Political life - The constitution

3 important questions on Political life - The constitution

Explain and qualify the well-known assertion 'Britain has no constitution'.

There is no single written document which can be appealed to as the highest law of the land. Instead the principles and procedures by which the country is governed and from which peoples rights are derived come from a number of different sources which have been built up over the centuries. Some are written down in laws and some are not. Some have been formally agreed by Parliament, some have been spoken and then written down (judgements made in court) and some have never been written down at all.

It seems that Britain is not so different from any other country. However, there are features of the British system which make it different from other countries and which are not 'modern' at all. Name and explain them.

Britain does not have a written constitution. There are of course rules, regulations, principles and procedures but they are not written down. They come from a number of sources and have been built up, bit by bit, over the centuries. 

Some rights which are commonly accepted in modern democracies (the rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex or race) have been formally agreed by Parliament in certain laws; but others (the rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of religion or political views) have not.

How is Britain governed?

  1. Britain is a constitutional monarchy = a country governed by a king or queen who accepts the advice of a parliament.
  2. Britain is a parliamentary democracy = a country whose government is controlled by a parliament elected by the people.
The highest positions in the government are filled by memebers of the directly elected parliament. The official head of state (the queen) has little real power.

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