates back to the 18th century,
when the Whig and Tory parties emerged. Following the Reform
Act (1832), the two became the Liberal Party and the
Conservative Party (still called "tory" in daily speech).
In the 1920s, the Labor Party replaced the Liberals as
the other major party. The Liberals were merged in 1988 with
the Social Democrats of the Liberal Democrats, who have
gained increased support.
Both of the two major parties have been characterized by
internal tensions. In Labor, the left took power after the
1979 election defeat, which led to party divisions and
several electoral defeats. In the 1990s, Labor moved toward
the center and, under Tony Blair, who won three elections
for the party (1997, 2001, 2005), became a middle-class
oriented party ("New Labor").
The Conservative Party was dominated by the Liberal Right
and its strong leader Margaret Thatcher from 1975 to 1990.
Thatcher was followed by the more moderate John Major. In
the 1990s, the party was characterized by ideological and
personal tensions, especially in relation to EU integration,
and suffered major defeats in the 1997 and 2001 elections.
The party also had frequent leadership changes with a total
of five leaders from 1997 to 2005. But after David Cameron
took over as party leader, the Conservatives again appealed
to the electorate, and Cameron formed government in 2010
with the Liberal Democrats.
In addition to the three parties mentioned, a number of
smaller parties are represented in the House of Commons. In
recent years, a protest party on the right wing, UKIP, has
gained a lot of support, and the Greens have also begun to
make their mark.
In Northern Ireland, own parties are up for election,
where the dividing lines go by the degree of affiliation
with the UK. Both Scotland and Wales have significant
nationalist parties represented. The Scottish SNP in
particular has considerable support and is on the way to
Labor as the leading party north of the border.
The sub-representatives do not have deputy
representatives; if a member dies or resigns, supplementary
elections are held, which often produce completely different
results than ordinary elections. The composition of the
Lower House therefore changes during the election period.
Political system in Northern Ireland
By The Government of Ireland Act (1920), Northern
Ireland, the six north-eastern counties on the Irish island,
had its own government, its own two-chamber parliament and
self-government in all matters that had no "significance for
the empire". The king was represented in Northern Ireland
through a governor; he had the executive power, but was to
be advised by parliamentary responsible ministers. However,
since the unrest began in 1968-1969, local autonomy was
suspended. Following the peace agreement in 1998, Northern
Ireland was again given its own assembly and government, but
this did not work and was suspended in 2002.
Political system in Scotland and Wales
Following Labor's election victory in 1997, referendums
were held in Scotland and Wales on internal self-government
for the national constituencies. In Scotland, a clear
majority was created to form a separate parliament, and the
first parliament was elected in 1999. In Wales, the
enthusiasm was somewhat less and the Welsh representative
body is called "assembly". Both Scotland and Wales got their
own governments in 1999 with prime ministers.
Britain's traditional division into counties has now to
some extent been replaced by other administrative units; the
most important are so-called Unitary Authorities. England is
divided into Greater London (Greater London), six
Metropolitan Counties, 34 Non-Metropolitan Counties and 46
Unitary Authorities. Northern Ireland has 26 Districts,
Wales 22 Unitary Authorities and Scotland 32 Council Areas.
These are further divided into smaller units such as
districts, small parishes or communities.
All local units have a degree of local autonomy. At all
levels there is advice, chosen for four years in general
elections. The councils are chaired by a mayor, elected by
and among the council members. Greater London is governed by
32 borough counties as well as the Corporation of the City
of London (for the downtown area). In the reorganization of
the administrative division in the 1990s, many counties
(counties) lapsed; these have nevertheless retained certain
The United Kingdom has traditionally been regarded as one
of the most stable political systems in the world. No other
form of government has been developed for so long, in fact
since the Middle Ages, in such a gradual way, and with such
respect for continuity as the British. Nevertheless, the
stability problems have increased in scope and severity over
the past decades. The Northern Ireland problem has
challenged stability, economic stagnation has tightened
social tensions, and significant immigration has resulted in
ethnic tensions. The increased political polarization
reflects these underlying problems. To some extent it also
The legal system
England and Wales
The judicial system is strongly nationally characterized
and differs in significant respects from continental legal
systems. The basis of applicable law is largely old
customary law, built on Anglo-Saxon and Frankish conceptions
of law, and formulated and adhered to by the courts' common
law practice. The original customary law has gradually been
supplemented by the right of cheapness that was developed
through the Chancellor's right, Equity from the 13th
century. The specialty of English law is the decisive
importance given to the courts' decisions. Large parts of
the applicable law have their basis in court decisions. When
deciding on a specific legal matter, it is often necessary
to review a number of previous court decisions in similar
cases. Written law plays a more prominent role in recent
times, and a number of codification laws have been adopted.
The English court system and procedure are also clearly
national. The participation of lay judges in the form of a
jury originates in England.
The court of first instance in minor civil cases is the
County Courts. Major civil cases initially go to the High
Court, which is also the appeal court in certain cases. The
Court of Appeal (Civil Division) is otherwise the appeal
court for the County Court and the High Court.
Minor criminal cases are adjudicated in Magistrates'
Courts, which normally have three unpaid, not legally
trained judges. Almost all criminal cases are settled here.
In the larger cities, however, the court has a legal judge
as sole judge. Own juvenile courts handle cases where the
offender is under 17 years old. There are approximately 900
More serious criminal cases are handled by the Crown
Court with jury. This Court and a High Court Division are
appeals courts for Magistrates' Courts. The appeal from
Crown Court goes to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).
The upper house may in certain cases be the supreme court
of appeal for both civil and criminal cases. The High Court,
Crown Court and Court of Appeal together make up the Supreme
Court. From 2003, constitutional work is underway to
establish a new Supreme Court, the Supreme Court,
independent of the House of Commons.
The Union Act of 1707 explicitly upheld the current legal
and judicial system in Scotland. The legal system was at
that time very different from the English, among other
things, the influence of Roman and canon law was strongly
prominent, but otherwise the judicial system built on
customary law, different from the English Common Law. Later,
an approach has been made, especially because of the common
The court system in Scotland is quite different from the
English one. The minor criminal offenses are adjudicated in
District Court by a magistrate. The most important
subordinate court is the Sheriff Court, where a legally
trained judge presides. The land is divided into six
sheriff's prisons, each headed by a Sheriff's Principal, and
in a total of 50 districts each with one court administered
by a sheriff. In civil cases, the sheriff will initially
judge, and the verdict may be appealed to the Sheriff
Principal, in some cases directly to the superior court. In
criminal cases, the Sheriff Court has a limited
jurisdiction, in small cases the Sheriff convicts alone, in
larger cases there is also a jury.
The Supreme Court in civil cases is the Court of Session
which is based in Edinburgh. The court is divided into an
Outer House, which in a number of areas is the first
instance judge, and an Inner House, which is the appeal
court for the Outer House and Sheriff Court judges. Anchor
from Inner House goes to the Upper House in London. The
highest court in criminal cases is the High Court, which
consists of judges from the Court of Session. It deals with
serious criminal cases in the first instance and is then set
before a judge and jury, and it acts as an appeals court and
is set with at least three judges.
The judiciary in Northern Ireland is in many ways similar
to the English.
There are a number of special tribunals in the United
Kingdom (Administrative Tribunals). Military Courts
(Courts-Martial) have jurisdiction over members of the armed
forces, but the most serious crimes committed by military
are judged by ordinary courts.