Hi, everyone. And welcome back to Britain under the Microscope. 歡迎回來【閑話英倫】. Hi, 安瀾.
Hi Lulu, hi everyone.
安瀾, can I propose a topic today?
Yeah, of course.
You know I've been following up on the latest news in the UK, yeah.
I think I know what topic you would propose.
It looks a bit messy.
It is very, very messy.
And it's also quite difficult for people who are not British to really understand. So I thought it would be an interesting idea for us to actually talk about the government and the political system in the UK to give people just a general idea.
Yeah, well, to be honest it’s confusing for us as well. But I think if you don't understand the British government and the British political system, it can get very, very confusing.
So first things first, your political system is called君主立憲制, 叫constitutional monarchy.
Yes, we have a monarch, we have a king. But the king's actual power isn't really that big, they have a lot of authority, they have a lot of influence, but no real political power, so political power goes to our government, our Parliament.
All that I know about your government is that your government consists of two houses. 我就知道英國有上院和下院, 上院叫什么House of Lords.
The House of Lords and the House of Commons.
House of Commons.
So there is no actual Constitution in the UK, is there? it’s not like in United States.
No, unlike many countries, the UK doesn't actually have a constitution. Instead, it based on presidents.
我聽過一個叫做constitutional conventions, 叫憲法慣例, 就是沒有實際明文的憲法, 但是有憲法慣例.
So for example, we would have one law and then the judges would decide on how to interpret that law, and then there might be another law, then another law, then another ruling, and eventually it builds up into just common practice. And this has been going on for centuries.
So it's basically just referring back to how it was done before…
And changing when it needs to be changed.
But it wasn't always like that, was it? Like before at one time in your history, obviously, king or queen, the monarch did have actual power.
Oh, yeah. I would say that was years and years and years ago because there's actually been some kind of parliament since the 13th century over 750 years ago, we had a few rather bad kings, so the nobles actually tried to limit their power. And the first attempt to doing this was the Magna Carta.
Magna Carta meaning The Great Charter.
The Great Charter.
The Magna Carta, which means “great charter” in Latin, was drawn up by English barons (nobles) and church leaders to limit the king’s power. In 1215 they forced the tyrannical King John to agree to the charter. The Magna Carta stated that the king must follow the law and could not simply rule as he wished.
Yeah, so that was 1215, and you might hear British people talk about Magna Carta, but to be honest, not many people really understand what it was.
It’s probably what you learned in history classes.
But there are some very important things that were added to the Magna Carta including if you are convicted of a crime, you have the right to be judged by a jury.
So let's bring it back to the actual political system. We talked about the two houses. 我們就來說說英國這個議會制度, 首先說上院 House of Lords, obviously, this consists of lords.
Yes, so historically they were upper class lords, so they were the aristocracy, but nowadays it has slightly changed. There are around 700 lords and ladies, but most of them are what we call Life Peers.
Life peers, I think I've heard of this翻譯叫做 “終身貴族”, 聽起來好像很高大上, but it actually means they are only nobleman or noble woman for their lifetime.
Yeah, so they'll have the title for their lifetime, but their children won't have it. So this is the difference between what we call Hereditary Peers.
就是Life Peers實際上是不能世襲的, 像Hereditary Peers是可以父傳子，子傳孫這樣的.
但是life peer… it's just…it’s not so elitist.
The idea of having an aristocratic government is incredibly old fashioned, it’s incredibly elitist.
These people aren't elected. But again, this is gradually changing, and the House of Lords really they're not the ones that make the decisions, but they are the ones that provide a balance to the House of Commons.
I see. Actually that was going to be my next question.
Let's say all of these important decisions government makes, it's not really decided in the House of Lords.
It's more House of Commons.
House of Commons, how many people?
They’re around 650 members of parliament, or MPs.
所以大家在聽英國新聞的時候, 聽到MP members of parliament就是指英國的下院議員.
Yes, so each MP normally is part of a political party. Sometimes you have independence, but more often than not they are actually part of a political party. Each MP represents a constituency.
How big are these constituencies?
Well, it depends, some of them can be very big, particularly in the countryside. But for example where I live or where I was born in south London, a constituency is actually probably only five bus stops away, it's very, very small.
And each constituency there's only one MP.
Only one MP.
And this is chosen by people chosen through elections.
Yes, so MPs are chosen in a general election every 5 years. Sometimes if an MP resigns or has to otherwise leave, there's another election, but more often than not is they're chosen in a general election every 5 years.
I mean, when you were living in the UK you did vote.
Yeah, of course.
Right, but how does it work, within your constituency, how many people would be in the list for you to choose from, is it one candidate from one party or it can be as many as possible.
As many as want to become an MP.
Oh, and finally you will count the person who got the most vote.
Now generally when we are voting in the general election, we’re voting for a political party, we don't really know the representative that well, you do have a list of independence but more often than not you’re voting for a political party because the party with the largest number of MPs wins the election.
Okay, so it's not really like… it's more like the parties are competing.
It's not really like individuals are competing and running for the Prime Minister, it's more like you become the head of the party, and your party wins the election or wins more seats in the House of Commons. Then you automatically become Prime Minister.
That is it. It's very different from America. In America, Americans vote for a particular president. In the UK we only vote for the party and whoever is the leader of the party becomes the Prime Minister.
Yeah, I mean we talked about American election and American government in details with James earlier, so if you're interested, you can search for that episode.
But back to the UK, is that why Liz Truss就是為什么 Liz Truss非常短的這樣的一個Prime Minister. This is why she could become a Prime Minister without being voted… right?
That's because we voted for the Conservatives or the Tories in 2019. Generally there doesn't need to be a general election until 2024 because we voted in the party. Now if someone resigns as the leader like Boris Johnson did, then it automatically goes to a leadership vote within the party.
Oh, and whoever comes up as the new leader will just automatically, like Liz Truss did, becomes the Prime Minister.
Until she resigns.
Until she resigns, but ultimately they still need the support of the population, they still need the support of the general public. If the party feels that they are losing the support of the people, then they may force out the Prime Minister, and I think that's pretty much what happened with Liz Truss.
Yeah, and I guess this is also why there are talks about people, the public pushing for an early general election.
Yeah, so lots of the media, lots of newspapers and also Labor, the opposition, they are pushing for a new general election. The conservatives don't really want a general election because they know at the moment they are so unpopular that they are probably going to lose and lose dramatically.
Yeah, it is getting into rather complex territory, but I'm sure some of our audience, if you're more interested in political news, you might have already figured out how this works.
But I think we're gonna stop here before we confuse you even more, so we've given you really the basics about the parliament and how it works the basic system. In the advanced episode, let's talk about the prime minister a bit more.
We can talk about the prime minister and also talk about some of the issues that facing Britain and the government at the moment.
And also the main political parties.
On that note, thank you 安瀾 for coming to the show.
We'll see you next time.