What is the basic structure of British Politics?

What is the basic structure of British Politics?

This is obviously an extremely broad (but answerable!) question, and I honestly don't know where to start and have no knowledge whatsoever about the topic. Basically I would like to know how the political system is structured and how the government operates at the highest levels.

My answer is confined to the current structure of the United Kingdom.

I recommend you watch this short five minute explanation of all the countries/territories that are governed by the United Kingdom, and the Crown.

Since you are referring to "British" politics I am assuming that you are talking about the United Kingdom which comprises four separate yet equal countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Technically, the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state in the United Kingdom (and in 16 of the Commonwealth nations), but in reality the monarch exercises very little power and instead the power rests in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. However, for local matters concerning Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland they have Devolved Parliaments or Assemblies that control what goes on in their respective countries. For example, issues related to health care and education may reside within the purview of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, or the Northern Ireland Assembly, not with the United Kingdom Parliament (although the latter could in theory overrule the others if it so desired).

The United Kingdom Parliament is composed of three parts: the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Sovereign.

The House of Commons consists of MPs (Members of Parliament) that are elected from across the whole of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is drawn from the House of Commons and is historically supposed to be able to lead the majority of MPs which is why it is often the leader of one of the two major political parties (see e.g. the Hollywood take on this phenomenon The Iron Lady). The Prime Minister also appoints and dismisses all members of the Cabinet which holds most of the power within the government.

The House of Lords consists of Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal. The Lords Spiritual consist of the most senior Church of England clergy: the two Archbishops (York and Canterbury), and about forty other Bishops. The Lords Temporal are mostly life peers (meaning they are a Lord for their lifetime), with a small number of hereditary peers (meaning their office is passed down by blood).

The Sovereign is the Crown in this case, Queen Elizabeth II, and only is relevant for symbolic political events, etc. Technically, the Sovereign has to agree to the passing of laws, but that consent is assumed unless the Queen explicitly states otherwise.

The House of Commmons, House of Lords, Prime Minister, and the Cabinet (with the Cabinet being "most powerful") make up the governing structure of "British" politics. These parts of the government work together to pass bills which follow the following process:

Basically, a Bill pass must through several stages in both Houses of Parliament to become a law. These stages take place in both Houses:

First reading (introduction of the Bill without debate)

Second reading (general debate)

Committee stage (detailed examination, debate and amendments - in the House of Commons this stage takes place in a Public Bill Committee)

Report stage (opportunity for further amendments)

Third reading (final chance for debate; amendments are possible in the Lords)

source: How laws are made in Parliament

So that is the basic gist of how the United Kingdom government is structured, and how they pass legislation. Most of the matters covered by the United Kingdom Parliament are related to taxation, defense, and other matters of significance that affect all of the United Kingdom countries.

@ihtknot's answer is pretty good ( What is the basic structure of British Politics? ), however I'd just add that although the UK Parliament is made up of House of Commons, House of Lords and Monarch, in reality the Lords and Monarch are subservient to the House of Commons. The Monarch must sign all laws that have been passed by Parliament (i.e. there's no veto like in the US system), and the House of Lords by convention does not block laws that are part of the winning parties political manifesto, and the Lords can only block a law twice in a row. (i.e. if the Commons passes a bill to the Lords three times in 3 consequentive years, then the on the third time the Lords cannot block it, but it must be passed. This is how controversional matters like a ban on fox hunting got through).

Since the UK has no written constitution, all of this has sorta evolved over ~ 400 years, and it's sorta not fallen over yet.

Another difference with the UK (and say US or (I think) German system) is the 'party whip'. Basically political parties have a lot of control over what their members can vote on. By default, when MPs go to vote, they must vote along party lines. This means voting is mostly a rubber stamp of what the central party / cabinet wants. If there is a controversial matter, then a free vote is allowed, where MPs can vote either way.

If you are interested in British politics, I'd caution you that 'The Iron Lady', while a good film, does not give a full picture of 1980s UK politics/history. The UK miners strike was barely mentioned and that had a massive impact on UK politics and industry, and the troubles in Northern Ireland is low key aswell. I'd recommend augmenting 'The Iron Lady' with 'Billie Elliot' (a young boy who wants to do ballet during the miners' strike) and something like 'Hunger' (for a raw look at northern ireland prisoners).

What Is the Structure of the British Government?

Great Britain, as part of the United Kingdom, is subject to a constitutional monarchy form of government in which a figurehead monarch, who was Queen Elizabeth II as of the summer of 2014, holds more symbolic than actual power and most of the actual governance is performed by a parliamentary system, which includes elected and appointed officials. The U.K. Parliament consists of two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the government as a whole is presided over by an executive branch that includes a prime minister, deputy prime minister, cabinet and other executive ministers. The office of prime minister is filled not by the electorate, but by appointment based on which political party controls the House of Commons.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom is a bicameral body that consists of the House of Lords, which is filled not by election but by appointment. There are several types of membership in the House of Lords, including appointments on the basis of ecclesiastical service in the Church of England, hereditary titling and political appointment by the queen on the recommendation of the prime minister. Members of the House of Commons gain their seats through popular vote, and it is through this indirect method that the citizenry has control over who becomes prime minister.

Parliament’s Humble Beginnings

The present-day Parliament is a bicameral (“two chambers”) legislature with a House of Lords and a House of Commons. These two houses, however, weren’t always joined, and had their earliest beginnings in the Anglo-Saxon council governments of the 8th century.

The Witan was a small council of clergymen, land-owning barons and other advisors chosen by the king to discuss matters of state, taxation and other political affairs. As it expanded to include more advisors, the Witan evolved into the magnum concilium or Great Council.

On a local level, “moots” were meetings of local bishops, lords, sheriffs and, importantly, commoners who were representatives of their counties or “shires.”

These institutions functioned—with varying degrees of success𠅊s law-making bodies and law enforcement agencies throughout England during the Middle Ages. The two bodies didn’t regularly convene, but they paved the way to the bicameral legislature that exists today.


