7 -- Part 1: . The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Each of the countries selected for the AP Comparative Government and Politics course was carefully chosen to give students a glimpse into issues affecting a wide array of countries and political systems around the world.
Britain is a case study for many important concepts.
It is an excellent example of a modern liberal democracy, dealing with the challenges of the modern developed world, including how to cope with climate change and the environment, an aging population, and immigration into the country of those from diverse background.
It shows a political system that emerged from gradual reform and political pressure from its own citizens, transitioning from authoritarianism to democracy.
Britain shows the complex relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, as the little island that once ruled over a quarter of the world's territory has had to cope with the decline of the Empire and the rise of many of its former subject nations.
Britain's gradual integration into the European community, the European Union in particular, gives an insightful glimpse into the complexity of supranational politics and institutions.
There is a lot of confusion about the differences between England, Britain, and Great Britain.
The first step in understanding Britain's history and political culture is what each of these terms refers to.
The United Kingdom is sometimes referred to as a country of countries, in which four separate nations of people are united under a single monarchy.
The English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish are grouped together.
The people of the United Kingdom are grouped together.
This map shows where each nation is located.
The nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland make up the United Kingdom.
Great Britain is the largest island on which England, Scotland, and Wales are located, as well as Ireland, where Northern Ireland is located.
When the Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1922, Northern Ireland remained a part of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the proper name of the country.
The House of Commons is a single political institution that is elected by British voters every five years and has political power firmly concentrated in London.
This concentration into the House of Commons is the result of a long historical process and transition gradually moving power out of the hands of unelected nobility, and into the country's main democratic body, the House of Commons.
Some political powers are granted by "acts of Parliament" to lower-level regional assembly.
Britain is not a federal state since the national government in London has the power to take away these powers.
The public in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland would be very negatively affected by a change in this arrangement.
If the nations of Britain are to remain united, the nature of power would need to be maintained.
The political culture of a nation of people is affected by geography.
This is more apparent in Britain.
Britain's island geography protected it from foreign conquest and allowed it to develop and maintain its own political traditions.
The separation from Europe has been felt culturally and defensively.
The idea of being "European" has never been fully embraced by the British, who have generally been willing to participate where they see the benefits.
After opting out of the European Monetary Union and the Euro, Britain voted in a referendum to leave the European Union.
Britain has a short growing season that makes it difficult to provide enough food for the island's people.
Wood for energy was in short supply in the early 18th century.
Both the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution were started in Britain.
The need for natural resources pushed the British to create a world-class navy and colonize distant parts of the planet, in essence exporting British culture all over the British Empire, which once spanned a quarter of the world's territory and population.
There are two distinct trends in British political history.
Traditionalism and gradualism is the first of these trends, in which the British political structure has stuck to longstanding political traditions, while at the same time modernizing them through gradual reforms.
Adherence to a set of understood limitations on the power of the state is one of the trends in British politics.
When you learn about an interesting fact about the British constitution, it may seem counterintuitive.
Most countries' constitutions do not exist in a single written form.
The British constitution is a collection of political traditions, acts of Parliament, and established common law that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years.
It would be ridiculous to suggest that the British have no constitution.
Britain has stronger constitutional traditions and adherence to the rule of law than any of the other countries studied.
The British were able to develop political traditions gradually through reform because of Britain's island geography.
William the Conqueror defeated Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, winning support from most of the nobility by promising that he would consult them before ever choosing to raise or levy new taxes, thus establishing the House of Lords as a check.
The signing of the Magna Carta by King John in response to excessive taxes for his military expeditions marked the beginning of a long tradition of constitutionalism and rule of law for the monarch.
The House of Commons was created in response to the emergence of a growing commercial class in England.
Two major events in the 17th century solidified many of the themes of tradition, gradual reform, and constitutionalism.
The English Civil War took place in 1651 and was the first of these.
The constitutional limitations of the King's authority were solidified by the victory of the Parliament's traditional role.
The Parliament called upon William of Orange to come to London in 1688 because they were concerned that the rule of James II was Catholicizing a Protestant country.
Parliament staged a bloodless coup in order to get James II to flee the country.
