UK government terms used differently

by on July 13, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Well, I was confused at the start of the Traveling Geeks tour, but have learned a coupla things. This is my (over-simplified) version.

The "government" in the UK is the majority party, who selects ministers including the Prime Minister.  It's somewhat analagous to "administration" in the US. (The majority might be a coalition.)

There's no formal transition period in the UK, and far fewer political appointees.

The opposition party maintains as "shadow cabinet" which is ready to replace the existing cabinet immediately.

Feedback appreciated, I'd really like to get this right.

2 Responses to “UK government terms used differently”

  1. Lilly Evans

    Jul 14th, 2009

    A few more points.

    Government is formed from elected MPs as Ministers (majority) and some members of the House of Lords (usually enobled for this purpose, like Lord Foster who led Digital Britain report preparation). Reason for this is that the Government policy should be announced to the Parliament first before it becomes public (though in last years there have been persistent ‘leaks’ to the press in advance).

    We have permanent Civil Service that does not change either when Ministers move (far too often for some posts) or when Government changes. There has been a rise in ‘special advisers’ that Ministers appoint but they are not career civil servants and have no permanent post.

    There are 3 main parties in the Parliament. Labour is currently in Government, Conservatives are official opposition and Liberal Democrats are third party. In the current economic crisis it has been Vince Cable (former Bank of England economist), LibDem Treasury spokeman who has been most authorative of all.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Sam Kinsley

    Jul 14th, 2009

    This wikipedia article does a reasonable job of explaining the system: It is important to remember that the head of state is the Queen, the head of the government is the prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party in the house of commons. As the previous commenter highlights, a permanent civil service exists that remains non-partisan. Equally the judiciary are, by and large, considered to be non-partisan appointments. However, the final court of appeal is the House of Lords, whose power is exercised by the ‘Law Lords’. If you want to be further confused look up what the Privy Council is and how secondary legislation works in the UK…

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