That the Constitution has "basic features" was first theorised in 1964, by Justice J.R. Mudholkar in his dissent, in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan. He wrote,

It is also a matter for consideration whether making a change in a basic feature of the Constitution can be regarded merely as an amendment or would it be, in effect, rewriting a part of the Constitution and if the latter, would it be within the purview of Article 368 ?" [6]

Supreme Court, through the decisive judgement of Justice H. R. Khanna in Keshavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala (1973) case, declared that the basic structure/features of the constitution is resting on the basic foundation of the constitution. The basic foundation of the constitution is the dignity and the freedom of its citizens which is of supreme importance and can not be destroyed by any legislation of the parliament. [7] The basic features of the Constitution have not been explicitly defined by the Judiciary. At least, 20 features have been described as "basic" or "essential" by the Courts in numerous cases, and have been incorporated in the basic structure. Only Judiciary decides the basic features of the Constitution. In Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Naraian and also in the Minerva Mills case, it was observed that the claim of any particular feature of the Constitution to be a "basic" feature would be determined by the Court in each case that comes before it. Some of the features of the Constitution termed as "basic" are listed below:

  1. Supremacy of the Constitution
  2. The principle of Separation of Powers
  3. The objectives specified in the Preamble to the Constitution of India
  4. Articles 32 and 226
  5. Federalism (including financial liberty of states under Articles 282 and 293)
  6. The Sovereign, Democratic, Republican structure
  7. Freedom and dignity of the individual
  8. Unity and integrity of the Nation
  9. The principle of equality, not every feature of equality, but the quintessence of equal justice
  10. The "essence" of other Fundamental Rights in Part III
  11. The concept of social and economic justice — to build a Welfare State: Part IV in toto
  12. The balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles
  13. The Parliamentary system of government
  14. The principle of free and fair elections
  15. Limitations upon the amending power conferred by Article 368
  16. Independence of the Judiciary
  17. Effective access to justice
  18. Powers of the Supreme Court under Articles 32, 136, 141, 142
  19. Legislation seeking to nullify the awards made in exercise of the judicial power of the State by Arbitration Tribunals constituted under an Act [8]

The Supreme Court's initial position on constitutional amendments was that no part of the Constitution was unamendable and that the Parliament might, by passing a Constitution Amendment Act in compliance with the requirements of article 368, amend any provision of the Constitution, including the Fundamental Rights and article 368. In Shankari Prasad Singh Deo v. Union of India (AIR. 1951 SC 458), the Supreme Court unanimously held, "The terms of article 368 are perfectly general and empower Parliament to amend the Constitution without any exception whatever. In the context of article 13, “law” must be taken to mean rules or regulations made in exercise of ordinary legislative power and not amendments to the Constitution made in exercise of constituent power, with the result that article 13 (2) does not affect amendments made under article 368. In Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan (case citation: 1965 AIR 845, 1965 SCR (1) 933), by a majority of 3–2, the Supreme Court held, "When article 368 confers on Parliament the right to amend the Constitution, the power in question can be exercised over all the provisions of the Constitution. It would be unreasonable to hold that the word "Law" in article 13 (2) takes in Constitution Amendment Acts passed under article 368." [8] In both cases, the power to amend the rights had been upheld on the basis of Article 368.

Golaknath case Edit

In 1967, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier decisions in Golaknath v. State of Punjab. [8] A bench of eleven judges (the largest ever at the time) of the Supreme Court deliberated as to whether any part of the Fundamental Rights provisions of the constitution could be revoked or limited by amendment of the constitution. The Supreme Court delivered its ruling, by a majority of 6-5 on 27 February 1967. The Court held that an amendment of the Constitution is a legislative process, and that an amendment under article 368 is "law" within the meaning of article 13 of the Constitution and therefore, if an amendment "takes away or abridges" a Fundamental Right conferred by Part III, it is void. Article 13(2) reads, "The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the right conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of contravention, be void." The Court also ruled that Fundamental Rights included in Part III of the Constitution are given a "transcendental position" under the Constitution and are kept beyond the reach of Parliament. The Court also held that the scheme of the Constitution and the nature of the freedoms it granted incapacitated Parliament from modifying, restricting or impairing Fundamental Freedoms in Part III. Parliament passed the 24th Amendment in 1971 to abrogate the Supreme Court ruling in the Golaknath case. It amended the Constitution to provide expressly that Parliament has the power to amend any part of the Constitution including the provisions relating to Fundamental Rights. This was done by amending articles 13 and 368 to exclude amendments made under article 368, from article 13's prohibition of any law abridging or taking away any of the Fundamental Rights. [8] Chief Justice Koka Subba Rao writing for the majority held that:

  • A law to amend the constitution is a law for the purposes of Article 13.
  • Article 13 prevents the passing of laws which "take away or abridge" the Fundamental Rights provisions.
  • Article 368 does not contain a power to amend the constitution but only a procedure.
  • The power to amend comes from the normal legislative power of Parliament.
  • Therefore, amendments which "take away or abridge" the Fundamental Rights provisions cannot be passed.

Six years later in 1973, the largest ever Constitution Bench of 13 Judges, heard arguments in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (case citation: AIR 1973 SC 1461). The Supreme Court reviewed the decision in Golaknath v. State of Punjab, and considered the validity of the 24th, 25th, 26th and 29th Amendments. The Court held, by a margin of 7–6, that although no part of the constitution, including fundamental rights, was beyond the amending power of Parliament (thus overruling the 1967 case), the "basic structure of the Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment". [9] The decision of the Judges is complex, consisting of multiple opinions taking up one complete volume in the law reporter "Supreme Court Cases". The findings included the following:

  • All of the Judges held that the 24th, 25th and 29th Amendments Acts are valid.
  • Ten judges held that Golak Nath's case was wrongly decided and that an amendment to the Constitution was not a "law" for the purposes of Article 13.
  • Seven judges held that the power of amendment is plenary and can be used to amend all the articles of the constitution (including the Fundamental Rights).
  • Seven judges held (six judges dissenting on this point) that "the power to amend does not include the power to alter the basic structure of the Constitution so as to change its identity".
  • Seven judges held (two judges dissenting, one leaving this point open) that "there are no inherent or implied limitations on the power of amendment under Article 368".