In return, William promised to adhere to limitations known as the English Bill of Rights, which ensured the role that Parliament would be guaranteed to play in the British state, and further identified rights that could not be violated against British citizens by the monarch.
The British political system continued to evolve as society changed over the course of the Industrial Revolution.
The Great Reform Act of 1832, the Reform Act of 1867, and the Representation of the People Act of 1884 were some of the major acts of Britain's Parliament.
The gradual extension of voting rights to the middle class, then to workers, and finally to all adult citizens meant that the government was more sympathetic to the interests of common people, which had a profound effect on the structure of Britain's political institutions.
The monarch was made a symbolic figurehead.
Legislation passed by the House of Commons was only delayed by the House of Lords.
The House of Commons was the supreme legislature and the prime minister and his cabinet were the functional executive.
The Conservative Party and the Liberal Party were the traditional political parties in Britain.
The Labour Party was formed in 1906 to represent the interests of the newly enfranchised working classes, and emerged as the chief challenger to the Tories by the end of World War I.
They wanted to provide public education, public housing, and better pay for workers.
Labour's ideology combined militant trade unionism with democratic principles that would seek to provide a more fair, just, and equitable society.
The Liberal Party has been in third place in the polls ever since.
The political divisions were further altered in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II with a period known as the collectivist consensus.
Clement Atlee, the leader of the Labour Party, promised to pool the resources of the country to win the war in order to create the modern welfare state.
The findings of the Beveridge Report were embraced by both the Conservative and Labour parties.
In 1945, voters swept the Labour party into power, and Atlee's government led Britain through a program of nationalization of formerly private heavy industries, such as railroads, steel, coal mines, oil, electricity, and other utilities.
The state would take ownership of these assets and use their profits to fund welfare-state programs such as the National Health Service, which provided all British citizens with the guarantee of medical care free of charge.
Free secondary education, old-age pensions and unemployment insurance were given to the British people.
The foundation of a mixed economy was created when these programs were put in place, and even though Conservatives won elections, they did not attempt to remove the institutions of the welfare state.
The British welfare state grew dramatically in response to the Great Depression and World War II.
The collectivist consensus was challenged in the 1970s as nationalized industries became increasingly inefficient and required large sums of taxpayer money to subsidize their losses and high wages for militantly unionized workers, which seemed to some British to be on strike more often than they were working.
The formation of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries made the problems worse by keeping oil prices high for Britain.
Inflation, high unemployment, declining GDP, and a general loss of faith in the trade unions were all experienced by Britain as oil prices went up.
The rise of a new British right wing led by Margaret Thatcher was caused by the backlash against the growing welfare state.
The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher, was elected in 1979 to take the country in a rightward direction.
Thatcher blamed socialist policies such as the strong welfare state and the nationalization of industry for her country's problems and set out on a large-scale program of reform.
These companies would no longer be able to rely on government subsidies to stay afloat if they did not improve their efficiency and make a profit.
Her government reduced old-age pensions and allocated less money for housing assistance for the less fortunate.
Britain's labor unions have never returned to their pre-Thatcher levels of political influence.
Thatcher allowed the "invisible hand" of market supply and demand to set prices and wages.
She was criticized as harsh and strident, but others thought she was the hero Britain needed.
Her legacy was defined by the name " The Iron Lady".
Thatcher's policies made it difficult for many workers and ordinary British citizens to make ends meet, but the Conservatives were able to revive the British economy in the 1980s.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were in charge of the Labour party in 1992.
The Labour Party was recast by Tony Blair as a center-left party that embraced the positive effects of Thatcher's market reforms on Britain, while remaining left of center on issues of the welfare state, public investment, and taxation.
The removal of Clause IV from the party's manifesto was one of the most significant symbols of the change in Labour's approach.
Labour's new leadership recognized that free-market policies could be to the public's benefit and that public ownership did not always equate to benefiting the public interest.
The Labour Party was elected to power in 1997.
Gordon Brown became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Tony Blair became the new prime minister.
There were a number of constitutional reforms enacted by Labour.
The members of these regional parliaments would be chosen by the region.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was created by the Labour government to be the highest court for appeals.
