POL 147B Study Guide - Fall 2019, Comprehensive Midterm Notes - Tony Blair, New Zealand Labour Party, Margaret Thatcher

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Published on 13 Feb 2019
School
UC-Davis
Department
Political Science
Course
POL 147B
Professor
POL 147B
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Lecture 1 9/28/19
Government Flow Chart
public→ House of Commons ← → Government (PM + cabinet)
4 Fundamental Comparative Questions on Britain and the U.S
1. Why can British democracy survive with no constitutional checks on tyranny,
while this appears inconceivable in the United States?
a. The party(s) that control the gov can do pretty much anything they want
BECUZ there aren’t separation of powers quite like the US
b. Also no written constitution, so no constitutional authority to check those
in power
c. How does Britain not degenerate into chaos/dictatorship?
i. Had a stable democratic system for over 100 years
2. Why are elections, and voting behavior, completely different in Britain than they
are in the United States?
a. In Britain, citizens have greater voter knowledge of candidates, policies,
etc. (they are more informed about all of it, than the U.S)
b. But… Why? What is the explanation for this?
c. British campaign posters are more focused on the political parties less on
the candidates, becuz most citizens vote for people that are a part of their
prefered parties (no matter who they are)
d. British turnout rate is around 70%, U.S turnout for presidential is maybe
50%
3. Why do both Britain and the United States feature just two dominant political
parties, when most advanced industrial societies feature more than two major
parties?
a. British Conservative Party v.s. Labor Party
i. These parties’ ideals do not line up completely with America’s Dems
and Repubs.
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b. Every PM since WWII has been from one of those parties and one of these
two parties have had majority rules in House of Commons since WWII
c. **Most Western democracies (outside US and Britain) have more than 2
dominant political parties and usually have coalition governments
4. Why is Britain leaving the European Union, while the United States…wait, there
is no U.S. equivalent to Brexit.
a. 2016- Britain did (slimly, but) voted to leave the EU
10/1/18
A BRIEF SURVEY OF BRITAIN’S “UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION”
a. An evolving, unwritten constitution (there is no single form document detailing
the limitations of ppl in power)
i. Instead has an accumulation of institutions, values, etc.
b. The British system of government: parliamentary democracy -- Parliament and
its members -- the Prime Minister and her cabinet
i. Any piece of legislation that is presented to Parliament (House of
Commons) and is supported in the majority is then made into law and
CANNOT be challenged (no act of the parliament can be overturned by any
court)
ii. **But new laws can be passed that contradicts old laws and cancels them
out
iii. In Britain the Constitution is what happens, the laws that are currently on
the books describes what is possible to do and what is not
c. Parliamentary democracy in a two-party, plurality system: a recipe for tyranny?
i. Parliamentary democracy: a political system of government in which the
government is selected by and is responsible to the country’s parliament
1. PM and cabinet usually have an obedient majority in the House of
Commons
ii. Why British politics are stable in the absence of a written constitution?
1. Doing things that are undemocratic will be widely unpopular with
the people, the people make sure the people in power will not be
voted into power again
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2. The iron cage of party discipline can only be pushed so far. -
Members of Parliament will not take the advice and way to vote
from their party leader on absolutely everything (if requests to align
with the party on unreasonable things are made, the party members
are more likely to say “no way”
3. There is a sense of goodwill within the parliament between parties
working together for the national good (in the USA the parties think
that each other are antagonists)
MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
a. “The iron cage of party discipline”
i. Though any member of parliament can vote yay or nay for any legislation,
most members will vote in alignment with the leader of their party’s vote--
this happens 98-99% of the time (unlike in the USA)
ii. Why are British parliament members so obedient to their party?
1. Because of the way member of parliament are selected. The party
leadership put candidates up for election and they will only
promote them as one of their party if they do as the party says
b. Parliament/House of Commons: power of parties is determined by the number of
seats that party holds in the House
i. 650 members in the House- there are 650 geographic districts and each
district elects one candidate
ii. Most western democracies do not use this plurality voting system, most
use proportional representation voting system
iii. The most powerful people in the House: 1 party has a monopoly on
political power when they have more than half the seats in parliament--
The PM is elected from the majority party (usually the Labor party or the
conservative party)
1. EX. legislation is passed by the majority vote in Parliament, thus
the political power monopoly
iv. PM is 85% of the time the leader of the party that holds the majority of the
seats in the house
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Document Summary

Government flow chart public house of commons government (pm + cabinet) 50: why do both britain and the united states feature just two dominant political parties, when most advanced industrial societies feature more than two major parties, british conservative party v. s. A brief survey of britain"s unwritten constitution : an evolving, unwritten constitution (there is no single form document detailing the limitations of ppl in power) Instead has an accumulation of institutions, values, etc: the british system of government: parliamentary democracy -- parliament and its members -- the prime minister and her cabinet, any piece of legislation that is presented to parliament (house of. Commons) and is supported in the majority is then made into law and. Cannot be challenged (no act of the parliament can be overturned by any court) **but new laws can be passed that contradicts old laws and cancels them out.

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