Nine judges (including two dissentients) signed a statement of summary for the judgment that reads:

  1. Golak Nath's case is over-ruled.
  2. Article 368 does not enable Parliament to alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution.
  3. The Constitution (Twenty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1971 is valid.
  4. Section 2(a) and 2(b) of the Constitution (Twenty-fifth Amendment) Act, 1971 is valid.
  5. The first part of section 3 of the Constitution (Twenty-fifth Amendment) Act, 1971 is valid. The second part namely "and no law containing a declaration that it is for giving effect to such policy shall be called in question in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such policy" is invalid.
  6. The Constitution (Twenty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1971 is valid. [8][10]

The ruling thus established the principle that the basic structure cannot be amended on the grounds that a power to amend is not a power to destroy.

Defining the basic structure Edit

The majority had differing opinions on what the "basic structure" of the Constitution comprised

Chief Justice Sarv Mittra Sikri, writing for the majority, indicated that the basic structure consists of the following:

  • The supremacy of the constitution.
  • A republican and democratic system.
  • The secular character of the Constitution.
  • Maintenance of the separation of powers.
  • The federal character of the Constitution.

Justices Shelat and Grover in their opinion added three features to the Chief Justice's list:

  • The mandate to build a welfare state contained in the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Maintenance of the unity and integrity of India.
  • The sovereignty of the country.

Justices Hegde and Mukherjea, in their opinion, provided a separate and shorter list:

  • The sovereignty of India.
  • The democratic character of the polity.
  • The unity of the country.
  • Essential features of individual freedoms.
  • The mandate to build a welfare state.

Justice Jaganmohan Reddy preferred to look at the preamble, stating that the basic features of the constitution were laid out by that part of the document, and thus could be represented by:

  • A sovereign democratic republic.
  • The provision of social, economic and political justice.
  • Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.
  • Equality of status and opportunity. [11]

The Court reaffirmed and applied the basic structure doctrine in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain, popularly known as Election case. The constitutionality of Article 329A, which had been inserted by the 39th Amendment in 1975 was challenged in this case. [8] Shortly after the imposition of the Emergency, a bench of thirteen judges was hastily assembled to hear the case. Presided over by Chief Justice Ajit Nath Ray, the court had to determine the degree to which amendments were restricted by the basic structure theory. Ray, who was among the dissenters in the Kesavananda Bharati case, had been promoted to Chief Justice of India on 26 April 1973, superseding three senior Judges, Shelat, Grover and Hegde (all in the majority in the same case), which was unprecedented in Indian legal history. On November 10 and 11, the team of civil libertarian barristers, led by Nanabhoy Palkhivala, argued against the Union government's application for reconsideration of the Kesavananda decision. Some of the judges accepted his argument on the very first day, the others on the next by the end of the second day, the Chief Justice was reduced to a minority of one. On the morning of 12 November, Chief Justice Ray tersely pronounced that the bench was dissolved, and the judges rose.

The 39th Amendment attempted, among other provisions, to legitimize the election of Indira Gandhi in 1971. Article 329A put the elections of the Prime Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker outside the purview of the judiciary and provided for determination of disputes concerning their elections by an authority to be set up by a Parliamentary law. The Supreme Court struck down clauses (4) and (5) of the article 329A, which made the existing election law inapplicable to the Prime Minister's and Speaker's election, and declared the pending proceedings in respect of such elections null and void. [8]

Constitutional lawyer A. G. Noorani notes [12] that the doctrine has "now spread far and wide beyond its frontiers.", but that the eventual attribution to Dietrich Conrad is absent, who propounded the arguments in a lecture to the law faculty in the Banaras Hindu University. The argument, Noorani narrates made way to M K Nambyar who read the excerpt out in Golaknath.

The note is that in Kesavananda Bharati the dissenting judge, Justic Khanna approved as "substantially correct" the following observations by Prof. Conrad:

Limitation of Amendment Procedures and the Constituent Power Indian Year Book of International Affairs, 1966-1967, Madras, pp. 375-430

The basic structure doctrine was further clarified in Minerva Mills v. Union of India. The 42nd Amendment had been enacted by the government of Indira Gandhi in response to the Kesavananda Bharati judgment in an effort to reduce the power of the judicial review of constitutional amendments by the Supreme Court. In the Minerva Mills case, Nanabhoy Palkhivala successfully moved the Supreme Court to declare sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment as unconstitutional. [13] The constitutionality of sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment were challenged in this case, when Charan Singh was caretaker Prime Minister. Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment, had amended Article 31C of the Constitution to accord precedence to the Directive Principles of State Policy articulated in Part IV of the Constitution over the Fundamental Rights of individuals articulated in Part III. Section 55 prevented any constitutional amendment from being "called in question in any Court on any ground". It also declared that there would be no limitation whatever on the constituent power of Parliament to amend by way of definition, variation or repeal the provisions of the Constitution. On 31 July 1980, when Indira Gandhi was back in power, the Supreme Court declared sections 4 & 55 of the 42nd amendment as unconstitutional. It further endorsed and evolved the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution. [13] [14] As had been previously held through the basic structure doctrine in the Kesavananda case, the Court ruled that Parliament could not by amending the constitution convert limited power into an unlimited power (as it had purported to do by the 42nd amendment).

