To understand English politics it is necessary to know the form of government of the United Kingdom, as well as the territorial division of this country. In this article we tell you the history of this system and the characteristics it currently has.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Article Index

The British Government: characteristics of the political system of the United Kingdom

Political system

The form of government in the United Kingdom is the parliamentary monarchy. That is, there is a king or monarch, but the government is exercised by a group of people chosen by the citizens.

The system of this country does not have a written Constitution, but is formed by the set of ordinary laws that are being approved. This allows it to be modified without the need to go through lengthy and expensive procedures.

A similar situation occurs in law, where there is no common document. In this country they are governed by the so-called Common Law, which could be translated as Common law.

This method is governed by a set of unwritten and unpromulgated rules. A judge, when making a decision, relies on the resolution carried out in other similar cases in the past.

On the other hand, the monarch is the head of state and his functions are properly representative. He also holds the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

The executive branch belongs to the government. At his head is the Prime Minister (known in other countries as President), who is usually the leader of the party with the most members in the House. With him is the Cabinet of Ministers, which does not have a fixed number.

Legislative power is in the hands of Parliament, whose seat is in the Palace of Westminster, in London. This is bicameral and each part is organized in a different way:

  • House of Commons (House of Commons): equivalent to the Lower House of other countries. It is made up of 650 members, who are elected by free universal suffrage every five years.
  • House of Lords (House of lords): it does not have a fixed number and its participants are not chosen by the citizens. There are two types of Lords: the temporal, appointed by the monarch (most are life positions), and the spiritual, 26 components of the Church.

To this day, the House of Lords has an advisory role, as it no longer has the ability to veto laws. However, they can hold them back for a year.

Historical Background

To understand the current type of government in the United Kingdom and the territory it occupies, it is necessary to review some key moments in its history. At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, absolutist kings continued to rule in this territory.

Under the mandate of Carlos I, there began to be clashes between the absolutists and those who wanted more power for Parliament, which unleashed a civil war that lasted from 1642 to 1648. In 1649 the Republic, known as Commonwealth.

However, in 1660 the monarchy was reinstated in the hands of Carlos II. After him came James II, who was dethroned by William III of Orange-Nassau in the so-called Glorious Revolution.

It was then, in 1689, when a parliamentary monarchy through the Bill of Rights. In Parliament, the Tory (noble supporters of the king), and the Whigs (bourgeois defenders of parliamentary power) agree to take turns in government.

In the 1763th century, the United Kingdom retained its thirteen British colonies in North America. However, in XNUMX, the English government increased taxes on the colonies, starting point for a group of workers, the so-called Sons of Liberty, boycott English goods: this fact is remembered as the Tea Party.

English tax policy in the colonies led to the War of independence, which began in 1775 and ended in 1783, when the Peace of Versailles was signed and, therefore, the independence of the United States of America.

On the other hand, in the middle of imperial politics, the United Kingdom was occupying India until it had absolute control in 1857. It is from 1920 when, through the movement promoted by Mahatma Gandhi, the protest against British domination began. It is in 1947 when this territory also becomes independent.

If you are interested in learning about the history of the capital of the United Kingdom, you can find it in the following article: Brief summary of the history of London (England).

The first Minister

Throughout history, a large number of prime ministers have succeeded in the United Kingdom, whose function has been to coordinate the government. Among them, these are some of the most prominent, of which we indicate his years of government:

  • Robert Walpole (1721-1742): he was the first to hold this position. He belonged to the Whig Party, that is, the Liberal.
  • William pitt (1783-1802 and 1804-1806): He is the youngest prime minister in British history, coming to power at just 24 years of age. In his tenure, the United Kingdom of Great Britain was united with Ireland, a fact that marked the beginning of the XNUMXth century.
  • Winston Churchill (1940-1945 and 1951-1955): presided over World War II. Before taking office, he predicted Hitler's rise and the danger this could pose.
  • Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990): also known as the Iron lady. Her popularity increased thanks to the victory in the Falklands War in 1982. She was the first woman to reach the presidency and served a total of three terms.
  • Tony Blair (1997-2007): participated in the 2003 Azores Summit, for which he seconded the Iraq war. This cost him his political reputation.
  • David Cameron (2010-2016): organized the referendum on the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, known as Brexit. As he won the "no" to permanence, he resigned.


To this day, the British royal family It is the most advanced in terms of transparency from all over Europe. Every year it publishes all the expenses that have been made in detail: hiring of personnel, purchases, official trips, etc.

Also, since 2011, the United Kingdom has been part of the Alliance for Open Government. The member countries must make available to the inhabitants as much data as possible, in order to encourage citizen participation. This country even has a public-private body that controls this initiative, the Open Data Institute.

As for political parties, the main ones are the Conservative Party (the old Tory) and the Labor Party, considered center-left. Other parties are the Liberal-Democrat (from the Whigs), and the Green Party of England and Wales, an environmental movement founded in 1990.

In recent years, the economic policy of the United Kingdom is oriented towards economic liberalism, giving freedom of action to companies, as Adam Smith defended in the XNUMXth century. Regarding its commercial policy, it has agreements with a significant number of countries.

The biggest subject of debate at present is being its foreign policy due to its desire to separate from the European Union. If you want to have more information on this topic, we recommend you read the following article: The 'Brexit' in the United Kingdom: meaning, results and consequences.

Territorial organization

To arrive at the current state, the British territory went through several political processes. In 1707 the Kingdom of England (which also included Wales) joined with Scotland.

It was in 1800 that the Kingdom of Ireland joined, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was officially formed. This State has a political division of four zones:

  • England: its capital is London. It has nine regions.
  • Scotland: the main city is Edinburgh. It has twelve regions.
  • Wales: with Cardiff as capital. It is divided into twelve areas.
  • North Ireland: has 25 districts. Belfast is the capital.

In the following map you can see the different territories: England in purple, Scotland in orange, Wales in green and Northern Ireland in yellow. In pink is Ireland, an independent country:

Each of these regions has its own political bodies and local government, as well as a system of administrative demarcation, since there is no body of this type that encompasses them all.

In addition, the United Kingdom has several overseas territories, considered vestiges of the old British Empire. They are as follows:

  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia
  • Eel
  • Shorts
  • Gibraltar
  • Islas Caimán
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Islas Turcas y Caicos
  • BVI
  • Montserrat
  • Santa Elena, Ascensión and Tristán de Acuña
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • Británico Territorio del Oceano Índico

In addition to these, it has three semi-dependent areas: Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey.

This article has been shared 34 times. We have spent many hours collecting this information. If you liked it, share it, please: