The british political system is made up of houses of parliament and regional assemblies in Scotland, wales and northern Ireland. where members of parliament (MP’s) discuss four main issues legislation, representation, investigation and financing.
The houses of commons The houses of commons is part of the process of british politics. The house of commons currently holds 647 mp’s in parliament which act as a political forum for Britain. Where MP’s can scrutinise, examine and react to the government polices and actions. After having a debate on a certain issue the commons will vote on how to deal with the issue. MP’s are voted in from 647 consituencys in the general election which takes place every five years. the biggest party majority of mps currently labour will form a government.
MP’s are seen as having constituency intrests and responsibilities. Which means they ask questions and raise matter in debate concerning the problems of their consistency. The issues from MP’s constituencys are often raised in local meetings and letters from their consituants. Although the political impact of this nationally will be limited locally it be significant in addressing problems. The commons also deals with public petitions, which are debated over if urgent. Petitions are increasingly popular way of getting an issue public attention and is the only way voter can address issues to parliament. The house of lords
T The house of lords currently consists of two parts, the Lords Temporal and Lords Spiritual. Lords Temporal include life peers and hereditary peers. However due to on going reforms of the role of herditary peers in the house of lords. The Lords Spiritual represent the established Church of England and consists of 26 members, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury and the 24 most senior Bishops of the church. It currently acts to review legislation formed by the House of Commons, with the power to propose amendments, and exercises a suspensive veto. This allows it to delay legislation if it does not approve for twelve months. The House of Lords is currently also the final court of appeal on civil cases within the United Kingdom although cases can then go on to the European high court for appeal.
National assemblies Though the UK parliament remains the main parliament, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have assemblies. All three assembies are elected by proportional representation instead of the traditional system first past the post. The devolved governments have some legislative powers to deal with issues in their country however issues involving the whole united kingdom are still controled by the houses of parliament. they can also have their powers changed by an Act of the UK Parliament.
How laws are passed The government is responsible for the majority of new laws. Individual MPs and opposition parties can suggest laws but do not have the time or the support to put laws through parliament. parties usually announce new laws and amedments in there manifestoes for the general elections. The government firstly publishes a Green Paper, A Green Paper is a period of consultation where the government seeks feedback and ideas from specialists, senior members of government and the general public.
After the consultation is over, the government will then publish a White Paper. The white paper is how the government states its intention to introduce the new legislation. When the government has decided on the white paper and if it should become legislation they will introduce a parliamently bill . As the bill progresses through parliament, amendments are made which affect what the final law will be. After being debated in the commons the bill is then passed on to the house of lords. the house of lords considers the law in detail and will either pass the bill on for royal assent or denial the bill and send it back to the house of commons to be debated further.
The current voting system in local and general elections is called the first past the post system. There are 659 separate areas across the UK each electing one MP. In order to vote you must be eighteen although there is on going debate to bring it down to sixteen so that their be a bigger percentage of voters. Uk citizens who are currently in prison have there right to vote suspended. The general election takes place every five years and can be called at anytime by the current government within the five years. www.
Voting takes place in voting stations in each constituency, to vote you must place an ‘x’ next to candidate you like to elect and place it in the ballot box. this process is also a secret ballot to make the voting system more democratic because it doesn’t give any party candidate an advantage and stops any votes being influenced. The candidate with the most votes regardless if the candidate has more than 50% of the vote will become the MP of that constituency. the party with the most MP’s is then elected into government. For example here are three main national parties. Candidate A (labour): 22,000 votes
Candidate B (Conservative): 17,00 votes Candidate C (Lib Dems): 13,000 votes In this example, the clear winner is Candidate A with a majority over candidate B of 5000. In the example above, 22 000 voted for the candidate that won that election howver 30 000 voted against the winner therefore the party doesnot have to support of the majority. (www.gaurdian.co.uk)
Positives of the first past the post The first past the post is a cheap and simple way to hold an election, as each voter has to place one cross on the ballot paper. Counting of the ballot papers is usually fast and result of a british election is usually known the very next day after polling. The first past the post system creates clear majorities for one party this prevents coalitions for forming which could give extremist minority partys influence on how the countrys run. (www.bbc.co.uk)
Negatives of the first past the post there is only one MP elected per area so the people who did not vote for that candidate there views do not get represented. The voting system can put the public off voting because if they vote for smaller parties its seen as a wasted vote and will not make a difference, however if we adopted propostional representation smaller parties will have more of a chance of gaining more seats. The first past the post system works very well if there are only two parties running for an election. but if there is more than two parties running for an election the system becomes unfair on the smaller parties, due to the fact the system works on most votes gained. If we adopted a proportional representation system this would create a fairer voting system for all political parties. (www.bbc.co.uk)
Political theorists Charles kenedy commented on the current voting system in may 2005 stating,
“The door is open as far as we are concerned on voting reform.” “The Prime Minister could pick up the phone tomorrow if he wishes. Clearly we would be interested in creating a fair voting system.” “The strains on the first-past-the-post system are getting too much, Labour got 130 more seats than their votes entitled them to. The Liberal and other parties received half as many seats as they should have got. One and a half million votes were cast for parties who didn’t win a seat, including the Greens and UKIP.” (www.independant.co.uk)
Nick Herbert, the Conservative constitutional affairs spokesman recently commented on the voting system in august 2007, “This leaked copy of the review blows out of the water the case for changing Britain’s tried and tested electoral system. The Government’s own report admits that proportional representation has caused voter confusion and not increased turnout. And it says that Alternative Vote would produce even more disproportionate results than any other system. I fear the real reason for the delay in publishing this review is Labour trying to fiddle the dossier. This Government has repeatedly meddled with the electoral system for partisan advantage, undermining public confidence in the integrity of the ballot.”
Courtney from Study Moose
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