In the judgement on section 55, Chief Justice Yeshwant Vishnu Chandrachud wrote,

Since the Constitution had conferred a limited amending power on the Parliament, the Parliament cannot under the exercise of that limited power enlarge that very power into an absolute power. Indeed, a limited amending power is one of the basic features of our Constitution and therefore, the limitations on that power can not be destroyed. In other words, Parliament can not, under Article 368, expand its amending power so as to acquire for itself the right to repeal or abrogate the Constitution or to destroy its basic and essential features. The donee of a limited power cannot by the exercise of that power convert the limited power into an unlimited one. [15]

The ruling was widely welcomed in India, and Gandhi did not challenge the verdict. [16] In the judgement on Section 4, Chandrachud wrote:

Three Articles of our Constitution, and only three, stand between the heaven of freedom into which Tagore wanted his country to awake and the abyss of unrestrained power. They are Articles 14, 19 and 21. Article 31C has removed two sides of that golden triangle which affords to the people of this country an assurance that the promise held forth by the preamble will be performed by ushering an egalitarian era through the discipline of fundamental rights, that is, without emasculation of the rights to liberty and equality which alone can help preserve the dignity of the individual. [15]

This latter view of Article 31C was questioned, but not overturned, in Sanjeev Coke Manufacturing Co v Bharat Cooking Coal Ltd. (case citation: AIR 1983 SC 239). The concept of basic structure has since been developed by the Supreme Court in subsequent cases, such as Waman Rao v. Union of India (AIR 1981 SC 271), Bhim Singhji v. Union of India (AIR 1981 SC 234), S.P. Gupta v. President of India (AIR 1982 SC 149) (known as Transfer of Judges case), S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India (AIR 1987 SC 386), P. Sambamurthy v. State of Andhra Pradesh (AIR 1987 SC 663), Kihota Hollohon v. Zachilhu and others (1992 1 SCC 309), L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India and others (AIR 1997 SC 1125), P. V. Narsimha Rao v. State (CBI/SPE) (AIR 1998 SC 2120), I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu and others (2007 2 SCC 1), and Raja Ram Pal v. The Hon’ble Speaker, Lok Sabha and others (JT 2007 (2) SC 1) (known as Cash for Query case). [8]

The Supreme Court's position on constitutional amendments laid out in its judgements is that Parliament can amend the Constitution but cannot destroy its "basic structure". [14] [17]

Aside from India, the basic structure doctrine has been adopted in a number of jurisdictions, and rejected in some others.

Bangladesh Edit

The basic structure doctrine was adopted by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 1989, by expressly relying on the reasoning in the Kesavananda case, in its ruling on Anwar Hossain Chowdhary v. Bangladesh (41 DLR 1989 App. Div. 165, 1989 BLD (Spl.) 1). [18]

Belize Edit

The basic structure doctrine was invoked by the Supreme Court of Judicature of Belize in Bowen v Attorney General BZ 2009 SC 2 in rejecting the Belize Constitution (Sixth Amendment) Bill 2008, which had sought to exclude certain deprivation of property rights from judicial review. The court recognised the fundamental rights granted by the constitution, respect for the rule of law and the right to the ownership of private property as basic features of the Belizean constitution, as well as the separation of powers, which Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh noted had been recognised by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Hinds v The Queen [1977] AC 195 (which was not a constitutional amendment case [19] : 41 ) as implicit in Westminster model constitutions in the Caribbean Commonwealth realm. [20]

The Supreme Court affirmed the doctrine in British Caribbean Bank Ltd v AG Belize Claim No. 597 of 2011 [19] and struck down parts of the Belize Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2011 and Belize Constitution (Eighth) Amendment Act 2011. The amendments had sought to preclude the court from deciding on whether deprivation of property by the government was for a public purpose, and to remove any limits on the National Assembly's power to alter the constitution. This was found to impinge on the separation of powers, which had earlier been identified as part of the basic structure of the Belizean constitution. [20] On appeal, the Court of Appeal reinstated the amendments and rejected the basic structure doctrine, ruling that it does not apply to Belize. [21]

Malaysia Edit

In Malaysia, the basic features doctrine was initially found to be inapplicable by the Federal Court in Phang Chin Hock v. Public Prosecutor. [22] The Court remarked that the Indian constitution was drafted by a constituent assembly representative of the Indian people in territorial, racial and community terms, [23] and not "ordinary mortals", while the same could not be said for the Malaysian constitution, [24] [25] which was enacted by an ordinary legislature.

The basic structure doctrine was first cited with approval by the Federal Court in obiter dicta in Sivarasa Rasiah v. Badan Peguam Malaysia, [26] before ultimately being applied by the same court in Semenyih Jaya Sdn Bhd v. Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat & Ano'r Case [27] and Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho v. Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak & 2 O'rs & 2 Other Cases. [28] In those cases, the Federal Court held that the vesting of the judicial power of the Federation in the civil courts formed part of the basic structure of the Constitution, and could not be removed even by constitutional amendment.

Pakistan Edit

The basic structure doctrine was recognised in Constitution Petition No.12 of 2010, etc. [29] by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2015. The case was heard by the full 17-member bench, of which a plurality of 8 accepted the basic structure doctrine as a basis for limiting the ability of the Parliament of Pakistan to amend the Constitution, 4 rejected the premise of such limitations, describing the basic structure doctrine as a "vehicle for judicial aggrandisement of power", and 5 accepted that some limitations exist but did not endorse the basic structure doctrine. [30] [31] [32] The judgement identified democracy, federalism and independence of the judiciary as among the characteristics protected by the doctrine. [32]

Before this decision, it was unclear whether the basic structure doctrine applied in Pakistan. [31] The doctrine was considered and rejected shortly after the Kesavananda decision, revived in 1997, and rejected again in 1998. [30] The 2015 decision addressed the issue directly and accepted the doctrine. [30] [31]

Singapore Edit

The High Court of Singapore denied the application of the basic features doctrine in Singapore in Teo Soh Lung v. Minister for Home Affairs. Justice Frederick Arthur Chua held that the doctrine was not applicable to the Singapore Constitution: "Considering the differences in the making of the Indian and our Constitution, it cannot be said that our Parliament's power to amend our Constitution is limited in the same way as the Indian Parliament's power to amend the Indian Constitution." [33]

