Welcome to the first post in my political series. If you want to know more about this or any upcoming posts please take a look at the introduction here.
This is likely to be a fairly long post, so if you want to save yourself some time, I suggest you watch the video. The video to accompany this post can be found here!
DISCLAIMER- I am not a political scientist, nor an expert and as a political activist I am still learning about the science and technicalities of politics. These are also my personal opinions or interpretations of the subject at hand but I have tried to be unbiased and simply offer the facts on the matter.
This post will cover the absolute basics;
- What being left or right wing means?
- How the British political system works?
- A few political myths that need busting!
What is the left and right wing?
When I think back to when I first started to ask this question I found it easier to imagine the political spectrum as a line, a plain and basic line. It’s straight, it has a middle and it has a left and a right. This simple line is the most powerful tool that you will have for understanding politics because by and large most parties can be defined as sitting either on one side or the other. Understanding this spectrum can help you to determine what a party stands for. Each wing has a set of moral beliefs that are important to it’s worldwide view and these beliefs then govern the parties politics and policies.
Yet within the spectrum itself there are many different layers with different parties having their own opinions on how to achieve their desired results. This means, for example, that while two parties on the left wing might agree about what they want to achieve, they probably disagree about how they are going to go about achieving it. As with all things, both wings have a gulf of different parities and there are moderate parties and there are extreme parties on each side.
I have drafted a rough political spectrum below but please note that this is by no means a concrete spectrum and sometimes the parties wiggle about a little bit. It is also my interpretation of the political spectrum.
The left believes in…
Their views are generally progressive, they look to the future and believe in taking society forward.
The political left aim to support those who cannot support themselves.
Their overreaching belief is one of equality and the freedom of opportunity.
People on the left of politics believe in society, unity and forms of collectivisation, hence they are more likely to support the work of trade unions.
They believe that everyone has a role to play in society and that those who have more should be able to help those that have less.
Typical left-wing policies…
Taxation as a means to redistribute wealth.
The welfare sate including the NHS, disability allowance and jobseekers allowance.
The National Minimum Wage.
Employment and human right laws.
Laws that protect “liberation” groups such as BAME, LGBT, women and the disabled.
The right believes in…
Economic freedom or Laissez Faire approaches and often opt for less regulation of the economy.
They believe in tradition and they are largely conservative in their beliefs. When you see conservative written with a small “c” it means the value and not the political party.
They generally believe that they shouldn’t pay for the misfortunes of other people.
Typical right-wing policies…
They often believe in the privatisation of national services.
They believe that businesses should be left to grow on their own and therefore do not support regulation.
They support stricter controls on immigration.
They rate freedom over equality.
They are less likely to believe in climate change or support measures to curb it.
What logo represents which party?
What is the “centre ground”?
These days the “centre ground” is a bit like the holy grail of British politics and the mainstream British politics tend to attempt to sit in this political area. The Centre ground is a combination of the right and left of British politics.
Some people have heavily criticised the parties and their leaders for this and is one reason why many accuse the politicians of all being the same. However I hugely disagree with this assumption. While you might argue that the political parties in the UK are not different enough, it does not mean that they are all the same and on some policies there are vast differences in opinion.
How the British political system works, the key words?
Parliament– The British parliament is the supreme law making power in the United Kingdom and currently sits in the Houses of Parliament on the River Thames in London. There are two chambers to the British parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords and both have a unique role to play in our political system. It’s role is to make, challenge and develop the laws that affect the United Kingdom.
House of Commons– This is the chamber where out publicly elected representatives or MP’s (members of parliament) sit. The elections for this chamber are held every five years, at which point the existing House of Commons is dissolved and we once again elect the people that we want to see represent us. In theory we are directly giving our power to the individuals that become the MP for our constituency and hence voting is incredibly important. The House of Commons is where the Government (usually the largest party or in the instance of a collation the largest party and it’s coalition party/parties) sits. The opposition party is then formed over the second largest party and their job is to challenge the government, to ensure accountability. The Commons alone is responsible for making decisions on financial Bills, such as proposed new taxes. The Lords can consider these Bills but cannot block or amend them. There are 650 MP’s but there are not enough seats for all of them!
The Cabinet– The cabinet is formed from the MPs of the governing political party (or parties) and is led by the Prime Minster. This committee of MPS are each tasked with control of a certain government sector, from health, benefits to international affairs and they are appointed by the Prime Minsiter. Once they are in their appointed role, they are regarded as Minister’s.
House of Lords– The House of Lords is often referred to as the “upper” chamber in Parliament and is the second key component of the British political system. The Lords shares the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the government. These are unelected representatives and the house is made up of peers, who have mostly been appointed by successive governments, religious figures and a handful of heredity peers. The House of Lords is often cited as being the last pillar to demolish before the UK has a real democracy and there is much discussion over the reform of the House.
Monarchy– In the United Kingdom the monarchy is still technically the head of state but unlike in the past when the monarch would have had a political role, these days it’s role is largely symbolic. The queen very rarely interferes in political affairs in the UK and only attends traditional ceremonies such as the opening of parliament.
First past the post– First Past the post is the largest voting system in the world and is the electoral system which the United Kingdom uses to elect MP’s. Under First Past The Post (FPTP) voting takes place in single-member constituencies. Voters put a cross in a box next to their favoured candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins. All other votes count for nothing. This is a heavily criticised system and many favour other types such as .
Devolution– Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. It is a form of decentralisation. Devolved territories have the power to make legislation relevant to the area. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have different types of devolution, with each having varying levels of power.
On Monday 27th April at 8pm I will be hosting my first political chat on twitter. The debate will be non-party political and will just be an opportunity for everyone to get politically active. The hashtag will be #bigblogdebate.
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