INTRODUCTION result of a long and peaceful evolution.It

INTRODUCTION

The modern British
state has been the result of a long and peaceful evolution.It is the country
that has introduced parliamentary democracy to the world. Britain was actually never
an absolutist monarchy. Before everywhere, in the period of feudalism, it began
to learn and practice restricting power. A well-known step of this is the
declaration of Magna Carta, which signed between King
John and the feudal lords, limiting the power of the King against vassals. By
the ninteenth century, Britain had already become a parliamentary democracy. The
Bill of Rights in 1689 and the Act of Union of 1707 were the others
arrangements that constituted the modern British state. However, The British are
respectful to their history and tradition. For this reason, even today they maintain
the tradion of the crown, although it occupies only a symbolic place in
governing state. As time progresses, Britain continued to develop its core
principles, including parliamentary sovereignty, parliamentary democracy,
unitary state and fusion of powers, which lie behind the state.

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1.  BRITAIN, UK AND
ENGLAND – WHAT’S WHAT ?

 The
British Isles, located off the northwest coast of Europe, include two sovereign
states. They are the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.The UK, or the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland is the name used to define the geopolitical
entity under the direct control of the British Parliament. The UK includes all
the British Isles, with the exception of the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of
Man, and the Channel Islands. The Parliament based in London is the UK
Parliament, and there is no separate English Parliament, despite the existence
of parliaments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and a National Assembly in
Wales . Britain, or Great
Britain is the largest of the two main islands that make up the British Isles.
However the term is often used synonymously with the United Kingdom – and even
in very official contexts.  As an island off the shore of
Europe, Britain had for centuries relatively more security against invasion and
conquest than the other European states. So, the Britons have felt themselves
as separate from the Continental Europe.

2.  HISTORICAL
DEVELOPMENT OF THE BRITAIN STATE

2.1  Up
to The Seventeenth Century

 In 1066,  Duke William of Normandy overcame the English
in the Battle of Hastings and eventually extended his authority throughout the
British Isles, except for Scotland. Royal pressure over feudal barons increased
after 1066, but the
rule of King John (1199–1216) was very strict and this led to opposition from
feudal barons. In 1215, they forced him to consent to contract the Magna Carta,
a series of privileges that protected them from abuses of royal power. With the
Magna Carta, violation of local laws and customs by the King was started to be
prevented . In 1236, the term parliament was first used officially for the gathering
of feudal barons summoned by the king to consult them about local problems and
to receive vassals’ consent for special taxesç This was an
important step on the road to the establishment of the parliamentary system.In
other words, the British Parliament began to rise in the 13th century. By the
fifteenth century, Parliament had eventually gained the right to make laws.

 In the sixteenth
century, the legislation unified England and Wales legally, politically and
administratively. In 1603, James VI of Scotland came to the English throne. Until
the Act of Union of 1707 , Scotland and England remained separate kingdoms with
same kings. After that, a common Parliament of Great Britain replaced the two
separate parliaments of Scotland and of England and Wales.

2.2  The
Britain in The Seventeenth Century

  In seventeenth century
Britain experienced religious conflicts, national rivalries, and struggles
between local rulers and Parliament. These conflicts led to the British civil
wars and later the removal of James II in 1688. This  vent called Glorious Revolution of 1688  also ended long-standing religious conflict. The
replacement of the Roman Catholic James II by the Protestant William and Mary ensured
the dominance of the Church of England (or Anglican Church),even today. After that, the Britain has been seen as a
model of domestic peace and stability.

2.3  The
Industrial Revolution and the British Empire

 Britain
is the motherland of the industrial revolution and the first industrialized
country. The Industrial
Revolution led to social and economic changes and created pressures to make the
country more democratic. So, we can say that the Industrial Revolution transformed
the British state and changed the British way of life.