Uganda Edit

In December 2017, the Ugandan parliament passed a Constitutional Amendment which removed age limit of 75 years for the President and Chairpersons of the Local Council. The President Yoweri Museveni, who has been President of Uganda since 1986, signed the amendment into law in January 2018, aged '74 years' (Evidence is available that the dictator is in his late 80's). Several opposition leaders and the Uganda Law Society, challenged the constitutionality of the amendment before the Constitutional Court, which (majority) upheld the validity of the amendment. Taking note of the judgments in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC and Minerva Mills v. Union of India, AIR 1980 SC 1789, the Supreme Court of Uganda in Mabirizi Kiwanuka & ors. v. Attorney General, [2019] UGSC 6, unanimously upheld the Constitutional Court (majority) finding.

British Social Hierarchy

The social structure of Britain has been highly influenced by the concept of classes. The class system is prevalent in the society of the United Kingdom in the 21 st century too. The different classes were formed depending on various factors such as education levels, income and the type of occupation.

As per the norms of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, there were basically two social classes. One was called as the House of Lords, comprising of the hereditary upper class and another one was the House of Commons, representing everyone else in the British social hierarchy.

In this particular journal, we will first discuss the social system of former Britain and then the social system that is prevalent today in modern Britain.

The hierarchy that was prevalent at the time of formation of Great Britain is as follows:

  • Royal
  • Peer or Nobles
  • Baronet
  • Knight
  • Gentry
  • Yeomen
  • Tradesmen
  • Cottagers

Royal: This class belonged to the royal family and was the highest rank. The members were king, queen, prince, princess and close relatives of the royal family.

Peer/Nobles: They belonged to the House of Lords and played a vital role in court. They owned a large number of assets.

Baronet: This rank was above the knights. These were also among the aristocratic people in the scoeity who enjoyed a large number of social privileges.

Knight: The job roles of the knights were different depending upon the varying time periods of the past. During the medieval times, the knights acted as common soldiers. In the seventeenth century, the knights acted in various military roles. They organized the military forces and judicial authorities.

Gentry: The members of this class were well educated and were associated with law, politics ad educational fields. These used to work in government and educational institutions.

Yeoman: This class included small farmers, who had a reasonable amount of land with them.

Tradesmen: These individuals had little land with them.

Cottagers: These were the lowest classes in the former British social hierarchy. They generally worked for others for a substantial amount of wage.

Now, coming into the 21 st century, here are the social classes that are prevalent today.

  • Upper class
  • Upper middle class
  • Middle middle class
  • Lower middle class
  • Working class

Upper class

The upper class consists of peerage, gentry and hereditary landowners.

Upper middle class

This particular class consists of people with higher education and income levels. In some cases, the individuals of the upper middle classes have their ancestors belonging to the upper classes. The individuals of the upper middle classes get their education at the prestigious private schools and public schools.

Middle middle class

The individuals of this class are associated with the jobs as social workers, IT workers, engineers, bankers, teachers, architects etc. They are actively engaged in the political and social works.

Lower middle class

The lower class is comprised of the white collar workers. They are employed in the less skilled services in comparison to the upper middle classes.

Working class

This is the lowest class of the British social hierarchy. They are not being able to take optimum education and are associated with unskilled professions.

Cultural Differences: American and British Governmental an Dpolitical Structures

Cultural Differences: American and British Governmental and Political Structures Mark H. Barbieri ANT 101: Cultural Anthropology Daniel Beteta Jr. February 16, 2009 Abstract The objective of this paper is to contrast the governmental structures of two very similar, but different, cultures, the American and British cultures. This paper contends that although the cultures have many similarities, their governmental structures are quite different. This paper concludes that there are major differences between a culture with a bicameral legislative branch of government and a bicameral parliamentary form of government.

Although both governments are very different in makeup, both cultures incorporate an effective means of governing and share some of the most basic forms of governmental structure. British and American Governments Government, what does it mean to you? Depending on your culture, the term government may hold many different meanings. In many modern societies and cultures, the term government refers to a governing body or official who has the power and authority to generate and enforce laws with a given organization, culture, or group.

This paper will highlight the differences between the governments of the American and British cultures and will compare some of the similarities between these two similar, but very different, cultures. The Monarchy A monarchy is a form of government in which the ruling authority is typically a king or queen. The monarch is also known as the Crown. In traditional monarchies, the monarch holds true and absolute power and control over a land or kingdom. The United Kingdom has what is called a constitutional monarchy.

A constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which the king or queen fulfills certain roles within the government and doesn’t have absolute and sole authority over the government. A constitutional monarchy has a democratic government which limits the monarch’s power and control. “The ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament, not with the monarch” (The Royal Household [TRH], 2008, para. 2). The monarch for England is Queen Elizabeth II. According to The Royal Household (2008), the Queen is Head of State in the United Kingdom.

As a constitutional monarch, Her Majesty does not ‘rule’ the country, but fulfils many important ceremonial and formal roles with respect to the British Government. She is also Fount of Justice and the Head of the Armed Forces. “A constitutional monarchy also provides stability, continuity and a national focus, as the Head of State remains the same even as governments change”(TRH, 2008, para. 3). The British Parliament Parliament, Britain’s legislature is made up of two houses: the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Similar to the legislative branch of government in the United States, the British Parliament is bicameral and maintains a series of checks and balances over the government. The parliament is the highest legislative authority in the United Kingdom. According to the British Parliament (2009), together, the House of Lords and the House of Commons has the responsibility for examining, debating, and approving new laws. The House of Lords The members of the House of Lords are not democratically elected, but are mostly appointed by the Crown.

