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The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom. Modified from Mr. Caroddo ’ s Education Website at http://caroddoapclasses.com/id4.html. Historical Evolution of British Politics. Magna Carta (1215) – King John agreed to consult the nobles before he made important decisions, in particular regarding taxes

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The United Kingdom

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  1. The United Kingdom Modified from Mr. Caroddo’s Education Website at http://caroddoapclasses.com/id4.html

  2. Historical Evolution of British Politics • Magna Carta(1215) – King John agreed to consult the nobles before he made important decisions, in particular regarding taxes • Limited government – restrictions on the monarch began with the Magna Carta

  3. Historical Evolution of British Politics • The Glorious Revolution (1688) – officially established Parliament as the ruling body of Great Britain. The agreement signed between William & Mary and Parliament was known as the Bill of Rights

  4. Legitimacy • The government of Great Britain has developed gradually; tradition is a primary source of stability • Great Britain’s constitution is unwritten having evolved from different documents (Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights), common law, legal codes, and customs • The UK has rational legal legitimacy, stemming from its democratic constitution and government

  5. Political Culture Noblesse Oblige • Important tradition in British politics • The duty of the upper classes to take responsibility for the welfare of the lower classes • Legacy of feudal times (Lords protected serfs) • Reflected in willingness of British citizens to accept a welfare state • Margaret Thatcher’s administration challenged this by significantly cutting social services and social welfare programs

  6. Political Culture:Extension of Voting Rights • Great Reform Act of 1832: About 300,000 men gained right to vote, House of Commons gained more power in relation to House of Lords • Reform Act of 1867: electorate reaches 3 million, many working class people allowed to vote • Representation of the People Act of 1884: electorate is further expanded to make sure that majority of electorate is working class • Women’s Suffrage: all women over the age of 28 and all men over 21 granted the right to vote in 1918. By 1928, all women over 21 allowed to vote.

  7. Political Beliefs & Values • Through 1960s British political culture characterized by: • Trust • Deference to authority • Pragmatism • Harmony • High voter participation • The “Collectivist Consensus”

  8. Collectivist Consensus • Began during WWII with Churchill’s emphasis on putting class differences aside in order to work together to defeat Germany • Churchill headed an all-party coalition government during WWII (He was originally elected as a Conservative) • The spirit of collective consensus continued beyond the war well into the 1960s

  9. Collectivist Consensus • Both Labour and Conservative parties supported the development of the modern welfare system • Beveridge Report – adopted by both parties during the war; made all citizens eligible for health, unemployment, pension, and other welfare benefits • National Health Service (1948) – created under the leadership of the Labour Party

  10. Political Beliefs & Values continued: “Politics of Protest” • 1970s and 1980s • Less supportive of collective consensus • Support for free market economy • Decreasing support for labor unions • Increased violence in Northern Ireland

  11. Voter Turnout

  12. Political Culture Insularity • Feeling of separation, in particular from the continent of Europe • Sense of exceptionalism • Euroskepticism • Different from isolationism

  13. Political Culture:Multi-nationalism • Although the UK has a relatively large amount of cultural homogeneity (Anglo/white), it is divided into four nations • England • Scotland • Wales • Northern Ireland

  14. England • Largest region of Great Britain • Makes up 2/3 of the land mass • English have dominated the other nationalities historically, and still hold a disproportionate share of political power

  15. Scotland • History of resistance to English rule • Strong sense of national identity • Has its own flag • Recently granted its own parliament and regional assembly (devolution) • Scottish National Party – political party of the region of Scotland

  16. Wales • Located west of England • Plaid Cymru – Welch national political party • Strong sense of national pride reflected in its flag and Welsh language • Granted their own assembly (devolution)

  17. Northern Ireland • The Irish Republican Army (IRA) used guerrilla tactics against British officials and citizens • Sinn Fein – political party of the IRA • Under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the IRA decommissioned its weapons in exchange for some self rule. • An assembly was created for Northern Ireland (devolution)

  18. Devolution • British government is a unitary system (centralized control) • Starting in the 1970s the Scots and Welsh made an aggressive push for political autonomy in their regions • Devolution – the turning over of some political power and autonomy to regional governments • The Labour Party had supported the idea of devolution since the 1970s

  19. Devolultion • Margaret Thatcher’s administration blocked devolution • Under Tony Blair’s New Labour Party the idea of devolution was instituted • In 1999, referendums in Scotland and Wales successfully passed, and each established their own regional assemblies: powers of taxation, education, and economic planning • In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement established an assembly for Northern Ireland

  20. Ethnic Minorities • Make up about 8% of the British population • Indian (23%) • Pakistani (16%) • Afro-Caribbean (13%) • Black African (11%)

