UK Political System (Larissa Dallman)

Could you imagine having a government in the United States being run by members of two different political parties?

That is currently how the British Government is working: in the form of a coalition government.

The government systems in the UK and in the US have similar and different characteristics:

  • Both have a bicameral legislature: The US has the House of Representatives and the Senate and the UK has the House of Commons and the House of Lords
  • Both have some form of a Constitution, whether it be written or unwritten
  • The President of the United States is the lead executive in the US; the Queen is the head of state in the UK but the Prime Minister is the head of government

One of the biggest differences, however, is how elections are handled and the main political parties. Although the House of Commons is dominated by the Labour Party and the Conservatives, there are a number of different political parties in the House of Commons. In total, there are 650 members of the House of Commons; all elected by residents within each other their constituencies. One big factor in elections is that the election time is selected by the Prime Minister and is within five years of the previous election. The Prime Minister is also the head of the political party that is in power. In other words, if the Prime Minister is strategic, they could remain in power for a long time.

The problem that came about was in the 2010 election—no one party had a majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Therefore, there had to be the formation of a coalition government. The Conservatives were able to join with the Liberal Democrats in order to maintain a majority of the seats. Even if the Labour party and Liberal Democrats joined together they would not have been able to achieve a majority amount of seats.

Personally, I could not ever imagine this happening in the United States. While there are many different parties represented in the UK political system, the US is dominated by the Republicans and Democrats, and I can say with almost absolute certainty that these two parties would not be able to coexist in a governmental system.

Larissa Dallman is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).

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