According to the British Parliament (2009), there are a fixed number of members of the House of Lords that are elected internally. The House of Lords include a limited number of lords spiritual, the archbishops and bishops of England and the law lords, who assist in the judicial functions of the of the House of Lords. According to the British Parliament (2009): The House of Lords is the second Chamber of the United Kingdom’s Parliament. It plays an important part in revising legislation and keeping a check on government by scrutinizing its activities.

It complements the work of the House of Commons, whose members are elected to represent their constituents. Members of the Lords are not elected and are unpaid. They have a wide range of experience and provide a source of independent expertise. The House of Lords also has a judicial role as the final Court of Appeal. “The House of Lords is made up of 1,185 hereditary and life peers and peeresses, and the two archbishops and the 24 most senior bishops of the established Church of England” (British Information Services [BIS], 2004, para. 7). The House of Commons

The House of Commons is the true political power in England. “Unlike the Members of the House of Lords, the members of the House of Commons are publicly elected individuals. The House of Commons is the party with the largest number of members. According to the British Parliament (2008), The Commons has 651 elected Members of Parliament (MPs), who represent local constituencies. Of the total 659 constituencies, approximately 530 are housed in England. Of the approximately 659 members of the House of Commons, there is a division between members of the majority political party and the minority political party.

Members of the majority and majority political parties reside on separate sides of the house and are seated directly across and face one another. “Parliament is characterized by democracy, sovereignty, and supremacy over the monarch. Powers in the legislature have been fused together in the House of Lords and Commons. The House of Lords is basically powerless compared to the House of Commons” (The Outlaw, 2009, p. 1). The United States Government The United States Government is one of the most powerful governments in the world today. The American form of government is what is referred to as a constitution-based federal republic. Since the Second Continental Congress declared America’s independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, the United States government has sought to realize the fundamental principle on which our nation was founded: that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (The White House [TWH], n. d. , para. 1). The architects and founders of the American Constitution desired a strong centralized government that did not allow a single individual or entity to have sole authority or control, a lesson learned while under the rule of the British.

With this concept in mind, the architects drafted the Constitution so that it provided for a division of powers. The outcome of this division was the creation of three separate branches of government: the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, and the Executive Branch. Each branch of the United States Government has its own roles and responsibilities which differ from the roles and responsibilities of the other two branches. Although each branch has different roles and responsibilities, the three branches work together to ensure the country functions and operates smoothly.

Together, the three branches of government work to ensure that the rights of all American citizens, as called out in the Constitution, are not neglected, violated, or ignored. Similar to the manner in which the British Parliament: House of Commons and House of Lords, performs checks and balances on one another and the government, the three branches of American Government perform their own series of checks and balances. “A branch may use its powers to check the powers of the other two in order to maintain a balance of power among the three branches of government” (USGPO, 2001, para. ). The Legislative Branch The Legislative Branch was established by Article One of the Constitution of the United States of America. The Legislative Branch consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The two houses, together, form what is called the United States Congress. This form of legislature is what is referred to as a bicameral legislature and is similar to the bicameral legislature that comprises the British Parliament, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

The House of Representatives is made up of approximately 450 elected members and is divided among the 50 states in accordance to the population of the state that they represent. Additionally, there are non-voting members, representing the American districts, commonwealths, and territories. “The presiding officer of the chamber is the Speaker of the House, elected by the Representatives. He or she is third in the line of succession to the Presidency” (TWH, n. d. , para. 2). The Executive Branch

The Executive Branch of the United States Government is made up of the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, and the Presidential Cabinet members. The Executive Branch of the United States government holds the responsibility for executing and enforcing the laws created by the United States Congress. “The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces”(TWH, n. d. , para. 1). Although the President holds significant power, his power limited by the constitution.

The President is an elected official and serves a maximum of two, four-year terms, in office. The President, under Article Two of the United States Constitution, has the power to sign legislation into law and has the power to veto bills established by the Congress. The President appoints the heads of the federal agencies, including the Cabinet. “The Vice President is also part of the Executive Branch, ready to assume the Presidency should the need arise”(TWH, n. d. , para. 2). The Judicial Branch The Judicial Branch was established by Article Three of the United States Constitution.

Members of the Judicial Branch are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Judicial branch is the branch that decides the meaning of the laws created by Congress and consists of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States and holds complete authority over the federal courts, yet holds limited power over state courts. The Supreme Court consists of one chief justice and several associate justices. Where as the Executive and Legislative branches are elected by the citizens, the members of the Judicial Branch are appointed by the President of the United States.

One of the Supreme Court’s most important responsibilities is to preside over cases in which there are questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution. “Article III of the Constitution, which establishes the Judicial Branch, leaves Congress significant discretion to determine the shape and structure of the federal judiciary. Even the number of Supreme Court Justices is left to Congress — at times there have been as few as six, while the current number (nine, with one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices) has only been in place since 1869” (TWH, n. d. , para. 5).

Cultural Similarities and Differences in Government and Politics Of all the nations that share cultural similarities with the United States of America, it is the British culture that shares the closest cultural similarities. Not only do they share the same principle language, English, they share similar customs, traditions, and a common history. The similarity between the two cultures can best be observed in areas such as the democratic approach to government and politics that both cultures embrace. Both the United States Legislature and the British Parliament embrace bicameralism.

Bicameralism is the practice of having two separate legislative or parliamentary bodies. The legislative bodies within both cultures share similar responsibilities such as making laws, legislation, checking the work of the government, scrutiny, and debating current topics. “Other unique features about the British government is the remarkable similarity of the legislature to the American House of Representatives and Senate” (The Outlaw, 2009, p. 2). One main difference between the legislature of the United States and the houses of the British legislature is that both houses of the American legislature are comprised of elected officials.

American citizens elect members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In contrast, members of the House of Lords are typically appointed by the crown and are not appointed by the British citizens. Another difference between these two similar cultures can be observed by the differences in the forms of their constitutions. Both the British Government and the United States Government have constitutions. A major difference between the two constitutions is that the American constitution is a single document and the British government has multiple constitutions.

