The British political system

political science


This week’s reading was on the development and nature of the British political

system. This and future lectures will compare the systems we encounter for

further illumination. This week, we will begin by looking at how two systems

with kindred roots on many levels, the United States and England, compared to

one another. In future weeks, I will build off this initial comparison and

incorporate systems that may not be covered in the book.

The first point of comparison is the office of the British Prime Minister versus the U.S.

Presidency. The obvious difference is that one office (U.S.) is directly elected

while the other is the offspring of elections. The PM is the leader of the

majority party in the House of Commons. The PM operates in a function above

the House but that is the origin point. The U.S. constantly tries to maneuver

the balance between legislative and executive power. That sort of debate has

been central in the British system as well as it has resisted what was in the 20th

century and continues today to be a perceived increase in PM power.

An idiosyncrasy of the British system that the U.S. does not find is that the party

affiliation of a PM can shield them even at the time of disfavor with the public.

Presidents have individual reelection campaigns and so are not shielded by their

party as much as by their policy. In Britain, Tony Blair was largely criticized

for his support of the War in Iraq 

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