  21. Education & Political Elite Recruitment • “Public schools” originally were intended to train boys for “public life” in the military, civil service, or politics • Majority of Britain’s political elites go to public boarding schools • Currently only about 65% of British 17-year olds are still in school, the lowest number of any industrialized society • Oxbridge (Oxford-Cambridge) – the most important portal to membership in the elite classes and political recruitment is through these two prestigious universities

  22. Labour Party • Largest party on the “left” of political spectrum • Began in 1906 as alliance between trade unions and social groups that were strengthened by expansion of workers’ rights • Traditionally labor unions have provided majority of funds for the party

  23. Labour Party • Early history of the party was defined by controversial Clause 4that called for nationalization of the “commanding heights” of British industry • Trade Union Council (TUC) – a coalition of trade unions generally associated with the Labour Party, has traditionally been a force in British politics • Growing moderation of the Labour Party was reflected by removal of Clause 4 in early 1990s

  24. Labour Party in 1990s • Shift in policies toward more centrist views • Moderate-centrist views have continued under leadership of and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (1997-2010) • Tony Blair adopted“Third Way”platform and created the “New Labour” Party

  25. “Third Way” • Moderate • Centrist alternative to“Old Labour” Party on left and Conservative Party on right • Initiated by Tony Blair in the late 1990s • Attempting to redefine and balance following policy issues: • Evolving relationship between government & economy – combine traditional liberal concerns with market solutions • British relationship with EU • Balancing act between the United States and European Union • Devolution

  26. Tony Blair

  27. Conservative Party • Characterized by Noblesse Oblige • Power centered in London • Party organization viewed as elitist • Leadership must submit to annual leadership elections • Weakened by division of party in late 1990s: • Traditional Wing (one-nation Tories) – values noblesse oblige and elitism, supports Britain’s membership in EU • Thatcherite Wing – strict conservatives, support full free market, known as “Euroskeptics”, feel EU threatens British sovereignty

  28. Thatcherism • Reforms instituted by Margaret Thatcher in 1980s • Privatized business and industry • Cut back on social welfare programs • Encouraged residents of public housing to purchase their homes was extremely popular and successful (initially). • Strengthened national defense (staunch anticommunist) • Got tough with labor unions in response to Labour Parties’ distinct movement left, which had strengthened labor unions politically • Passed legislation making unions responsible for illegal activities and weakening union leadership

  29. Thatcherism • Returned to market economy • Privatized many state owned enterprises – including BP and Rolls Royce • Resisted complete integration into the European Union • Replaced property tax on houses with a poll tax on individual adults • This led to her downfall – her party revolted and replaced her in 1990 • Froze income tax increases • Foreign policy dominated by securing British interests internationally

  30. Margaret Thatcher

  31. Conservative Party • Dominant party in Great Britain between WWII and late 1990s • Main party on the right • Traditionally pragmatic as opposed to ideological • Historically has supported a market controlled economy, privatization, and fewer social welfare programs – symbolized by Margaret Thatcher in 1980s • Under Prime Minister John Major (1990-1997) and David Cameron (2010-present) gravitated towards center and away from Thatcherism

  32. David Cameron

  33. Liberal-Democratic Party • Attempted to create strong “in the middle” compromise to the two dominant parties • Won a party high 26% of vote in 1983, but because of single-member district plurality system only secured 23 seats in Parliament • Secured only 57/650 MP seats in 2010 even though tit won 23% of the popular vote • Also managed to gain support on issues such as health, education, the environment, and the Iraq War • Currently part of a coalition government with the Conservative Party

  34. Other Parties • Scottish National Party • Plaid Cymru – Welch nationalist party • Sinn Fein – political arm of the IRA • Democratic Unionist Party – led by Protestant clergymen • National Front-racist and nationalist

  35. Voting Patterns • Conservative Party • Middle and upper classes • Educated • Residents of England, mostly rural and suburban areas • Draw consistent support from the working class because of the sense of deference common in British political culture. • Labour Party • Traditionally supported by working class • Residents of urban and industrial areas (Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle)

  36. Interest Groups • Between 1945-1980, business interests and trade union organizations fiercely competed for influence over the policy-making process • Trade Union Congress (TUC) – represents coalition of unions, had great deal of political power at one time and government often consulted them on important policy decisions – traditionally aligned with Labour Party • Confederation of Business and Industry (CBI) – a coalition of business groups and private interests, usually supportive of the Conservative Party

  37. Media • British newspapers reflect social class divisions • They are divided between quality news and comments that appeal to the middle and upper classes, and mass circulation tabloids that target working and lower classes • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) – government funded and guaranteed independence • Usually respectful of government officials

