The political changes in Britain have always been naturally been gradual. This principle of gradualism established a strong tradition and in the process enabled the transition and policy making power from the kings as it was previously to the parliament. This process of transition can be traced 1066 after the Battle of Hastings when Harold II was defeated by William the Conqueror. Gradually, this arrangement led to the acceptance of the House of Lords as the commercialists developed towns for the new class resulted to the establishment of the house of Commons. The two houses were created through an evolution not a revolution. Nevertheless, there are important marking events that demonstrated the increasing power of parliament. In order to improve the countrys performance in the four aspects, the country need a change in all sectors such as political, economic, legal and social fronts. The British government should consider several amendments in political and economic fronts in order to achieve democracy, efficacy, accountability and stability.
Changes in British political system
The current political system has been achieved through a long historical process. Each historical institution that reigned in Britain left very powerful legacies and issues that were left unresolved in the past are still likely to have impact on the future. The process of consolidating the British states was a unification process for several kingdoms. Despite the entire pattern of gradualism, the political system in Britain has been forced to adjust to comply with stressing internal economic changes and also the international crises. Some of the notable sources of changes are the Industrial Revolution, the imperialistic aspirations, the world wars and the economic crisis in the 20th century. Some of these events have resulted to important concerns for the political systems in Britain.
From the 17th century, the political changes were very slow. Initially, it is only men with property were allowed to vote but no women regardless of their wealth status. The House of Lords had the power to overrule any law passed in the House of Commons and only men could be in the two houses. In the industrial revolution, the economy highly depended on the working class for the mines and factories who were never recognised in the political world. Some critiques thought it a good idea to ignite a new age of democracy and after a series of struggles, gradual changes in electoral representation took place. The restriction in voting rights continued to change until the present minimum age of 16 to register as a voter and inclusive of all genders.
The Empire and Industrial Revolution
This period began in the 18th century in England and it created two new and distinct social classes that could not be accommodated by the parliamentary system. The classes included the middle class and the labourers initially, the parliament had resisted including them with an assumption that it could have led to a disaster or even a revolution like it happened in France in 1789. However, with the tradition of gradualism in place, it guided the parliaments on their decisions to incorporate the two elements in the political system. The decision reflected the nobleness obligation starting in 1832 and franchise broadening gradually. The revolution was characterised with massive expansion of technological innovations and increased manufacturing production.
Industrialisation also resulted to increased social and economic modification that created pressure on the government to have a more democratic system of governance. This revolution transformed the British as a state and transformed it into the British culture. The revolution also disrupted lives by shattering the old ways of life. Most field labourers lost their jobs and the weak landholders were squeezed out of their lands to settlement schemes. The British rule was a hegemonic power that controlled alliances in the international economic order and used it to shape the domestic political developments in all its territories.
Effects of the world wars and collective consensus since the 1970s
From the 20th century, Britain experienced significant political and economic turmoil. The 20th century began with a sharp decline in economy and followed a growing difference between the Conservative and Labour parties. Labour party took to the left and endorsed the socialist economic doctrines and also became the labour unions mouthpiece in their demands. But the Conservative responded with a sharp turn to the right by advocating for the denationalisation of industrial powers and also supported a pure market economy. However, the parties slowed their stance in 1900 and the economy indicated some signs of recovery.
This increase in voting capacity in the Conservative saw the selection of Margaret Thatcher as the party leader and later the Prime minister. In order to achieve economic and political stability, she introduced new policies that shaped a different movement that offered the labour unions a great deal of power. This saw the privatisation of businesses and industries in order to cut down on the social welfare programs to stiffen the national defence and returning of the market force control back to the economy. Her government inaugurated a decisive right side regime that was set to divide and rule the trade unions and commit the country to strong neo-liberal path. Her strong anti-EU stance and iron-fist leadership brought her down. Thatchers leadership was challenged by the Conservative party leaders and she resigned in 1990.
Demerits of the current political system
The most fundamental demerits of the current British political system are the constitution. The lack of a unified document and being constituted in various Acts of Parliament provides mixed interpretations that can be hard to amend to have a unified guideline. The lack of a defining nature in separation of powers allows the political parties to be the determinant of legal and political direction the country takes.
As compared to the American executive where the presidency is the apex of power, the UKs parliamentary system has the highest office as the prime minister and the power is determined by the majority votes commanded in the House of Commons. And since there is no constitution, the checks and balances that circumscribe the power are often hard to maintain. In the US, the transition period is two and a half months after election while in Britain; the Prime Minister is inaugurated hours after the election results. This makes it hard to correct government transition problems.
In the united States, the members of both houses are electorates and this makes them accountable to their voters, while in UK, only the house of common are voters representatives, the rest pledge their loyalty to their parties. In Britain all the legislations are introduced by the government and this leads to less concern about the common people. In the US, all bills are introduced by the congressmen who are the peoples electorate and this makes efficacy a factor of proper governance.