England’s constitution, unlike the United States, which is a single document, consists of multiple documents. The written part is comprised of the Magna Carta (1215 A. D. ) signed by King John, which took away the king’s absolute power and gave some of it to the nobles. The Petition of Rights, passed by parliament in 1628, and the Bill of Rights of 1689. All laws passed by parliament are regarded as constitutional. The Crown gives its royal assent to legislation, but this has no more legal bearing. (“England’s Government”, n. d. , para. 3) American and British Politics

In addition to the similarities that exist between the two structured forms of government and legislature, bicameral legislatures of the American government and British Parliaments, there are other similarities and differences that exist within the two political systems. The similarities between American and British politics can be observed in many forms of modern legislation. One area where political similarities exist can be observed is in the British and American approach to the minimum mandatory sentencing requirements for reoccurring criminal offenders, which both Britain and nearly all America states have adopted.

According to research of Jones (2006), there was a marked move away in the United Kingdom from the just deserts-influenced Criminal Justice Act of 1991 in early 2001. This move, introduced by the Michael Howard, Britain’s Home Secretary, contends that minimum sentencing, a variant of the American two and three strikes sentencing structure, was appropriate. “The two strikes bracket (automatic life sentence for a second offence) as appropriate, according to Howard, for serious violent and sexual offenders”(Jones, 2006, p. 785).

Britain now has similar minimum sentencing requirements for repeat offenders and models the American slogan ‘three strikes and you’re out. ’ Another area in which similarities exist between British and American politics is in the area of election campaign financing and reform. Both cultures seem to share similar concerns regarding this highly debated topic. “In recent years major new laws have been passed in both the United Kingdom and United States of America reforming the systems of party and election campaign funding” (Grant, 2005, p. 71). Election campaign funding in the 2001 UK general election ? 26. 7 million was spent across the country by only 36 political parties, with all but three million pounds of that accounted for by the Conservative and Labour parties”(Grant, 2005, p. 72). Grants research illuminates the contrast between campaign funding of the UK general elections and campaign funding associated with the American general election funding. According to Grant (2005), in 2001-02 a total of $936 million was spent by 2,097 congressional candidates in primary and general elections.

These extremely high levels of campaign spending are frequently criticized and considered excessive by members of the United States as well as the United Kingdom. Grants comparative analysis on party and election finance in Britain and America illuminates the shared concern for this highly debated topic. Conclusion and Summary The British Government is one of the most stable governments in Europe. Britain’s system of government is called a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The monarch, also referred to as the Crown, is the head of state in England.

The Crown serves as the head of the judiciary, commander in chief of the British Armed Forces, and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Scotland. (TUKP, 2009) Britain’s legislature is made up of two houses: the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The members of the House of Lords are appointed by the Crown. According to House of Lords (2008), the Lords acts as a revising chamber for legislation and its work complements the daily business of the House of Commons. In contrast, the members of the House of Commons are publicly elected.

The House of Commons is responsible for granting money to the government via the approval of bills that may raise taxes and spending. “Members of the House of Commons (MPs) debate the big political issues of the day and proposals for new laws” (TUKP, 2009, para. 2). The United States has no equivalent of the Crown. The head of state and commander in chief is the President, who is head of the executive branch of the United States Government. The United States Government is divided into three Branches of Government: the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, and the Executive Branch.

The Legislative Branch is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Together they form the United States Congress. The Judicial Branch of the United States Government consists of the Supreme Court and is responsible for the interpretation of the laws, how laws are applied, and whether they violate the Constitution. Lastly, the Executive Branch of the United States Government consists of the President of the United States, the Vice President, and the cabinet. Many similarities exist between the American and British cultures.

Two areas of where commonalities exist between the British and American cultures are governmental structures and politics. Both cultures employ bicameral forms of legislative bodies and both have at least one house or cabinet that’s members are publically elected. Two areas within politics that both cultures share common interest in is in the areas of campaign finance reform and criminal justice. Although these two cultures have very different forms of government, a constitutional monarchy and a constitutional based federal republic, both share many common elements and both are an effective means of governing.

The powers of the Prime Minister

The powers of the Prime Minister within the British political structure have developed in recent years to such an extent that some political analyst now refer to Britain as having a Prime Ministerial government rather than a Cabinet government.

The Prime Minister selects his own Cabinet and he will select those people who:

Have ability Have demonstrated good party loyalty Have clearly demonstrated loyalty to the Prime Minister himself

Those Cabinet members who do not ‘come up to scratch’ within their department will be removed from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister or ‘reshuffled’ to another position within the Cabinet – almost certainly at a lower level. Any senior Cabinet position brings with it certain rewards – chauffeured cars a central London government house or a country weekend retreat such as Dorneywood a much greater opportunity for overseas travel a much higher salary etc. Therefore, those MP’s who are selected for a Cabinet post will be expected to be suitably loyal to the Prime Minister who has put them in this position.

Some claim that by doing this, the Prime Minister surrounds himself with ‘yes’ people – those who simply accept the wishes of the Prime Minister and rarely get involved in robust discussions at Cabinet meetings. This was a major complaint of Mo Mowlam, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. She claims that Cabinet meetings she attended – the agenda of which is drawn up by the Prime Minister – were no more than sessions where Blair’s policy beliefs were supported.

The Prime Minister himself does not have any departmental responsibilities. Therefore, in theory, he does have more time to spend in maintaining control he has over his party.

By controlling influential committees, the Prime Minister can also ensure that he drives the policies of these committees.

The Prime Minister also has control over the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office is headed by the Cabinet Secretary who is also head of the Civil Service. He has to work very closely with the Prime Minister. As senior positions within the Civil Service are appointed by the Prime Minister, it is likely that those who aspire to be senior civil servants will do little to tarnish their reputation with regards to their relationship to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister also has his own Prime Minister’s Office based at 10, Downing Street. This is made up of civil servants, political advisors, party political supporters from business, trade unions etc and ‘spin doctors’. How much this has influence over a Prime Minister is difficult to assess but some have said that the current Head of Communications at 10, Downing Street, Alastair Campbell, has too much of a ready access to the Prime Minister, and more influence than the Cabinet.

