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The essentials
Series: Politics Today
Author: Bill Jones

'Politics' with a big 'P' is concerned with how we, individuals and groups, relate to the state. This book commences with a definition of political activity with a focus on conflict, and government and democracy. Britain is, arguably, the oldest democracy in the world, though it took many centuries for it to evolve into its current 'representative' form. Conflict resolution depends on the political system involved. The book draws together all the elements of government, explaining the British system of governance, which is democracy but utilises representatives. Civil service advises ministers and carries out the day- to-day running of government. The book then describes the transformation of the British system of governance from an absolute monarchy to a representative democracy. It examines how economic changes have affected Britain over the centuries, and presents some thoughts on the absence of a modern British revolution. It presents an account of Britain's economic history, the class developments and differences, and the absence of a modern revolution despite astonishing levels of income inequality. Factors that might influence the political culture of Britain are discussed next. The book also touches upon the sources of British constitution, the process of constitutional amendments prevailing in the U.S. and Britain, current British politics, and the development of pressure groups in Britain. Finally, the history of party government in Britain, and details of the Conservative Party, Labour Party, the Social and Liberal Democrats, House of Commons, and Britain's international relations are discussed.

Abstract only
Duncan Watts

between different types of constitution and even between different constitutions of the same type. In essence, the British Constitution can be described as unwritten, unitary, parliamentary, monarchical and flexible, whereas the American one can be seen as written, federal, presidential, republican and rigid. There are qualifications to be made to this categorisation, as we shall see in this chapter. POINTS TO CONSIDER ➤ What is a constitution? ➤ How important are constitutions? ➤ What advantages are there in having a codified constitution? ➤ How important are

in Understanding US/UK government and politics
Bill Jones

‘efficient’ Walter Bagehot, the most famous authority on the British constitution, made a distinction in the nineteenth century between those aspects which were ‘dignified’ – those that had a mostly ceremonial function, like the monarchy, Privy Council and, to a degree, the House of Lords – and the ‘efficient’ or ‘working’ aspects – like the Commons, departments of state and the law courts. (Moran, 2005, p. 71, points out that ‘dignified’ is not precisely the correct word to describe some of the behaviour of the Royal Family in recent decades.) Parliamentary

in British politics today
The abbé Mably
Rachel Hammersley

contemporary British commonwealthman,22 but there is also internal evidence that Mably had read several of the French translations of British commonwealth works.23 There are also echoes of Bolingbroke’s ideas in Mably’s work, not least in his concern about the influence of the Crown over Parliament and about the impact of the rise of wealth and luxury. Through Stanhope, Mably offered an analysis of the British system that was typical of the commonwealth tradition. A certain degree of admiration for the British constitution was combined with a concern that the Revolution of

in The English republican tradition and eighteenth-century France
Seventeenth-century England and eighteenth-century France
Rachel Hammersley

ancient civilisations, and of the huge political, economic and cultural differences between the ancient and modern worlds. In the American case, factors such as the availability of land in America, the relative youth of the country, and the fact that their King had lived over 3,000 miles away, again restricted the applicability of American ideas and practices in France.4 By contrast, Britain was a country closer in size to France, and there were parallels in the histories and political systems of the two nations. The existing British constitution was of interest to some

in The English republican tradition and eighteenth-century France
Bill Jones

. The constitution is revered and well known in the United States and is the final word in legal disputes. The British constitution, in contrast, is famously ‘unwritten’ and has emerged, piecemeal, over a thousand years. Much of it is written, in fact, in the form of statute laws, which describe how, for example, elections should take place; but it is ‘uncodified’ – not gathered together in one document. After a period of virtually absolute rule, the monarch was forced to seek finance from advisory gatherings of nobles and leading families. These gatherings began to

in British politics today
Abstract only
Ministers and the civil service
Bill Jones

, calls, perhaps unimaginatively, ‘departmentalitis’ (Kaufman, 1980). Senior civil servants are clever and persuasive and it is not difficult for some ministers to passively accept the advice and become, in effect, an ‘agent’ for departmental interests. Ministerial responsibility It is a fundamental of the British constitution that ministers are individually responsible to Parliament for the work of their department. (Historically, responsibility was to the monarch but when Parliament moved into the ascendant, so did the location of the responsibility.) In theory

in British politics today
Rousseau as a constitutionalist
Mads Qvortrup

. His swipe against the English was not a total dismissal of the British constitution. Indeed, he praised the Westminster system in Lettres écrites de la montagne (III: 848). What he merely wanted to show was that Britain – at that time the only major power to hold elections – was not an ideal polity. In developing a model of constitutionalism, Rousseau stressed that the people should be entitled to veto legislation lest the enactments of the representatives should be in contravention of the General Will, i.e. represent the Particular as opposed to the General Will

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Abstract only
Author: Philip Norton

The book provides an analysis of the contemporary state of the British constitution, identifying ambiguities and the changing relationships at the heart of the constitution. It offers a succinct and accessible overview of the core features of how the UK is governed – the key principles and conventions underpinning the constitution and how they are under pressure. It is essential for anyone wanting to make sense of the UK constitution in a period of constitutional turbulence, not least following the referendum to leave the European Union, three general elections in five years, major judgments by the UK supreme court, governments suffering major defeats in the House of Commons, and pressure for more referendums, including on Scottish independence and on remaining in the European Union. Each chapter draws out a core feature of the constitution, not least a relationship between different organs of the state, and offers an explanation of its shape and operation and the extent to which it is changing. It examines the key principles underpinning the UK constitution, the extent to which they are contested, and how political behaviour is shaped by convention.

Open Access (free)
Peter Calvert

revisionist views to find their way into common currency. The public were happy to accept the view of Gladstone, who contrasted the US Founders’ act of creativity with the slow development of the British Constitution, which to him had had an equally successful outcome; the full quotation is indeed: ‘As the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from the womb and long gestation of progressive history, so the American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.’5

in Democratization through the looking-glass