Comparative Politics Today Notes Chapter 8.doc

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Political Science
Kaare Strom

Comparative Politics Today Notes Chapter 8 Politics in Britain Britain is different because its an old democracyUnited Kingdom a place with a government that was created in 1801 by merging England Scotland Wales and Ireland under the authority of Parliament of LondonUnlike new democracies Britain did not become a democracy oveppoornight It became a democracy by evolution rather than revolution Men and women werent allowed to thvote until the 20 century even though there were competitive electionsThe influence of British government can be found in far places such as Australia Canada India and the US Britain represents stable representative government But it has limitsThe evolution of democracy in Britain contrasts with a European history of countries switching between democratic and undemocratic forms of government The oldest Brits have lived in the same political system all their livesAt no point in history did representatives of the British people meet to decide what kind thof government they would like to have as happened in America in the 18 centuryThe creation of a modern system of govt doesnt get rid o the problems of governingPolicy Challenges Facing the British Government The general election of 2010 has face British party leaders with their biggest political challenge in more than half a century There are three parties amongst the Brits The Conservative Party The Liberal Democratic Party and The Labour Party In the election of 2010 none of them won the majority of the seats in the House of CommonsAfter losing three successive elections the Conservative leadership was desperate to gain office After half a century of Liberal leaders claiming that they wanted their party to become a party of government a hung parliament gave the Liberals an opportunity to gain office The coalition governments chief offices are divided between Conservative David Cameron leader of the conservative party as the Prime Minister the head of govt in charge of the Parliamentary and Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg as deputy PMThe first challenge facing the government is to keep the coalition together Some Liberal Democrats found themselves closer to the Labour partyThe coalition partners agreed to disagree about what kind of electoral system should be used at the next national electionThe conservatives favor keeping the existing firstpastthepost system in which the candidate with the most votes in a constituency whether less or more than half becomes its MP while the Liberal Democrats favored the introduction of proportional representation as a fairer systemTraditionally experts interpreted the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament to mean that the government can do whatever it wants as long as it has the backing of a majority in the House of Commons However many problems facing British government are intermestic because globalization is blurring the traditional distinction between international and domestic problemsWhatever their party Britains governors accept the inevitability of globalization This makes the PM spend as much as one day a week in other countriesGlobalization challenges the countrys governors to answer the question Where does Britain belong Britain is a major world power having close ties with Commonwealth countries the US and EuropeThe British Empire was transformed into Commonwealth a free association of fiftythree sovereign states with members on every continent after WWII Each member had an independent status as shown by the absence of the word British in the titleEvery British PM claims a special relationship with the US America keeps building special relationships with other countries while Britain PMs have not as muchAn allparty House of Commons committee concluded that the idea of a special relationship should be abandoned as misleading and that he UK should be less deferential and more willing to say no to the US on those issues where the two countries interests and values divulge Most UK people reject a special relationship with the US and only cooperation where there are common interestsThe coalition government is under pressure to undertake a fundamental review of Britains overall commitments abroad After rejecting becoming a founding member of the European community in 1957 Britain joined it on 1973 The EU has now the power to impose regulations affecting British business spending decisions in such fields as agriculture and Acts of Parliament Government ministers argue over political fundamentals and other British stuffOne theory is that Britain could increase its influence in Washington and further afield by becoming a leading member of the EU However Britain has always had a limited commitment seeing the EU as an important market but rejecting proposals to strengthen its supranational powersConservative party half skeptical of EU and half wishing Britain wasnt part of EULiberal Democrats very proEULabour Party evaluates EU measures in terms of its party interestIn small countries which have always recognized the influence of bigger neighbors
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