Ancient GreeceEdit

  • Our modern word ‘politics’ comes from ‘polis’, the Greek for ‘city state’.
  • All male citizens, no matter how poor, had political rights.
  • The people of Athens had a different idea, however, and in the late 500sBC the first democracy – or ‘rule by the people’ – was created by Kleisthenis.
  • With no single ruler, a public assembly of male citizens met 40 times a year to vote on state decisions. The agenda was set and decrees carried out by a 500-strong council, chosen by lot to serve one year each.
  • The first Athenian politician to come from an ordinary background was Themistocles.

English Politics

  • The politics of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has taken place in the framework of a constitutional monarchy, in which the Monarch is head of state and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government.
  • Executive power is exercised by the Her Majesty's Government, on behalf of the sovereign.
  • Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
  • The UK is a multi-party system and since the 1920s, the two largest political parties have been the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.
  • The monarch appoints a Prime Minister as the head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, guided by the strict convention that the Prime Minister should be the member of the House of Commons most likely to be able to form a Government with the support of that House. In practice, this means that the leader of the political party with an absolute majority of seats in the House of Commons is chosen to be the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister then selects the other Ministers which make up the Government and act as political heads of the various Government Departments. About twenty of the most senior government ministers make up the Cabinet and approximately 100 ministers in total comprise the government. In accordance with constitutional convention, all ministers within the government are either Members of Parliament or peers in the House of Lords.
  • The Countries of the United Kingdom are divided into parliamentary constituencies of broadly equal population by the four Boundary Commissions. Each constituency elects a Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons at General Elections and, if required, at by-elections. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members (since 2010 General Election), who are known as Members of Parliament (MPs).
  • The House of Lords currently acts to review legislation initiated by the House of Commons, with the power to propose amendments, and can exercise a suspensive veto. This allows it to delay legislation if it does not approve it for twelve months. However, the use of vetoes is limited
  • Elections and political parties in the United Kingdom are affected by Duverger's law, the political science principle which states that plurality voting systems, such as first-past-the-post, tend to lead to the development of two-party systems. The UK, like several other states, has sometimes been called a "two-and-a-half" party system, because parliamentary politics is dominated by the Labour Party and Conservative Party, with the Liberal Democrats holding a significant number of seats (but still substantially less than Labour and the Conservatives), and several small parties (some of them regional or nationalist) trailing far behind in number of seats.
  • The Conservative Party won the largest number of seats at the 2010 general election, returning 307 MPs, though not enough to make an overall majority. As a result of negotiations following the election, they entered a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats to form a majority government.
  • The Labour Party won the second largest number of seats in the House of Commons at the 2010 general election, with 258 MPs.
  • The Liberal Democrats won the third largest number of seats at the 2010 general election, returning 57 MPs. The Conservative Party failed to win an overall majority, and the Liberal Democrats entered government for the first time as part of a coalition.

Interesting factsEdit

  • The Prime Minister is primus inter pares (,i.e. Latin for "first among equals") among his/her Cabinet colleagues.
  • As of 2010 there are 650 constituencies (there were 646 before that year's general election. Of the 650 MPs, all but one - Lady Sylvia Hermon - belong to a political party.
  • Alec Douglas-Home resigned from his peerages days after becoming Prime Minister in 1963, and the last Prime Minister before him from the Lords left in 1902 (the Marquess of Salisbury)
  • The Conservative party can trace its origin back to 1662, with the Court Party and the Country Party being formed in the aftermath of the English Civil War. The Court Party soon became known as the Tories, a name that has stuck despite the official name being 'Conservative'. The term "Tory" originates from the Exclusion Bill crisis of 1678-1681 - the Whigs were those who supported the exclusion of the Roman Catholic Duke of York from the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland, and the Tories were those who opposed it. Both names were originally insults: a "whiggamore" was a horse drover (See Whiggamore Raid), and a "tory" (Tóraidhe) was an Irish term for an outlaw, later applied to Irish Confederates and Irish Royalists, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
  • The history of the Labour party goes back to 1900 when a Labour Representation Committee was established which changed its name to "­­The Labour Party" in 1906. After the First World War, this led to the demise of the Liberal Party as the main reformist force in British politics. The existence of the Labour Party on the left of British politics led to a slow waning of energy from the Liberal Party, which has consequently assumed third place in national politics. After performing poorly in the elections of 1922, 1923 and 1924, the Liberal Party was superseded by the Labour Party as the party of the left.
  • The Liberal Democrats were formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party with the Social Democratic Party, but can trace their origin back to the Whigs and the Rochdale Radicals who evolved into the Liberal Party. The term 'Liberal Party' was first used officially in 1868, though it had been in use colloquially for decades beforehand. The Liberal Party formed a government in 1868 and then alternated with the Conservative Party as the party of government throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century.
  • William Pitt 'the Younger' was the youngest prime minister in British history, taking office at the tender age of just 24.
  • Today, 22% of MPs in the House of Commons and 20% of members of the House of Lords are women.
  • It wasn't until 1919 that Nancy Astor became the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons, and until 1958 that a woman was appointed to the House of Lords.
  • Since the office was not created, there is no "first" Prime Minister. However, the honorary appellation is traditionally given to Sir Robert Walpole who became First Lord of the Treasury in 1721.
  • Margaret Thatcher is first female Prime Minister ir UK and till now – the only one.