Government of England Essay

Explain the influences of geography and history on British politics.

British political system, as compared to the other world systems, is unique: the British lacks a written constitution. British political system is distinguished by an enduring political consensus, that is, a spontaneous agreement on what is authoritative in government: how the rulers are to be selected, laws made and other related things –a fact that may itself explain why the British have not found it necessary to codify their constitutional views in a formal constitution. Again, only Britain has a government that can trace its pedigree through centuries of gradual development.In case with Britain the influence of geography on government is obvious as no great learning is required in order to apprehend the importance of the fact that Great Britain is an island. A traditional connection with the sea has for long centuries influenced, and continues to influence, the British way of looking at things. The isolation of an insular position has been largely responsible for a feeling of relative security.

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Though, in its early history, it was often overrun, it has not in any real sense been invaded since the Norman Conquest. Perhaps the simplest way of viewing the connection between geography and government is in terms of securing good life by the state. Serious effort to make life good must assume a certain relative stability, a certain minimum of security. The insular position of England has been responsible for the fact that England has developed the governmental institutions and principles which seem best adapted to furthering the good life.From the historical standpoint up until the time of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, it was Britain’s revolutionary history that defined its political tradition; the British had a reputation as a politically volatile people inclined to rebellion. In the 17th century Britain was a pretty bloody place.

Nor has the modern period been without its instances of turbulence like Irish Question or support of American policy in Iraqi War. Or another example, when the countries of Europe emerged from the Second World War with the belief that the nation state system had failed, requiring new political institutions to be built, Britain believed instead that it had triumphed. But Britain avoided other major clashes to ensure several centuries of orderly political evolution and continuity. In the modern period (since the French Revolution), although Britain has also felt the force of the battles over nationhood, rights, freedom, democracy, and class that have shaped the modern history of Europe, it avoided an experience of decisive rupture. Without experiencing the consequence of revolutionary moment, Britain was not compelled to remake its political institutions, draw up a new constitution, or decide what kind of state it wanted to be. It just went on being what it was. This might be seen as a peculiar luck but it is a fundamental fact about British politics.Discuss the differences between the Conservative and Labor parties in ideology, party organization and membership.

Great Britain is ruled by party government. The British parliamentary system might be described as the one whose functioning is most dependent upon the party system. The conduct of elections, the formation and survival of Cabinets, and the activities and the very existence of Parliament, have always been almost completely under the control of the political parties.In this connection, the influence of history has again been important. The evolution of political parties has been a slow and steady process in which the Reform Act of 1832 forms an important milestone. Ever since the seventeenth century there have never, except for a few brief intervals, been more than two major parties in Great Britain.

Until 1906 either the Liberals or the Conservatives, the successors of the Whigs and the Tories, were always in power. The Labor Party began to gain its strength after 1906, until it has now replaced the Liberal Party, which has been on the decline since 1924, and become the second major political party. In the perspective of present conditions, specific differences between the Conservative and the Labor Parties are not easy to state with confidence.

The Labor Party is the main British left-wing political party. Historically it is liked with trade unions, and its primary aim is to work out and support economic prosperity and ensure social security. Currently it is the party of government. The party itself describes its ideology as democratic socialist. However, following 1994, under Blair’s leadership, policy of Labor Party acquired certain neo-liberal traces as attempt to repeat Thatcher’s success.

The structure of the Labor Party strongly depends on its policy. Thus it consists of such members as Constituency Labor Parties, affiliated trade unions, socialist societies, and the Co-operative Party. The National Executive Committee, Labor Party Conference, and National Policy Forum are administrative bodies of the Party though the final decisions are made or approved by the Parliamentary leadership. Till 2003 the Laborites did not accept residents of Northern Ireland as a members of the party and only after Labor Party Conference in 2003 it was admitted that the party could not outlaw joining the Party by the residents of the province.While the Labor Party dominates British political life, the Conservative Party is its principal opponent. The Conservative Party experienced more successful history of election victories than its opponent party. Nowadays its leader David Cameron heads the Opposition as well as Shadow Cabinet.

Unlike democratic socialist Laborites, Conservatives describe themselves as center right and are the proponent of market economy. They favor the private property and enterprise and stand up for maintaining powerful military forces. Despite their name the Conservatives often adjust to social and political changes. The Party consists of two blocks, “One Nation” bloc and an economic-liberal bloc. The leader of the Party is elected by all party members and is the source of the party policy. Just as well, the members of the party can remove their leader. The administrative body consists of three elements: the voluntary wing (local parties in the constituencies are parts of it), the professional wing or the Central Office, and the parliamentary party. In the choice of members the Conservatives focus mostly on middle class, like businessmen and other professionals.

However, due to a considerable decline of the supporters the Party also puts much effort in gaining working-class votes.Evaluate the proposition that the Cabinet system has been transformed into a Prime-Ministerial system. State the reasons for it being a Cabinet or Prime-Ministerial system.Cabinet government is a popular model, found in around a quarter of the world’s states. Usually it is an integral element of a parliamentary executive – that is, an executive responsible to a parliament, whose ministers are members of that parliament, and where the post of chief minister is separate from that of head of state. British constitution is unwritten and its Cabinet system exists and operates not by statute but by constitutional convention. This concept of convention as constitutional law is a dynamic one and accepts change to reflect social reality. This flexible concept of constitutional convention allows the Prime Minister great latitude in deciding the structure of the Cabinet system.

