Easy peasy politics: How it all works

Introduction

What happens after citizens vote? Who has the power?

United Kingdom (UK) Parliament

The UK Parliament are the two chambers in the Palace of Westminster, referred to as the House of Commons and House of Lords. These two chambers play an important part in the legislative process in the UK as they have to verify that the government is making appropriate decisions. Parliament has great power as it is Sovereign, which means that Parliament has the highest authority in the UK.

Westminster

When you vote in a General Election, you will be electing a Member of Parliament to represent you in Parliament at Westminster, London.

House of Commons

Your Member of Parliament will sit on one of the green seats in the House of Commons (if they’re lucky - there aren't enough seats for everyone to sit on!) Your MP will usually be a member of a political party and each political party will compete to gain as many of the 650 seats as possible in each election.

House of Lords

The House of Lords is different in that its members are not elected. 92 Lords are hereditary peers and 26 Church of England bishops have the right to sit there. The rest have been appointed by the Prime Minister.

UK Government

If we think about how the UK government is formed, it becomes apparent why each party competes so vigorously to gain seats in the House of Commons.

  • The Prime Minister

An election does not take place to select a Prime Minister in the UK as in some other countries. The leader of the largest party in the House of Commons becomes the Prime Minister. Therefore, the party with the most seats occupies the highest position in UK politics.

  • The Cabinet

As there is so much work involved in governing a country, the Prime Minister needs support. The Prime Minister will select MPs from the House of Commons and members of the House of Lords to be ministers. The group made up of the Prime Minister and the most important ministers is called the cabinet. Together, the cabinet has the power to make all UK government decisions. The cabinet therefore governs the UK.

Every member of the government comes from the largest party in Parliament or one that is part of a coalition.

Every member of the government is part of Parliament but not every MP is part of the government.

Remember however, that the government is accountable to Parliament because Parliament is Sovereign.

Devolution

Devolution means shifting power from the centre to the edges. Tony Blair's Labour government wanted to distribute some of the powers of the UK Parliament to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In 1997, a referendum was held in Wales and a separate one in Scotland where the people of both countries voted in favour of devolution.

Which powers?

Senedd Cymru was given the power to make decisions in 20 areas, including:

  • agriculture
  • culture
  • economic development-
  • education
  • the environment
  • health
  • transport
  • local government
  • tourism
  • the Welsh Language

However, the UK Parliament held on to some powers, for example:

  • foreign affairs
  • police and justice
  • currency
  • most benefits
  • most taxes

When it was first established in 1999 until May 2020, Senedd Cymru in Cardiff Bay was called Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru (National Assembly for Wales).

Senedd Cymru

Senedd Cymru is the body which contains 60 Members of the Senedd. They are elected in Wales Elections to represent the people of Wales. Its role is to legislate, agree on some Welsh taxes and to make sure that Welsh Government makes appropriate decisions.

There are 40 constituencies in Wales and one person represents each constituency. There are five regions in Wales and four people represent each of those regions, which means an additional 20 members. This makes a total of 60 members.

Welsh Government

The Welsh Government is the devolved governance of Wales. Similar to UK Government, members of the Welsh Government come from Senedd Cymru.

The First Minister is the leader of the largest party, and the First Minister has the power to decide who will be in the cabinet. Members of the cabinet will be selected from the Senedd and are usually members of the largest party or the coalition.

Easy peasy politics
BBC Young Reporter
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