Since posting about how Parliament was almost blown up… (thanks Guy Fawkes 😉 ) I have been on a tour within the Palace of Westminster and learned how the government actually works over here in England.
Few fun facts:
- The Parliament building is actually called the Palace of Westminster… because it was a palace first and then converted into the governmental building
- There is NO separation of church and government
- Big Ben is not the clock tower most people think but the BELL inside the clock tower
- Only one branch of the English government is elected by the people
To make this as easy as possible to understand, I will relate it to the US government. In the UK there are three branches, just as in the US: the Monarchy, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons.
The Monarchy can be related to the Presidency. However there are some major differences.
In the US the President has governmental power, the monarch (now Queen Elizabeth II) no longer does. The Queen is now the figurehead for the country, however she has no power within the government. The only day in the year when the Queen enters Palace of Westminster to open Parliament.
The House of Lords can be related broadly to the Senate. However there are HUGE differences. First off, members of the Church of England are part of this house. With no separation between the Church and Government it is important for their view to be heard. Another difference is that no one is elected into the House of Lords. The members are made up of large landowners, religious figures, and experts in their fields.
The House of Commons can be related to the House of Representatives. This is the only branch where the officials are elected to represent their area. These are also the people who draft and create laws.
Like the USA, one branch cannot pass a law without the other branch approving as well. There is still a check and balance system in place to ensure all views are heard, and a law represents the countries wishes. But there are some fun traditions still done to this day fraught with symbolism and meaning, as seen on the opening of Parliament:
My favorite part was seeing how the art, architecture, and colors change for each branch. The Monarch only has one room, but it is lavish and rich. And her seat in the House of Lords is 24 karat gold– fit for a queen. The House of Lords is all red with squishy chairs and ornate decoration- fit for nobility and officials of the Church. And last the House of Commons is all green, with a simplistic style-no fuss needed for these folk. But my favorite thing is how combative and argumentative the sessions are!
I will never understand how they get things done! But it obviously works!
Now I know this is a very vague overview of the English government, and probably not as detailed as it could be (and I stole most of the pictures, don’t tell!). But in one broad swoop… there you go!
Till next time…