The functions of the British Cabinet system are spelled out in the Ministerial Code of Conduct. It is essentially a practical document, a collection of dos and don’ts, and most of it is concerned with ministers’ private and constituency interests, appointments by ministers, and arrangements for the presentation of government policy. One of the principal strengths of the British Constitution is its effectiveness, in the sense of producing strong government which in normal circumstances can achieve implementation of its decisions with little delay. The explanation for this achievement lies largely in the institutional structures of the system and the way in which the relationships between them have developed over time. It is also worth noting that British Cabinet system has developed naturally unlike those adopted by other countries.The creation of a prime ministerial system might bring positive result if a more proportional electoral system ushers in a coalition government. In single-party government the prime minister’s interests are supposed to reflect those of the whole cabinet; but where two or more parties are ruling the Prime Minister might feel under pressure to develop more distinctive policies to sustain political support and to compensate for diminished influence over cabinet committees.

It can be said about the Blair government that it is engaged in the most concerted attempt in peacetime to give central control, direction and co-ordination to British government. Whether this will leave a lasting impact on the central executive, and on the relationship between its various parts, remains to be seen. Again, this raises questions about the constitutional rights of the simple majority in parliament; whether the issue is about governing the country, or about monopolizing the constitution-making process. The prime-ministerial system of government provides, to certain extent, a stable system, but at the same time it produces a fusion of the government and parliament, and the result is that there will be no independent source of information and expertise for the parliament in the scrutiny of legislation. With Tony Blair one may witness the concentration of power within the scope of one person’s authority that also has affected democratic traditions in the Labor Party. It is often the case that concentration of power generates conceit and leads to errors. War in Iraq serves as illustration of that.To preserve the opportunity to control the activity of the Executives and maintain a balanced representation of British constituency in Parliament as well as to avoid the concentration of power over the freedom of speech in one hands, and to avoid the increase of Britain’s dependence in terms of exercising its foreign policy on Washington and in term of economic development and home business on Brussels, the Cabinet system is to be the choice.

Examine the ways and means through which the House of Commons scrutinizes the Executive. Point out the methods available to the Commons and examine their effectiveness in scrutinizing the executive by the House of CommonsIn the course of its history, Parliament has developed certain specific controls for influencing the action of Government and holding it responsible. The formal means through which the House of Commons scrutinizes the Executive consist of parliamentary speeches and statements, publications, answers to questions during Question-time, and evidence given to select committees.Through the several opportunities for debate which are offered in a parliamentary session Ministers can convey certain information, reply to the Opposition, reassure their own side, etc. Ministers have to explain and justify what they are doing. If Opposition MPs are dissatisfied with a ministerial speech, there is not much that they can do about it. After the statement has been delivered the Speaker calls the relevant Shadow Minister to comment and to ask questions for about the same length of time taken by the Minister. After the Minister has responded to his shadow, short questions from other MPs are permitted, and the Minister answers them.

The Speaker tries to call as many MPs as possible, giving preference to those MPs who have constituency interests or specialist knowledge. A Minister may not go much beyond the terms of his original statement during these exchanges. That is his prerogative: if he fails to satisfy the demands of Opposition MPs for more information they can really do little to force him to reveal it. That is why this method can not be considered as effective way to control Ministers’ work.Formal statements of Government policy, expressed at some length and in writing, allow Ministers to express themselves in a permanent form to Parliament and through it to the general public. The traditional form of such publications is to be found in White Papers and Green Papers.

Such papers vary in importance, from those embodying matters of supreme national interest, to those consisting of largely technical matters. White Paper is done within the relevant department, with the responsible Minister taking a special interest in it. Important Papers are debated quickly in Parliament; others may never be debated there.

Ministers have the initiative when deciding whether to publish a White Paper–with one general exception. Those White Papers which are published as the Government’s response to the reports of the select committees which oversee government departments are conventionally required to be published as a detailed reply as soon as possible. Again by convention the Government publishes a White Paper twice a year on developments in the European Union. The same administrative rules, and the same general considerations, as apply to White Papers also apply to Green Papers and to other documents which are issued for comment and which do not finally commit the Government to a particular course.One of the easiest and most popular methods of scrutinizing the Executives is found in Question Time, and a question may in some cases lead to further discussions and debates. Every day five or six Ministers are interrogated, in rotation, and about 130 questions are set down, of which about half are answered. Much of the information disclosed at Question Time could be produced in a letter, but the question period also provides an opportunity for Members to observe the behavior of the Minister when he is under some pressure.

Considerable preparation goes into the first hour of a daily session of the House of Commons, when questions are answered. The importance of Question Time as a means of exercising a significant check on Ministers has been exaggerated. While former Ministers have recorded the effort which goes into the preparations for answering oral questions in the House of Commons, and have described the personal worry beforehand, the procedural rules governing Question Time give Ministers advantages over back-benchers which mean that it is a very poor mechanism for eliciting information from Ministers who may be reluctant to supply it. But Question Time is more of an entertaining diversion than a method of parliamentary control over the Government or a systematic means of obtaining enlightenment from members of the Government.However, Ministers have to be on their mettle when dealing with the select committees of the House of Commons. These committees are far better placed to obtain information from the Government than is the House of Commons as a whole. The committees provide a means through which witnesses (including Ministers) can be cross-examined at length and more thoroughly than in any other way open to Parliament.

Their members have developed significant expertise and have acquired considerable knowledge, and they strive to publish, and usually do publish, unanimous reports which cut across party lines. No Minister of the Crown is outside the scrutiny of the seventeen departmental select committees. Ministers have no authority over the subjects, which the committees choose to inquire into: they can only wait and see what the committees decide to investigate.

As well as the departmental select committees, Ministers have to co-operate with twelve other select committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, the Deregulation Committee, the joint Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, and the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, all of which are concerned with the scrutiny of ministerial action. Obviously, this method for scrutinizing the executives is the most effective.Reference:Theen, Rolf H. W., Wilson, Frank L. Comparative Politics: an Introduction to Seven Countries.  Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall, 2000;


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