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Analysing the British Political System

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Politics B - L.O.1 Analysing the British Political System There has been debate over whether or not Britain actually has a constitution, as such. When one thinks of a constitution, it tends to be the American style model of 'the' constitution that springs to mind - a single written code, setting out rules and guidelines of how government institutions, and the relationship between such institutions and the citizens, should be conducted. However, despite Britain not having such an easily definable constitution, one exists nonetheless, in the form of uncodified (that it, not strictly written in a single document for that specific purpose) documents that are scattered among different sources, of which there are six main sources comprising: statute law, law which is made by parliament; common law, law based on legal precedents, that is, made by judges on the basis that what is decided by one court of law must be followed by other courts when dealing with similar matters (although this is not the case within the Scottish system, where judgements are generally made on individual cases); Royal prerogative, traditionally the privileges and powers held by the monarch, although in reality today these powers are generally held by the Prime minister/cabinet, the monarchs role being little more that a political ritual; constitutional ...read more.


In the cabinet, there exists the constitutional convention of collective responsibility. This ensures that cabinet ministers are held equally responsible for any decisions taken within the cabinet and its committees, and must be seen to support any such decisions or resign from their cabinet post. However, the cabinet is only one part of a wider network of government departments and committees, most importantly in the decision making process by Parliament, which is Britain's main legislative authority, and is seen as the most accessible of Britain's political institutions, with proceedings being reported in the press, etc. Parliament comprises of three main elements: the monarchy, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, all three of which must be in agreement before any law can be made, although, as mentioned previously, the role of the monarch in this process is largely symbolic. Should the monarch today actually choose to exercise their constitutional power, without reference to advisers, particularly the Prime minister, it could damage both the nature of the constitution and the institution that is the monarchy itself. Only in the case of a 'hung parliament' (where no single party has overall majority in the commons) ...read more.


Such low numbers mean that ballot bills will often be pushed aside or removed from the Commons timetable altogether, in favour of bills which are already in the pipeline. The ten minute rule (whereby members are given ten minutes to propose legislation) is generally unsuccessful and so members tend to us it more for publicising ideas rather than for realistic legislative proposals. Finally, there is Standing order 58, which offers slightly higher chance of success than the ten minute rule, and allows a bill to be introduced without debate if the speaker is given a days notice. As mentioned, the majority of all three types of private members bills still fail, as the necessary time and support for their passage through the House is generally not provided. And so, we have looked at what differentiates the roles of members of the House of Commons/Lords with that of the Executive and what defines the British constitution. Far from simple, and indeed far from perfect, the British system in operation today undoubtedly stems from long standing tradition, which can be difficult to change and undeniably leads to some inequity, although this is something which is certainly not unique to the British political system. Despite its deep-rooted conventions, the British system is one that continues to evolve and adapt to the ever changing political world. ...read more.

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