Saturday, May 8, 2010

British politics and political jargon

Over the years, I've become very interested in politics in the UK and thought I knew quite a bit about how the British political system works but this latest General Election has made me realize how much I don't know.

I thought I would share a list of political terms and acronyms in this post since a lot of my readers are from various parts of the world and I'm sure they are even more bafffled by it all, than I am!

The United Kingdom (UK) is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional Monarch as Head of State.

There are three main political parties in the UK:

Conservative Party (also known as Tories)  Centre-right
The leader of the Opposition and Conservative Party leader is David Cameron.

Labour Party  Centre-left
The incumbent Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party is Gordon Brown

Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) - a centrist to centre-left political party
The leader of the Liberal Democrats party is Nick Clegg

Other Political Parties:
Democratic Unionist Party - the DUP is the largest party in Northern Ireland
Scottish National Party - the SNP is fighting for Scottish Independence
Sinn Fein - Irish republican party seeking to end British rule in Northern Ireland
Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales - in favour of Welsh independence.
Social Democratic and Labour Party - Constitutional Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland - Liberal party in Northern Ireland
Green Party of England and Wales - environmentalist party. Favours British republicanism
Ulster Unionist Party - Unionist party in Northern Ireland
UK Independence Party (UKIP) Libertarian, seeking Britain's withdrawal from the European Union
Scottish Green Party - Environmentalist party in favour of Scottish independence.
Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is a small loyalist political party from Northern Ireland.
Green Party in Northern Ireland - Environmentalist party in Northern Ireland.
British National Party (BNP) - a far-right party, has its roots in the neo-Nazi group the National Front

The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom - the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

The House of Commons is the name of the elected lower house. The party with the largest number of members in the Commons forms the government.
The House of Lords (also known as House of Peers for ceremonial purposes) is the upper house of the Parliament and is also known as "the Lords".

A Member of Parliament (MP) is a representative of the voters to a parliament.

The Prime Minister is not elected by the people. The political party is elected and the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons usually becomes the prime minister.

hung parliament (also known as a minority parliament or balanced parliament) is a legislature in which no political party has an absolute majority of seats.

A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several parties cooperate.

The UK is one of 27 member states of the European Union and is subject to European Union (EU) legislation.

A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) is a person who has been elected to the European Parliament, one of the European Union's two legislative bodies.
UK Office of the European Parliament

The single transferable vote (STV) is a preferential voting system designed to minimize "wasted" votes, provide proportional representation, and ensure that votes are explicitly cast for individual candidates rather than party lists.

Proportional representation (PR) or full representation, is a type of voting system aimed at securing a close match between the percentage of votes that groups of candidates obtain in elections, and the percentage of seats they receive.

First past the post (FPTP or FPP) voting refers to an election determined by the highest polling candidate(s). The British electoral system is based on the "First-Past-The-Post" (FPTP) system.

The West Lothian question - refers to the constitutional anomaly created by the devolution of power to Scotland. Because laws for issues such as health care, education and crime are now made in the Scottish Parliament, MPs representing Scottish seats cannot vote on them. But they can still vote on laws affecting those issues in England, which are still made in the House of Commons.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own assemblies, while England does not.

England doesn't have its own parliament. Issues that affect England are decided by the UK government, which consists of MPs from all over the UK.

The Barnett Formula was designed as a temporary measure by Lord Barnett, then the Labour chief secretary to the Treasury, in 1978 as a system for the division of public spending. It has been retained as the basis for funding the three devolved (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) governments.


  1. It's surprising, or perhaps not, just how little many people know, understand or perhaps even care about it all! Flighty xx

  2. Yes, I'm surprised by how many people don't even try to understand what is going on. And it's very worrying when people don't care.

  3. This is a really good post and you have done more to explain the UK government to me than three years of living here and one election campaign combined! Nicely done. I still start to lost the plot around the Houses of Parliament but am slowly starting to get FPTP.

  4. Thank you Emm! I'm so pleased you liked this post and that it was helpful.