Essay on KeytermsinUKpolitics 1

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Dictionary of Key Terms in UK Politics

Andrew Heywood

(Page references relate to Essentials of UK Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

Absolute monarchy: A monarchy that is invested with sovereign power, ensuring that all other bodies are subordinate to authority of the king or queen; absolute monarchies are usually based on the doctrine of ‘divine right’.
Act: A statute law; a bill that has completed its various parliamentary stages and become an Act of Parliament.
Additional member system (AMS): A ‘mixed’ voting system that is made up of a constituency-based ‘first past the post’ element and a regional party-list element, the latter being a ‘top-up’ to achieve the highest possible level of proportionality (see p. 73).
Adjournment debate: A debate, initiated by one or more backbenchers, that is held at the end of the parliamentary day.
Administrative devolution: A form of devolution in which regional/national bodies implement policies that are made elsewhere.
Administrative law: The body of law that governs the exercise of powers and duties by public authorities.
Adversary politics: A form of politics that is characterized by deep ideological conflicts between major parties; the parties offer rival ideological visions.
Age of majority: The age at which adulthood begins, in the eyes of the law; reflecting the idea that a person has ‘majority control’ over him- or herself.
Alternative vote: A voting system in which electors vote preferentially and lower placed candidates drop out in succession with their vote being redistributed until one candidate gains 50 per cent.
Apathy: The absence of interest in or enthusiasm about a subject, usually reflected in inactivity.
Asymmetrical devolution: A form of devolution that operates differently in different regions, with no common pattern of devolved powers and responsibilities within the state.
Athenian democracy: The form of democracy that operated in ancient Athens, characterized by a system of government by mass meeting supplemented by the allocation of government posts on the basis of lot or rota (see p. 33).
Authority: The right to influence the behaviour of others, based on an acknowledged duty to obey.
Authoritarianism: The practice of rule ‘from above’; government that is imposed on citizens regardless of their consent.
Autocracy: Literally, self-rule; rule by a single person who exercises his or her power in an arbitrary manner.
AV plus: A mixed voting system consisting of the alternative vote (AV) and the party list, which is used as a top-up; SV is a version of AV.
Backbencher: An MP who does not hold a ministerial or ‘shadow’ ministerial post; so-called because they tend to sit on the back benches.
Backbench revolt: Disunity by backbench MPs, who vote against their party on a ‘whipped’ vote.
Barnett formula: The formula (devised by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Joel, later Lord, Barnett) for determining the level of funding from UK taxes of expenditure in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Bicameralism: The division of legislative power through the creation of a two-chamber legislature; full bicameralism requires that the chambers have equal or at least equivalent power (see p. 219).
Bill: A legislative proposal that is in the process of being considered by Parliament; a proposed law.
Bill of rights: A document that specifies the rights and freedoms of the individual, and so defines the extent of civil liberty; bills of rights may have an entrenched or statutory status (see p. 282).
Bureaucracy: The administrative machinery of government; literally it means ‘rule by officials’.
Butskellism: A term made up from the names of the Conservative chancellor R. A. Butler and the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, indicating an overlap in party policies.
Cabinet: The committee of leading ministers which is empowered to make official government policy.
Cabinet collegiality: A sense of solidarity among cabinet members borne out of loyalty to the government and an awareness