The court was responsible for ruling on Britain's compliance with EU laws.
These reforms were the most significant changes to Britain's constitution in generations, but they were not the only significant events of the Blair Decade.
Blair's government had to deal with the violence in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has been plagued by violence and terrorism since the 1970s, when the Irish Republican Army used violence to try and break away from Britain.
The Good Friday Agreement was negotiated by Blair's government in 1998 and has held since.
Constitutional reform for devolution and a Northern Irish regional parliament were important parts of the settlement.
Blair called for early elections at the peak of his popularity, and Labour expanded its majority.
Their work wasn't done.
Blair's government had to respond to a new terrorist threat: Islamic extremists.
Both al-Qaeda and the Taliban were suspected of playing roles in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States of America, which led to Britain joining the American-led coalition in Afghanistan.
The goal of the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was to change Saddam Hussein's regime and remove his suspected weapons of mass destruction.
On July 7, 2005, Britain was the victim of a major terrorist attack, when four suicide bombers blew themselves up on public trains and buses, killing fifty-two people and injuring hundreds more.
From 2001 to 2008 the Labour government passed a series of antiterrorism acts that gave police broad powers to detain and question terrorist suspects without charge for limited periods of time.
The popularity of the Iraq War waned so Blair called for early elections.
If Labour could maintain their majority in 2005, he could win another five years in power.
Labour won a majority again, albeit by a smaller margin than before.
Gordon Brown was chosen as Blair's successor as Blair's popularity continued to decline and the Iraq War became unpopular.
The most severe recession since the Great Depression was caused by the global financial market meltdown.
Brown's government tried to counter the effects of the crisis by passing an $850 billion rescue package for the banks and reducing Britain's sales tax rates.
The recession was too severe for these measures to be fixed, and Brown's popularity declined as a result.
The Conservatives gained more seats in the 2010 elections than any other party.
The Conservatives formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, making David Cameron the new prime minister.
The Conservatives gave the Liberal Democrats several positions in the new cabinet in exchange for their participation in the coalition.
The Alternative Vote is a proposed reform to Britain's first-past-the-post system.
British voters would be able to rank candidates for Parliament in order of preference rather than choosing one to vote for.
A reform to the election system was expected to improve the chances of the Liberal Democratic Party winning more seats in Parliament.
The referendum was held in 2011.
The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011, which was passed by the coalition government, sets a fixed five-year election cycle for Parliament and restricts the prime minister's power.
In the wake of the financial crisis, the government imposed austerity measures to reduce government spending and balance the budget.
Spending cuts to food banks, health care and theNHS, housing assistance for the poor, public-sector pay and pensions, and unemployment benefits were included.
Conservatives had a clear majority in the Parliament.
The Conservative Party's Euroskeptical elements were appeased by the promise of a referendum on Britain's membership in the European Union.
He resigned as prime minister after announcing that he couldn't continue as leader of Britain.
Theresa May was chosen as the new leader of the Conservative Party.
Her government was responsible for navigating Britain's exit from the European Union and negotiating the complex trade relationships and rights of British citizens living and traveling in Europe.
May called for early elections in 2017: she believed Conservatives could extend their majority with more members who supported her position in the divorce negotiations.
The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act gave her the power to call early elections with the consent of two-thirds of the Parliament.
The Conservatives lost their majority as Labour gained seats.
The Conservatives formed a coalition government with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.
The difficulty of getting a final solution for Britain's exit from the European Union proved too daunting for May's government, and she resigned after her final negotiated deal with Europe failed to pass in Parliament.
Boris Johnson was chosen as the new leader of the Conservatives and his government is now in charge of crafting the next steps for leaving the EU.
British society is noteworthy for the consensual nature of its political culture and its unifying commitment to democratic values, but it is not without some differences that divide the population.
These are some of the most divisive issues in British society.
Despite the decline of nobility in British politics, there are deep class divisions in Britain.
Many of Britain's wealthiest citizens come from a long history of inherited wealth, and those in the upper classes typically dress differently from the lower classes, participate in different leisure activities, speak in a different English dialect, and generally don't interact much with lower classes.
