Who’s in charge of Britain? Well, it’s the Prime Minister, isn’t it? The one we voted for? Actually, no he isn’t. Not only is the Prime Minister not in charge of Britain, but we didn’t even vote for him. The Prime Minister is officially just an adviser to the real head honcho QUEEN: Me!
JAY: Yes, an old lady lucky enough to be descended from a family with the most violent army is our Head of State. It’s officially her country and her laws. Except, you know that’s not really how it works. Our parliament is a baffling thousands of years old institution that’s been around for hundreds of years. And it’s changed so much that the word “officially” means diddly-squat. So, how is the country actually run? What does the Prime Minister do? Who does the government? Why am the there backbenchers? Government how Home Secretary the is? Parliamentary where cabinet reshuffle opposition right honourable what? (♪♪♪) Britain is a democracy, which means we the people decide how the country is run. But instead of squeezing 64 million people into the house of commons, We have 650 people representing all of us. How are they choosed? The country has been carefully divi-eugh.. *click* Aahh, has been carefully divided into 650 constituencies Each one containing roughly 70,000 voters. Every 5 years there’s a general election. We put an ‘X’ next to the person we like best, then the person with the most votes becomes our constituency’s Member of Parliament Or ‘MP’. Now, even though technically anyone can put themselves up for election – and they often do – They’re almost always a member of a political party. But, what is a political party? Broadly speaking, it’s a group of people that all feel the same way about how the country should be run. They have a party headquarters and a logo and a favourite colour. If you’re a member of one of these parties, you’re much more likely to get voted for, because people know what you stand for. And, political parties have got money to help with posters and leaflets and things. There’s nothing in the rule book that says there needs to be such thing as political parties. They’ve just naturally come about. In theory, you could have a parliament made up entirely of independent party-less MPs, It’s just never happened, and they probably wouldn’t agree on anything. So that’s how the House of Commons gets its 650 MPs. And now this is where She comes in. QUEEN: Rehh! JAY: The Queen politely asks one of the MPs to be her Prime Minister. This is a tradition that dates back to the years of King George I who needed an advisor to help run the country because he only spoke German. Officially, the Queen can pick whomever she likes, but so far she’s always gone for the leader of the party with the most MPs. The Prime Minister then chooses a crack team of his best friends to form the Government. A small group of people who do the actual day-to-day running of Britain. As in coming up with new laws, deciding where to spend our money, deciding how to get our money etc, etc. The Prime Minister’s job is to decide who does what, swap them around every-so-often, and give them a massive b******ing if they f**k up. But the Government can’t do whatever it likes. It needs to be kept in check and challenged on every decision it makes. That’s mainly the job of the party that came second in the General Election. They’re called the ‘opposition’. They pretend they’ve got Government jobs and show you what they would have done if they’d won instead. Again, there’s nothing in the rule book about any “opposition”. In fact, the opposition wasn’t mentioned in law at all until 1937 when they had to agree how much the leader of the opposition should be paid. So what about the rest of the MPs who don’t get a job either in the Government or the Shadow Cabinet? They’ve still got a very important job to do. They’re called backbenchers, because they sit on the back benches, which are at the back, and are benches. It’s their job to represent us, the ordinary folk, in Parliament. And they do this by voting on things. Every time someone comes up with a potential new law, known as a bill, our MPs argue about it for ages and ages and then decide “aye” or “no” in a vote. “The ‘ayes’ to the right: 400”.
They use the word ‘aye’ instead of ‘yes’ because they’re pillocks. In theory, the MPs decide for themselves how to vote, but the slightly depressing news is, they’re normally told how to vote by the leader of their party. Party leaders employ people literally called ‘Whips’ whose job it is to go around making threats and promises so that MPs vote as they’re told. It’s the only way you can get more than half of the room to vote the same way. It may seem like an insult to democracy, but the… (trails off)…. actually that’s pretty hard to justify. Once a bill gets liked by the House of Commons, it gets sent on a piece of paper to the room next door: The House of Lords. But they’re really weird and complicated and I can’t be bothered to talk about them right now. So they’re a story for another time. Bills get sent back and forth like an onion between the two houses until ultimately, one person gets the final say on what becomes a law. QUEEN: Oh, go on then! Isn’t that insane that we actually live in a monarchy? It’s 2000 and something, not 13-something! Gradually over time, the Queen’s role has become more and more ceremonial, and she does more and more nothing. Her powers still exist, and in theory the Queen could veto any law she doesn’t like. But she knows full well that if she tries to exercise any of her theoretical power, and defy the MPs that we the people voted for, …there’ll be an instant revolution and we’ll set her palace on fire. It’s easy to forget all of this. When there’s an election on, the media make it feel like you’re choosing a Prime Minister. But you’re not. And you’re not choosing a party either. You’re choosing a person, your local MP who just happens to be a member of a party, who just happens to have a party leader. So who’s in charge of Britain? In an official sense, her. In a technical sense, him. In a practical sense, them. In an idealistic sense, us. But the real answer? Pfft, dunno.