Necessary Changes to the British Government System
Changing the electoral system
Britain has several voting systems used at different levels with each having a radically different implication to the government, the parliament, the parties and the voters. Under the British parliamentary convention, every five years an election to the parliament must take place. The queen dissolves the parliament and in the House of Commons, all the 650 seats are declared vacant and must be contested for. In the case of the House of Lords, there is no contest since it is the party leaders appoint their representation.
According to Lijphart and Grofma, parliamentary election is held in each of the 650 constituencies in all territories with an average of 60,000 voters. This leaves the constituents to decide on whom to elect. The UKs First past the post system states that the winner is the one with the most votes cast. After the election, the leader of the party with the majority seats in the House of Commons becomes the prime minister and the leader of government. In case there is no party achieving the majority threshold, the situation becomes complex and the strong party attempts to make a coalition with the largest of the smaller parties.
In Britain, democracy is always in a state of flux and this makes the political institutions face dire consequences because the citizens are less engaged and their trust in the political process and politicians keep diminishing. The issue of effectiveness of such an important institution to political parties, electoral system and the parliament are constant in the minds of the people. In order to allow for effectiveness and the flow of democracy, the power has to be redistributed up to the European Union and down to the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, London and Northern Ireland. My suggestion is, due to lack of equitable sharing of power, ineffective and unaccountable government; all the citizens should be engaged in the political process and politics.
In my opinion, this form of selection of government leaders presents the electorates with a system where the leaders bore their allegiance and accountability to the party other than the electorates. I believe if the government considers changing the electoral system such that the voters select the national leaders, the leaders would value the input of the voters and be more accountable to the voters. According to Webster (2003), democracy is defined as a government by the people that are characterized by a formal equality of rights and privileges to the society. However, the British form of government does not present a full set of democracy. In order to achieve a full democracy, the senior government leadership should not be expended to the party. A government for the people and by the people should be disseminated to the voters by allowing them to vote for the premiership. This process will provide the much needed results in efficacy. The voters have to be allowed to vote for all the vacant positions so as to claim full representation in governance.
Consolidation of elements of the constitution
The government should also seek to incorporate all the elements that make up the Britishs unwritten constitution. This can help the political, legal and economic systems to have a clear point of reference. In addition, a written constitution provides a clear basis of separation of power and rights and duties of each centre of power. In case of amendment, the constitution provides a clear point of reference to such changes.
Increasing the government accountability
Over the years, the Conservative party has been one of the most secretive and centralized party. It has enacted several legislations to ostensibly clean up corruption loopholes. There should be several amendments in place such as the Accountability Act that will ensure that those who monitor the acts of the government act at arm length from the office they monitor. This Act will ensure there are no possibilities of having a blanket exemption on the public in terms of releasing the documents that guarantee transparency and openness of the government activities.
In my opinion, this Act should restore the parliamentary oversight committee as an instrument of non-partisan legislative improvement. There should also be an improvement in the mandates of independent parliamentary officers so as to allow a free access of government documents by the relevant bodies. In addition, the current Ethics Commissioners, should be allowed to report directly to the Prime minister and the independent Ethics Commission, should be left to report parliament and their appointment be based on merit and not their political allegiance. This amendment can thus be used to check partys influence to governance and help restore the public confidence in various levels of governance.
Political institutional amendment and Perception towards the EU
The rate of political competition is another important feature in determining the performance of political institutions. When politicians compete for positions, the political rent is usually lower. This plow political rent implies a higher ratio of provision of public goods to taxation or reduced efforts for reducing their performance for the interests of the constituents. On another situation, a weak competition under situations of oligarchies or a single party rule results to bad outcomes to the constituents and the citizens. In my view, a highly competitive political market is likely to produce similar social costs and benefits as the competition in the factor market. In economic development, the legal rules should be an important factor in economic development.
Accordingly, the countries that have a common law legal structure offer better protections to their investors through fewer regulations and little government ownership. The human capital is a very essential factor in economic development and performance. Therefore, the British government should encourage the proposal of having a social security system in place. This will replace earning uninterrupted unemployment, accidents, sickness, retirement and also protect families against the loss of income due as a result of the death of their breadwinner. This amendment should support the existing social insurance programs and also help to overcome major income maintenance by providing adequate benefits to the working class.
In order to provide for easy trading arrangement between Britain and other countries in the European trading block. The British business community considers the option of withdrawing from the European Union as an economic disaster to the country. The priority of the European Union is to preserve the euro zone which Britain is not a member. In my opinion, Britain should forge alliance with other members of the European Union and accommodate one another. This will enable the country to gain its influence in the economic world and achieve a higher bargaining power in the region. This will enable the government in eliminating adverse economic challenges it has experienced in the past
Though Britain has continually changed it form of government, the process has always been gradual. The decline of British industrial and economic power was highly affected by the world wars. The strategic impact of government to the economy paved way for the industrial revolution and prosperity in domestic economic and increased competitiveness abroad. In addition, the political influence of the democratic idea has won universal appeal as a core value that associate the country with a parliamentary democracy that enhance accountability and sustainability in governance. To attain full democracy and efficacy in governance, British political system has to emulate the US system. In order to increase the level of accountability, democracy, efficacy and economic stability, the government and the people should consider making several amendments in the political structure of the country.