House Of Commons
Evolving in the 13th and 14th centuries, the House of Commons of Great Britain and Northern Ireland finally emerged as an entity that represented all four current home countries in 1922.
650 Members of Parliament (MP’s) are elected to represent constituencies across the country on a first-past-the-post basis, remaining in situ in the Commons until parliament is dissolved.
The prime minister will represent the political party who has accrued the most seats or is able to outnumber the rest by forming a coalition with another political group. It is then the objective of the prime minister to retain their party’s majority and the confidence of the rest of the House of Commons, to be able to perform the work of passing laws and governing the country,
The party who accrues the second largest number of seats in a general election is then given the title of The Opposition and will counter the governments opinion and actions in the chamber.
The House of Commons is situated in the Palace of Westminster, distinguished from the Lords by its green-upholstered seats. It is an interesting anecdote that the government and opposition parties sit two swords length away from each other - an acknowledgement of the polarity of opinion and potential conflict between the two sides.
To maintain order, and the smooth running of the House of Commons, is the job of the Speaker.
A candidate from the 650 elected MPs must be nominated to be Speaker by at least twelve MPs, of whom at least three must belong to a different political party than the nominee.
A secret ballot then ensues and the successful candidate must win a minimum of 50 percent of the vote to secure the position.
Seated at the head of the chamber, robed but no longer having to wear a judge’s wig, the speaker acts as the umpire or referee of the whole governmental procedure and must renounce all affiliation with his political party and act in a totally non-partisan fashion.
The current Speaker John Bercow, Tory MP for Buckingham, has been in the post since 2009.
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is composed of 21 senior elected politicians (with an occasional member taken from the House of Lords,) plus the Prime Minister from the governing party, who together form the ultimate decision-making body of Her Majesty’s government in Westminster.
Each minister is responsible for a particular government department with the title of Secretary of State prefixing the area to which they are assigned.
Members of the cabinet are chosen by the Prime Minister and may be hired and fired at will, by the monarch, on their advice - hence the term cabinet reshuffle, when the Prime Minister decides to change the composition of the politicians within the Cabinet.
The Cabinet is comprised of the following posts:
First Secretary of State
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Secretary of State for Defence
Secretary of State for Health
Secretary of State for Education
Secretary of State for International Trade
Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Secretary of State for Transport
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Leader of the House of Lords
Secretary of State for Scotland
Secretary of State for Wales
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Secretary of State for International Development
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture and Media Affairs
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Chairman of the Conservative Party
The following individuals also attend Cabinet meetings:
Leader of the House of Commons
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Chief Whip in the House of Commons
Minister of State for Immigration
Minister of State for Employment
The current parliament was elected on Thursday 8 June 2017. Although the incumbent prime minister did not have to go to the country until 7 May 2020, as deemed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, it was the decision of Conservative Party leader Theresa May to gain an endorsement by the public, in what is termed a snap-election.
With the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron on July 13 2016 following the Brexit referendum result, a leadership campaign was fought in the Conservative Party with Home Secretary May emerging as the winner.
With a working majority of 17 seats after the 2015 general election, it was May’s intention to increase that number by going to the country in 2017 to strengthen her mandate for the imminent Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
Although opinion polls suggested that the Tories had as much as a 20 point lead running up to the election, endorsing May’s decision, the general election result proved to be dismally short of her hopes and dreams.
The Conservatives made a net loss of 13 seats, with Labour making a net gain of 30 seats, with both the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats losing vote
The Conservative Party lost 17 seats, the SNP lost 22, UKIP lost their only seat while the Labour Party gained 34 seats and the Liberal Democrats were up by 6 seats. The other parties retained the status quo, neither losing or gaining any MPs.
Lacking a working majority in the House of Commons Theresa May secured a confidence and supply deal with the DUP to last the course of the current parliament on 26 June 2017. At a cost of £1billion extra funding for Northern Ireland, the DUP guaranteed their support for Brexit, winter fuel payments, the Good Friday Agreement, the state pension triple lock and national security issues.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRITISH POLITICAL PARTIES.
As democracy emerged in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century, parliament was dominated by two parties, The Whigs and the Tories. The former largely represented members of the aristocracy and emerging industrial magnates, while the latter were drawn from the landed gentry.
By the middle of the century the Tories evolved into the Conservative Party and The Whigs morphed into a left leaning Liberal Party and so a two-party system formed the status quo. In the 1920s as Liberals lost popularity the Labour Party emerged as the main voice of opposition to the Tories with revolutionary social issues at the top of their agenda.
Subsequently it has been these two parties who have dominated both parliament and government although several other parties are represented in the House of Commons.
Theresa May might have hoped, that as she confronts the weighty matters of the day, like Brexit, that she could count on her ministers to take care of business on the domestic front. However, the Northern Rail crisis is becoming a real béte…