14th May 10
History of Government in the UK.
The system of government in the UK is described as a “Constitutional Monarchy”. How did this happen and what does it mean?
In Saxon times England was ruled by a King. Almost by definition, the King was a dominant personality and became King, either because he was chosen by powerful families to lead, or because he had won a battle. In Saxon times there was no automatic passing of Kingship on the hereditary principle, father to son. When William I became King after winning the battle at Hastings he brought with him the hereditary principle that had been adopted throughout Christian Europe.
The King provides ‘services’ to his country that the individual or small groups of individuals cannot do by themselves. The three basic services provided by a medićval King were justice, defence of the realm and money.
Quite early on the King’s advisors, who were mainly other powerful Lords, but also included educated commoners from the Church and Law Courts, helped the King provide these services, and hence were a rudimentary Government.
In 1215, the principle that the King had to rule according to the laws and customs of the land and was not above the law himself, was conceded – Magna Carta. From this event comes the term “Constitutional Monarch”. It should be noted that on the Continent the Kings remained ”Absolute Monarchs”.
The King needed money to wage war and it soon became the custom to negotiate taxes with representatives of the people. By the time of Edward I it was well established that the King governed with the help of his ministers, (appointed by the King) and advised by the Commons. The Commons had the sole right to agree taxes.
For such a system to work, it relies on the King being a strong dominant personality. This is not now the case and over the last few generations we have seen the monarchy becoming ever feebler until now we have a total non-entity as Queen. We have also seen the House of Lords being packed out with the sons of past politicians many with no merit of their own.
MPs began in the 19th century to organise themselves into “Parties”. These Parties have become a malignant influence on government. In particular, the ‘King’ no longer chooses the ministers from a pool of able people sitting in the House of Lords. A weak Monarch and self appointed Ministers based in the Commons means that the system has become distorted and malfunctions. The House of Commons provides both the Government Ministers and controls taxation. The Party Leaders are the effective rulers of the Country.
There are no checks and balances.
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