  38. Tabloid Journalism

  39. The Structure of the British State • The United Kingdom is a parliamentary system • The chief executive is chosen by the majority party in the House of Commons • Parliamentary systems do not have a separation of powers. “Parliamentary Sovereignty” • The United Kingdom is also a unitary state with a significant level of devolution

  40. Elections • Members of Parliament (MPs) are the only national officials that British voters elect • Elections must be held at least every 5 years, but Prime Minister may call them earlier • Officially elections occur after the Crown dissolves Parliament, but that always happens after the Prime Minister requests it • Power to call elections very important – the Prime Minister always calls elections when he or she thinks that the majority party has the best chance to win

  41. Elections • “Winner-take-all” system • Single-member district plurality system (650 seats in the House of Commons) • Each party selects a candidate to run for each district • “First-past-the-post” winner • MPs do not have to live in the district in which they are running, therefore party selects who runs in what districts – leaders are parachuted into “safe” districts. • Political neophytes are selected to run in districts the party know it will lose • They are usually happy just to receive more votes than the party usually gets in that district

  42. U.S. vs British Elections • United States • Parties are less powerful • Members must live in districts • Party leaders run in their respective districts • Individual votes for four officials on national level • Between 30 and 60 percent of the eligible voters actually vote • First-past-the-post, single-member districts; virtually no minor parties get representation • Great Britain • Party determines who runs where • Members do not have to live in their districts • Party leaders run in “safe districts” • Individual votes for only one official on the national level • About 70 to 80 percent of the eligible voters actually vote • First-past-the-post, single-member districts; some representation from minority parties, but still less than if they had proportional representation

  43. Prime Minister & Cabinet • Prime Minister • “First among equals” • Member of Parliament and Leader of majority party • Speaks legitimately for all Members of Parliament • Chooses cabinet ministers and important subordinate posts • Makes decisions in cabinet, with agreement of ministers • Campaigns for and represents the party in parliamentary elections • Shapes cabinet decisions into policy • Cabinet • The cabinet is the center of policy-making in the British political system • As leaders of majority party elected by the people, they take “collective responsibility” for making the policy of the country • The cabinet is the target of lobbying by interest groups

  44. Comparing Executives • Prime Minister of UK • Serves only as long as he/she remains leader of majority party • Elected as MP • Has an excellent chance of getting his/her programs past Parliament • Cabinet members are always MPs and leaders of the majority party • Cabinet members not experts in policy areas: rely on bureaucracy to provide expertise • President of the US • Elected every four years by an electoral college based on popular election • Elected as president • Has an excellent chance of ending up in gridlock with Congress • Cabinet members usually don’t come from Congress (although they may) • Some expertise in policy areas; one criteria for their appointment; head vast bureaucracies

  45. Parliament House of Commons Party that receives the majority of the plurality of the votes becomes the Majority Party in Parliament, the party with the second most votes becomes the “loyal opposition” Coalition government occurs when no party wins a majority

  46. House of Commons:Set-up • House of Commons set-up with long benches facing each other • Prime Minister sits on front bench of majority side, directly in the middle • Directly across from the PM sits the leader of the “opposition” party • Between members of the majority and opposition parties is a long table • Cabinet members sit on the front rows of the majority party side • “Shadow Cabinet” – influential members of the opposition party sit facing Cabinet members of majority party on the opposing side • Backbenchers – less influential members of both parties sit in the rear benches on both sides of the meeting hall as well

  47. House of Commons

  48. House of Commons:Debate • “Government” – consists of cabinet secretaries who sit in the first rows of the majority party side, including the PM, that are most influential in making policy • Question Time/Question Hour – the hour the prime minister and his cabinet must defend themselves from inquisitive attacks from the opposition party as well as direct inquiry from members of his/her own party • Speaker of the House – presides over the debates in Parliament, the speaker is suppose to be objective and often is not a member of the majority party. Their job is to let all speak without letting the debate get out of hand. • Because of a lack of checks & balances between branches in British politics the opposition party is seen as the “check” on the majority party within Parliament, this “check” power is best utilized during times of debate over policy

  49. Party Discipline • Party discipline very important in British politics • If party members do not support their party leadership, the “government” may fall into crisis • A failed vote of confidence dissolves the government and the prime minister calls for new elections.

  50. Vote of Confidence • Vote on a key issue within the party • If the issue is not supported, the cabinet by tradition must resign immediately, and new elections for MPs must be held as soon as possible • This is usually avoided by settling policy differences within majority party membership • If the party loses a vote of confidence, all MPs lose their jobs, so there is plenty of motivation to vote the party line

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