It is not the same as it seems in the United States.
American millionaires would probably dress in clothing that looks a lot like other middle-class professionals, and watch the same sports with better seats at the games.
British public life has had a role in class distinction for hundreds of years.
There has been some change in the divisions.
World Wars I and II brought many from Britain's upper and lower classes together serving in the same military units as equals, and produced a great deal of upper-class sympathy and understanding for the lower class as they bond in the fighting.
The concept of noblesse oblige refers to a nobleman's responsibility to care for the serfs and common people under his care.
The Collectivist Consensus meant that the wealthy had a social responsibility to accept higher taxes in order to fund the welfare state for the middle and lower classes.
Over the last century, the social class has become a source of division in Britain.
The social class division between the rich and the working class is still important in British politics.
While there is a certain identity associated with being "British," people in Great Britain are more likely to consider themselves to be English, Scottish, Welsh, or Northern Irish.
It is the English royal family's monarch who reigns as head of state in the United Kingdom because England has long been the dominant player.
In recent years, this has caused resentment of the English by other nationalities, most notably in the case of Scotland's failed referendum for independence from the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister Blair's reforms of devolution in 1997 and 1998 allowed for the creation of national assembly in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with limited policymaking power granted from the central government.
More than 80 percent of the British are white; however, there are a growing number of ethnic minority populations that are Muslim.
Pakistan is the most common among these, but there are many other countries as well.
Immigration restrictions were continued by the Blair and Brown Labour governments because of the fear of changes to British culture caused by the arrival of immigrants.
The EU allows freedom of movement and immigration among its member states, but Britain has negotiated exceptions to many of the immigration principles of the EU.
These issues will be part of new negotiations with Europe.
Minority groups in Britain are not integrated into the society and often report being mistreated by the police.
Civil society is alive and well in Britain.
One estimate puts the number of civil society organizations in Britain at over one million.
There are business groups, labor groups and unions, charitable organizations, religious institutions, and government advocacy groups.
British elections are generally considered to be free and fair, consistent with expectations of a liberal democracy, and British history has continued to expand access and participation for the average citizen.
British citizens are voting in the elections of officials.
The most important of these elections is at the national level to choose the Members of Parliament who will act as the national government in Westminster and choose the prime minister and the cabinet.
The prime minister had the power to call for elections whenever he wanted, but he had to do it within five years of the last election.
Prime ministers used this power to call for elections at opportune times when they believed they could build a larger majority or buy more time in power.
Tony Blair called for elections in 2001 because he thought Labour would win more seats than they did in 1997, and then again in 2005 because his party was declining in popularity and was likely to lose seats.
He waited until 2006 to allow Labour to hold onto their majority through 2010.
The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011 set a fixed term of five years for every parliament, excepting for the cases of a vote of no confidence and two-thirds.
Each of the 650 constituencies in the United Kingdom selects one single lawmaker to represent them in Parliament.
A plurality of candidates win the most votes in each district.
A majority is more than 50 percent.
The winning candidate in a constituency will have less than 40 percent of the vote.
The first-past-the-post system is called a first-past-the-post because there is no second-guessing to make sure the winning candidate gets a majority.
The major Conservative and Labour parties receive large shares of votes without winning districts in this system, which is why they are rewarded.
The system punishes the Independence Party and the Liberal Democrats.
This is shown in the data from the general election.
The new prime minister will be chosen by a majority of the seats in Parliament.
The Conservative and Democratic Unionist parties were able to form a coalition government after no party won a majority of seats.
Every five years, a direct election was held to send members to the European Parliament.
In Britain, the EU parliamentary election rules were conducted in a proportional representation format rather than through an SMD.
Parties win shares of the vote based on how they perform in each constituency, which reduces the discrepancy between votes received and seats won compared to the elections for British Parliament.
The results from the election are displayed.
There will no longer be elections to the EU Parliament in Britain once the UK leaves the EU.
In the late 1990s, elections were held for members of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Scottish and Welsh use a hybrid of the SMD and PR party list systems, while the Northern Irish use a single transferrable vote.
The rules for elections at the local city, county, and/or borough level vary by locality.