By
1800, the Britain was selling the vast majority of finished goods overseas. So,
the growth was depended on foreign markets, not on domestic consumption. Because
Britain needed overseas trade, its rulers were aggressive to capture foreign markets
and expand the empire. Backed by the British navy, England followed
expansionist and colonialist policies. In a short time, international trade
made England the dominant military and economic world power.  By 1900,  the British Empire had 25 percent of the
world’s population and exercised direct colonial rule over 50 countries.
Britain became an hegemonic power and controlled alliances and the
international economic order and domestic political developments in countries
throughout the world.

In
the late 1820s, the first major important step toward democratization began,
when the propertied classes and increasing popular unrest pressed Parliament to
expand the right to vote. With passing of the Reform Act of 1832, only a
section of the male middle class had the right to vote. But, the Representation
of the People Act of 1867 increased the electorate to 16 percent from 7. The
Franchise Act of 1884 nearly doubled the electorate. Finally ,the Representation
of the People Act of 1918 included nearly all adult men and women over age
thirty. So, the struggle for vote took place mostly without violence, but it
lasted for centuries.

2.4  Britain
in the Era of  World Wars (1914-1945)

 State
involvement in the economy increased during World War I (1914–1918). The state
took control of numerous industries. It set prices and restricted the flow of
capital abroad, and channelled resources into war production. After World War
I, the state resisted demands for workers’control over production. There were
tensions  between free-market principles
and interventionist practices . These tensions deepened with the Great Depression
of 1929 and World War II (1939– 1945). Fear of depression and passions for a
better life after the war, transformed the role of the state and led to a
period of unusual political harmony.

 

2.5   The Period of Collectivist Consensus (
1945-1979)

After World War II, most Britons and all
major political parties in Britain agreed that governments should work to
narrow the gap between rich and poor, and provide for basic necessities through
social services such as public education, national health care, and other policies
of the welfare state.Also, state
responsibility for economic growth and full employment was agreed. This
consensus in British politics was named as collectivism. In time, however, economic
downturn and political stagnation unravelled the consensus.

2.6   Margaret Thatcher and the Enterprise Culture
(1979–1990)

The economic stagnation of 1970s  declined competitiveness of British industries
in international markets, and in turn, this fueled industrial strife. Whatever  Conservative or Labour, no government could manage
the economy. Either Edward Heath’s Conservative government (1970–1974)  or  the
Labour government of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan (1974–1979) could not
resolve the economic problems and the political tensions. The country underwent
strikes throughout the winter of 1978–1979 that was named as winter of
discontent.

 Margaret Thatcher won the leadership of the
Conservative Party in 1975 and embarked on a set of policies after the
Conservatives returned to power in 1979. She re-elected in 1983 and 1987 and
never lost a general election. According to Thatcher, collectivism was
responsible for weaking of the British industry. To reverse Britain’s relative
economic power,  Thatcher started to cut
taxes, reduce social services, and use government policy to revive competitiveness
and efficiency in the private sector. In her prime ministry  (1979-1990)  she followed a firm neoliberal path. Nevertheless,
Thatcher also followed an authoritarian populist style . In 1990, Thatcher’s
own Conservative  Party forced her to
suddenly resign because of her high-handed leadership style and anti-EU
position. John Major replaced her and served as prime minister to 1997 when
Conservative party was defeated by Tony Blair’s New Labour.

2.7  New
Labour’s Third Way

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown modernized the
Labour Party. The reinvented New Labour ( its official name remained Labour
Party.) offered a third way, an alternative to Thatcherism and the collectivism
of traditional Labour. New Labour won in 1997 with support from a large socioeconomic
circle, because it rejected interest-based politics and more importantly the
historic ties between Labour governments and the trade unions and emphasized
partnership with business. But after Labour came to power, Blair and Brown
eventually became rivals. The British government increasingly began to look
like a dual executive.  Brown was in
charge of domestic policies and Blair was responsible for foreign affairs.
Blair pulled the England in the US- led war in Iraq. Blair’s this decision was
very unpopular, and in return, his parliamentary majority was decreased by
nearly 100 seats in May 2005. In June 2007, Blair resigned and Gordon Brown became
prime minister. Although Brown was an effective politician, he could not prevent
severege economic downturn stemming from 2008 Global Crisis and lost the 2010
election.

