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AP Comparative Government Great Britain. Britian’s Government Legitimacy. The government of Great Britain has developed gradually, so that tradition is a primary source of stability

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Britian s government legitimacy
Britian’s Government Legitimacy

  • The government of Great Britain has developed gradually, so that tradition is a primary source of stability

  • Great Britain’s constitution is unwritten having evolved from different documents, common law, legal codes, and customs often referred to collectively as the “Constitution of the Crown” (Constitutional Monarchy)

  • Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights are central documents in the formation of the British “constitution”

Historical evolution of british government
Historical Evolution of British Government

  • 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

Historical evolution of british government1
Historical Evolution of British Government

  • Parliament – term first used in 1236. The gathering of feudal barons summoned by the king whenever he required their consent to special taxes

  • By the 15th century, Parliament had gained the right to make laws.

Historical evolution of british government part 2
Historical Evolution of British Government Part 2

  • English Civil War (1640s) – civil war between the supporters of the king and Parliament

  • Oliver Cromwell leads during this time until Parliament reinstates the monarch.

  • 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

Oliver Cromwell

Presentation of the English Bill of Rights

Historical evolution of british government part 2 continued
Historical Evolution of British Government Part 2 - continued

  • The Glorious Revolution also ensured the dominance of the Protestant Church of England (or Anglican Church)

    • The Church of England is the official religion of Great Britain today

    • Two dozen of its clergy sit as members of the upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords.

William & Mary

Historical evolution of british government part 3
Historical Evolution of British Government continuedPart 3

  • Industrial Revolution

    • Great Britain evolves from feudal society to one dominated by colonial mercantilism

    • Imperialism

    • Trade

Political culture
Political Culture continued


  • Island

  • Small in size

  • No major geographical barriers (no major mountain ranges to divide country, etc.)

  • Temperate climate

  • Short supply of fertile soil

Political beliefs values
Political Beliefs & Values continued

  • Through 1960s British political culture characterized by:

    • Trust

    • Deference to authority and competence

    • Pragmatism

    • Harmony

    • High voter participation

Political beliefs values continued politics of protest
Political Beliefs & Values continued: “Politics of Protest”

  • 1970s and beyond: Altered views

    • Less supportive of collective consensus

    • Support for free market economy

    • Decreasing support for labor unions

    • Increased violence in Northern Ireland

Political culture part ii
Political Culture Part II Protest”


  • Feeling of separation, in particular from the continent of Europe

  • Sense of exceptionalism

  • Has created friction with the EU

  • Different from isolationism

Political culture part iii
Political Culture Part III Protest”

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

Political culture part iv multi nationalism
Political Culture Part IV: Protest”Multi-nationalism

  • Although Britain has a relatively large amount of cultural homogeneity (Anglo/white) it is divided into four nations

    • England

    • Scotland

    • Wales

    • Northern Ireland

Political culture part v extension of voting rights
Political Culture Part V: Protest”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.

Collective consensus
Collective Consensus Protest”

  • 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.

  • 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

England Protest”

  • 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

Scotland Protest”

  • History of resistance to English rule

  • Strong sense of national identity

  • Have their own flag

  • Recently granted their own parliament and regional assembly (devolution)

  • Scottish National Party – political party of the region of Scotland

Wales Protest”

  • Became subject to the King of England in 16th century

  • Located west of England

  • Plaid Cymru – Welch national political party

  • Strong sense of national pride reflected in their flag and in their own language

  • Granted their own assembly (devolution)

Northern ireland
Northern Ireland Protest”

  • Long history of conflict between England and Ireland, particularly over religion

  • After the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell attempted to impose Protestantism on the mostly Catholic Ireland

  • After WWI home rule was granted to Ireland except for the northeast corner where Protestants outnumbered Catholics, 60% to 40%

  • Home rule was granted largely because of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which used guerrilla tactics against British forces to secure independence

  • Sinn Fein – political party of the IRA

  • In 1949 the bulk of Ireland officially became independent

  • Northern Ireland remains under British control

  • Their continues to be a great deal of conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland

Education political elite recruitment
Education & Political Elite Recruitment Protest”

  • “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

Ethnic minorities
Ethnic Minorities Protest”

  • Make up about 8% of the British population

    • Indian (23%)

    • Pakistani (16%)

    • Afro-Caribbean (13%)

    • Black African (11%)

Linkage institutions
Linkage Institutions Protest”

  • Political Parties

  • Interest Groups

  • Media

    • Print

    • Electronic

Labour party
Labour Party Protest”

  • 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 union have provided majority of funds for the party

  • Early history of the party defined by controversial “Clause 4” that 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 party reflected by removal of clause in early 1990s

Labour party in 1990s
Labour Party in 1990s Protest”

  • Shift in policies toward more centrist views

  • Shift in political platform originated with Neil Kinnock, party leader in the 1980s

  • Moderate-centrist views have continued under leadership of John Smith (1993-94) and Tony Blair (1997-present)

  • Tony Blair’s adopts “Third Way” platform and creates “New Labour” Party

Third way
“Third Way” Protest”

  • 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

    • British relationship with EU

    • Balancing act between the United States and European Union

    • Devolution

Conservative party
Conservative Party Protest”

  • 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) gravitated towards center and away from Thatcherism

Conservative party ii
Conservative Party II Protest”

  • 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

Thatcherism Protest”

  • Rightist reforms instituted by Margaret Thatcher in 1980s

    • Privatized business and industry

    • Cut back on social welfare programs

    • Strengthened national defense (staunch anticommunist)

    • Got tough with labor unions in response to Labour Parties distinct movement left, which had strengthened labor unions politically

    • Returned to market force controls on the economy

    • Resisted complete integration into the European Union

    • Replaced property tax on houses with a poll tax on individual adults

    • Froze income tax increases

    • Foreign policy dominated by securing British interests internationally

Liberal democratic party
Liberal-Democratic Party Protest”

  • Alliance between the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties during the 1980s

  • Formally merged in 1989 into 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 62 MP seats in 2005 even though they won 22% of the popular vote

  • Also managed to gain support in reference to their stance on issues such as health, education, the environment, and the Iraq War

Other parties
Other Parties Protest”

  • Scottish National Party

  • Plaid Cymru – Welch nationalist party

  • Sinn Fein – political arm of the IRA

  • Democratic Unionist Party – led by Protestant clergymen