Harold Wilson (Labour Prime Minister 1964-66 1966-1970 1974-76) was famed for his so-called ‘Kitchen Cabinets’ whereby a few favourites met to discuss policy issues and by-passed and input by the Cabinet ironically selected by Wilson. Margaret Thatcher was also in favour of using small groups of advisors and Cabinet members and thus by-passed what were perceived to be the ‘proper’ ways of doing things. It is said that her decision to ban trade unions at GCHQ in Cheltenham in 1984, was the result of a meeting between such a small group but a meeting that by-passed the convention of Cabinet collective decision making.

Blair has been accused of doing this – using a small group of people to discuss policy matters – but also of having a compliant Cabinet. Therefore, when it comes to the Cabinet to discuss already discussed policy issues, some political analysts argue, that the policy will be passed but the process of Cabinet discussion will have taken place.

The Prime Minister can also be influenced by pressure groups that he has sympathy with. This can also help in policy issues and can also lead to the role of the Cabinet being by-passed. Margaret Thatcher was sympathetic to the Adam Smith Institute while Tony Blair is said to be influenced by Demos.

The issue of whether small groups help to formulate government policy is important. If it is true that this happens (and no Prime Minister would admit to this) then it must question the whole democratic approach to decision making. Pressure groups, support groups, individuals etc. are not elected to government by the people whereas the Cabinet, as working MP’s, have gone through the electoral process.

Some examples of recent events whereby important decisions were made by a small group of people include:

The devaluation of the pound in 1967 by Harold Wilson The Falklands conflict of 1982 when the Cabinet was suspended by Margaret Thatcher and replaced by a ‘War Cabinet’ The Gulf War of 1991 when John Major worked with a ‘War Cabinet’ The decision to allow tobacco advertising at Formula One events by Tony Blair

Tony Blair has been accused of putting ‘yes’ people in positions of responsibility. Some of the media have accused him of “control freakery” and having a desire to create a “culture of cronyism”.

Structure of the Commonwealth

Under the formula of the London Declaration, Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth, a title that is by law a part of Elizabeth’s royal titles in each of the Commonwealth realms, the 16 members of the Commonwealth that recognise the Queen as their monarch. When the monarch dies, the successor to the crown does not automatically become Head of the Commonwealth. However, at their meeting in April 2018, Commonwealth leaders agreed that Prince Charles should succeed his mother as head. The position is symbolic, representing the free association of independent members, the majority of which (31) are republics, and five have monarchs of different royal houses (Brunei, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malaysia, and Tonga).

Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

The main decision-making forum of the organisation is the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), where Commonwealth heads of government, including (amongst others) prime ministers and presidents, assemble for several days to discuss matters of mutual interest. CHOGM is the successor to the Meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and, earlier, the Imperial Conferences and Colonial Conferences, dating back to 1887. There are also regular meetings of finance ministers, law ministers, health ministers, etc. Members in arrears, as special members before them, are not invited to send representatives to either ministerial meetings or CHOGMs.

The head of government hosting the CHOGM is called the Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office and retains the position until the following CHOGM. After the most recent CHOGM, in London, UK, from 18 to 20 April 2018 the UK’s prime minister, Theresa May, became the Chairperson-in-Office and will continue to hold the title until the next CHOGM, scheduled to take place in Rwanda in 2020.

Commonwealth Secretariat

The Commonwealth Secretariat, established in 1965, is the main intergovernmental agency of the Commonwealth, facilitating consultation and co-operation among member governments and countries. It is responsible to member governments collectively. The Commonwealth of Nations is represented in the United Nations General Assembly by the secretariat as an observer. The secretariat organises Commonwealth summits, meetings of ministers, consultative meetings and technical discussions it assists policy development and provides policy advice, and facilitates multilateral communication among the member governments. It also provides technical assistance to help governments in the social and economic development of their countries and in support of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values.

The secretariat is headed by the Commonwealth Secretary-General who is elected by Commonwealth heads of government for no more than two four-year terms. The secretary-general and two deputy secretaries-general direct the divisions of the Secretariat. The present secretary-general is Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, from Dominica, who took office on 1 April 2016, succeeding Kamalesh Sharma of India (2008–2016). The first secretary-general was Arnold Smith of Canada(1965–75), followed by Sir Shridath Ramphal of Guyana (1975–90), Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria (1990–99), and Don McKinnon of New Zealand (2000–2008).

Marlborough House, London, the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth’s principal intergovernmental institution

Commonwealth citizenship and high commissioners

In recognition of their shared heritage and culture, Commonwealth countries are not considered to be “foreign” to each other, although the technical extent of this concept varies in different countries. For example, in Australia, for the purpose of considering certain constitutional and legal provisions no distinction is made between Commonwealth and foreign countries: in the High Court case of Sue v Hill, other Commonwealth countries were held to be foreign powers similarly, in Nolan v Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the nationals of other Commonwealth realms were held to be ‘aliens’. Nevertheless, the closer association amongst Commonwealth countries is reflected at least in the diplomatic protocols of the Commonwealth countries. For example, when engaging bilaterally with one another, Commonwealth governments exchange high commissioners instead of ambassadors. Between two Commonwealth realms, they represent the head of government rather than the head of state.

In addition, some members treat resident citizens of other Commonwealth countries preferentially to citizens of non-Commonwealth countries. Britain and several others, mostly in the Caribbean, grant the right to vote to Commonwealth citizens who reside in those countries. In non-Commonwealth countries in which their own country is not represented, Commonwealth citizens may seek consular assistance at the British embassy. Other alternatives can also occur such as an emergency consular services agreement between Canada and Australia that began in 1986.

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