2.8   The Conservative–Liberal Coalition after the
Election of 2010

David Cameron was elected the Conservatives’
party leader in 2005. Cameron consciously adopted much of Blair’s early appeal
and reached out to youth and promoted agendas, such as climate change and
citizen activism. So, the result of May 2010 election was the first hung
parliament in British history, an outcome after a general election when no party
can by itself control a majority of the seats in parliament. As a result, the
Conservatives as the first party in the election formed the coaliton with
Liberal Democrats. The coalition government, as New Labour did before, rejected
ideological stances and strove to comply the Conservative commitment to free
market policy with the Liberal Democrat commitment to decentralization.The
result is the idea of  Big Society that
argues for initiatives to empower ordinary citizens to take control over their
lives and to shift the balance of power from the sate to communities.

3.   FEATURES
OF THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION

The United
Kingdom is one of the few countries of the world that does not have a written
constitution. There is no single unified and authoritative text.
Sources of the British constitution includes statutory law (mainly acts of Parliament),
common law, convention, and authoritative interpretations. From among them, only
acts of Parliament and authoritative interpretations are written. In fact, what
distinguishes the British constitution from others is not that it is unwritten,
but rather that it is part written and uncodified. This uncodified constitution has largely developed out of
historic English law, since many of its founding principles and essential laws
go back to charters and bills, such as Bill of Rights and Act of Union of 1707,
 that were drawn up by the English
parliament. The acts of Parliament define the powers of Parliament
and its relationship with the monarchy, the rights governing the relationship
between state and citizen, the relationship of constituent nations to the
United Kingdom, the relationship of the United Kingdom to the EU, and many
other rights and legal arrangements.

4.  CORE
PRINCIPLES OF THE BRITISH STATE

The core feature of the British system
is parliamentary sovereignty.
Accordingly, Parliament can make or overturn any law; the executive, the
judiciary, and the throne can not restrict or overturn the parliamentary
action. The prime minister is responsible to the House of Commons and may be
dismissed by it. However, the challenge of parliamentary sovereignty in England
is that, by joining the European Economic Community in 1973 and accepting the
authority of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to resolve jurisdictional disputes,  Parliament restricted its power to act. It
has acknowledged that European law overrides British law. However, when the
process of Brexit conclude, the Parliament will regain its strenght.

 Secondly,
Britain has long been a unitary state.
By contrast to the United States,no powers are reserved for subnational units
in the United Kingdom. However, Tony Blair embarked on a far-reaching constitutional
reform that created a quasi-federal system and decentralziation. Some powers have
been devolved to legislative bodies in Scotland and Wales, and to Northern
Ireland as well. In addition,  the other
development on decentralizatain is that powers have been redistributed from the
Westminster Parliament to directly elected mayor of London.

Third, Britain has a system of fusion of powers. Parliament is constitutionally
the supreme legislative, executive, and judicial authority and includes the
monarch as well as the House of Commons and the House of Lords. We can explicitly
see the fusion of legislature and executive in the cabinet. The British cabinet
has grand constitutional responsibility, unlike the US Congress. The cabinet is
collectively responsible to Parliament. Through that collective responsibility,
it shapes, directs, and takes responsibility for government. The prime minister
is not independently from the cabinet . However, this core principle may be observed
more in principle than in practice. Particularly with strong prime ministers, such
as Thatcher and Blair, power is concentrated on the prime minister  because of lacking effective checks and
balances and separation of powers among the branches of government. He/she has
tendency to bypass the cabinet on important matters. So, Britain has the risk
of the danger of excessive concentration of power by a prime minister who is ready
to manipulate cabinet.

Britain is also a constitutional monarchy, but the
government must use nearly all powers of the Crown that has only symbolic
powers.