The government of the United Kingdom consists of three key institutions – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The executive is the government which has been voted for by the majority (although not an overall majority) of the electorate and is headed by a prime minister. The legislature is the parliament which consists of two legislative chambers – the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Commons comprises of elected Members of Parliament, who represent their constituencies, while members of the House of Lords are unelected. And the judiciary is the highest legal authority which implements constitutional laws.
The UK has a parliamentary system, which means that the leader of the party comprising an overall majority in the House of Commons becomes the prime minister. It is also a unitary state, with a central government being able to grant or remove any powers at the locality. This type of political system is also known as majoritarian democracy.
The role of the UK constitution is to outline the powers given to the state and to describe its major institutions and the relationship between the state and its citizens. The UK constitution is flexible, which means that it can be easily amended by the parliamentary majority. It is also uncodified and can be found in five various sources, rather than one single document. The British constitution empowers the parliament of the United Kingdom making it the highest national authority. Parliamentary sovereignty enables the legislature to create any law and change the constitution without being challenged providing the majority of MPs vote for it. However, because of the UK’s decision to join the European Union, the EU law overrides the domestic law. The UK also has to comply with the EU policies regarding trade, industrial and competition policy, agricultural policy and environmental protection (Heffernan, 2005).
Because the UK has a parliamentary system the executive is elected indirectly. The party with the majority of MPs in the House of Commons forms the government and the leader of the party becomes the prime minister. The extent to which the government is able to dominate parliament will depend on the size of partisan majority within parliament. The larger majority translates into a more powerful government. Securing large parliamentary majority is facilitated by a single member plurality electoral system of the UK, under which candidates need to secure more votes than their nearest rival in order to win a seat in parliament. This results in a very disproportionate representation. For example, in 2001, Labour Party won only 42% of the vote. However, it secured 64% of the seats in the House of Commons, giving it a majority of 166 MPs (Heffernan, 2005). Such a large majority can provide the government with a lot of support and is very likely to pass through its legislation in parliament even if they might disagree with it. Some of the MPs do it in order to get a promotion, the others feel obliged to follow the party line. On the other hand the government cannot always rely on the support of MPs and rebellions do take place even though they are uncommon. Therefore the government needs to take into account the reaction of the MPs to the policies it proposes because the UK parliament is “able to make and break governments at will, dismissing them from office by a vote of no confidence” (Heffernan, 2005, p. 26).
UK prime minister can also be a very powerful figure. He or she is able to appoint or dismiss ministers, create and abolish government departments, set the agenda and initiate legislation, which places them at the top of the governmental hierarchy. However the prime minister needs to compromise with the members of the cabinet and seek their approval. Because the government is made up of members of parliament, each of them could replace the