I. a) Evolution of the U.K. State Both Wales and Scotland were independent kingdoms which resisted English rule. 1707 England and Scotland unified as Great Britain. Legislative union of Ireland and Great Britain completed 1801 under name United Kingdom. In 1921 the Irish Free State was established; the 6 northern, predominantly Protestant, counties remained part of the U.K. (Northern Ireland)
British Empire From the mid 1700s until 1950 the British ruled a vast empire which spanned one-fifth to one-quarter of the world’s population and area This empire gave Britain enormous political and economic power in the world Britain was the most powerful and influential state in the 19 th century Britain’s empire disintegrated in the decade after WWII Nonetheless, Britain continues to exercise economic and political influence through the Commonwealth of Nations
U.K. State The U.K. is a unitary state with power centralized in London However, devolution was introduced in the late 1990s leading to the establishment of regional governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales (these powers are NOT constitutionally protected), as well as an elected London Assembly
Regimes Constitutional Monarchy since the 1600s Parliamentary democracy U.K. Democracy evolved gradually http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/ 1928 Women’s Suffrage All women granted the right to vote 1832 Great Reform Act Extends vote to all males who own property 1215 Magna Carta Limited the King’s Power
Nations Population: 63,047,162 (July 2012 est. CIA Factbook) 85% White British (Scots, N. Irish, Welsh, English) 5% other European ancestry 10% non-European origin (African, Indian, Asian, etc.) Main U.K. Nationalities: 1)English over 75% 2)Scottish approx. 8% 3)Welsh approx. 5% 4)Northern Irish approx. 3%
U.K. Survey: National Self- Identification Source: Rose, Michael & Bond, Ross (2008) National Identities and Politics after Devolution, Radical Statistics, Issue 97, pp. 47-65 www. dataarchive.ac.uk What conclusions can you draw from the above statistics?
I. b) Sovereignty The U.K. is a unitary state with power centralized in London However, devolution was introduced in the late 1990s leading to the establishment of regional governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales (these powers are NOT constitutionally protected), as well as an elected London Assembly
Central Government in London The U.K. Parliament (House of Commons + Lords) has supreme sovereignty over all domestic and foreign policy (constitutionally)
Devolved Parliaments/Assemblies Scottish Parliament established by referendum in 1998 Welsh Assembly established by referendum in 1998 Northern Ireland Assembly established by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 London Assembly and elected mayor of London established in (previously the mayor of London had been appointed by Parliament)
N. Ireland Assembly Scottish Parliament Welsh Assembly London Assembly
Representation is determined by mixed SMD/PR elections Devolved Parliaments have the authority to determine how the budgets for their respective regions (Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland) will be spent They have law making authority in the following areas: health, education, agriculture, and justice Devolved Parliaments may levy taxes but this is limited
More devolution? There is discussion of a possible English Assembly, although support for this is waning Support for a Cornish Assembly in Cornwall (S.W. England) is growing- The Cornish consider themselves as sub-nation within England
Supranational Organizations The United Kingdom has been a member of the European Union (E.U.) since 1973; it has ceded some sovereignty to the E.U. In the following areas: justice, immigration, human rights; however, the U.K. has not adopted the euro currency and has complete control over its own banking system The U.K. is a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO); as a result it must cede some sovereignty to the WTO so that its trade practices are inline with WTO regulations The U.K. Exercises considerable international influence and sovereignty over other states as a member of the U.N. Security Council with veto powers
I. c) Sources of Legitimacy Traditional Legitimacy Constitutional Monarchy Unwritten Constitution and Parliamentary Traditions Rational-legal Hundreds of years of common law Rule of Law (supremacy of Parliament) Competitive Elections Review: How would you define legitimacy?
Support for the British Monarchy and traditions is still strong. Source: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/04/verdict-of-the-british-people-long-to- reign-over-us/
I. d) Political Culture Social Class + Noblesse Oblige Vibrant civil society Respect for democratic values Respect for traditions Review: How would you define political culture?
Social Class Class has played a major role in British history and politics Until fairly recently most politicians have come from the upper classes (though there were some notable exceptions among early Labour politicians The upper class has introduced a “deference” into the political culture: a healthy respect for debate, civility, a willingness to compromise, and a respect for longstanding traditions (these values have trickled down to the middle and lower classes to a degree
Noblesse Oblige Elites in the U.K. have believed in the concept of noblesse oblige for decades; the notion that those who are not as well off or born of high birth deserve certain state –provided guarantees such as basic education, health, and unemployment. According to the PEW survey at left freedom appears to be much more important in American political culture. Source: PEW Research Centre
Vibrant Civil Society Interest groups operate in a pluralist system and compete to influence government policy NGOs are active and influential http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/ www.amnesty.org.uk www.humanrights.uk.net Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International all have a strong presence in the U.K.
Religious and Cultural Minorities are active Left: The Muslim Council of Britain sends a letter of protest to Prime Minister David Cameron hoping to influence the government’s Middle East policy
Peaceful demonstrations Citizens and members of the Trades Union Congress (TCU) protest government cutbacks to social services, health, and welfare
Democratic and post-materialist values Source: Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, (2010) Changing Mass Priorities: The Link Between Modernization and Democracy, Perspectives on Politics, (vol 8, No. 2) p. 55. Britain is moderately traditional and ranks very high on self- expression or post- materialist values (tolerance, openness, pluralism)
Discussion Questions 1) Why has Britain been so politically stable over the last century? What are the sources of this stability? 2) Will devolution lead to separatism? 3) Does social class in Britain promote or hinder democratization? 4) In what respects would the U.K. be considered a unique case in comparative politics?