UK Government for Dummies… and Americans

UK Government for Dummies… and Americans


The UK held an election this last Thursday,
but it wasn’t a regularly scheduled election, it was a snap election, as sort of a way to
say “Okay for real though, Brexit, for real this time.” If you’ve heard anything about the results,
you know that it ended up being fairly controversial and anything but a landslide. After a few requests yesterday, I put my topic
this weekend to a vote on twitter. This is why you should follow me on there. As you can see, UK Politics only earned 43%
of the vote, so just like the Tories, it wins. Wait what? Not all democracies work the same way, and
here in America we have a number of misconceptions about other democracies in the world. Particularly when it comes to the United Kingdom. Because of that, in an attempt to explain
how the British government works, I’m going to relate it to how the US government works. So while this video is supposed to explain
the UK to non-Brits, I suppose any Brits watching could reverse engineer what I’m about to
say in order learn about the US, so yeah, two for one! First we need to get some structure and vocabulary
out of the way. The United Kingdom is a country that exists
in the British Isles. Some of you may know this, but the official
name of the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Where is Great Britain? This is Great Britain, the largest island
in the British Isles. On Great Britain, there are three countries. England, Scotland, and Wales. So the United Kingdom is a country, which
consists of four countries, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. If it helps, you can think of these four countries
like states, they have their own governments and parliaments which capitulate to the overall
United Kingdom government, just like states which fall under the federal government. The term British refers to the collective
government of the UK, and while you can call all of the people British, some of them might
take offense to that. Anyway… The first misconception: The queen is just
a figurehead. This is something Americans like to say because
it’s something they’ve heard over and over either from the media or in school…
maybe as a way to delegitimize the idea that the UK is still a monarchy? But it’s simply not true. Here in America we have a president. This president has many roles, like head of
government, head of state, chief executive, and commander-in-chief. These are all very different jobs, all lumped
into one person. But in the UK, they have two people. The Prime Minister, or PM, who is the head
of government and chief executive. And the Monarch, who is the head of state
and the commander-in-chief. Since in America, one person does all of these
things, we don’t really pay attention to what the differences are, and may not even
really realize they exist. So let’s break them down a bit. The head of state is the leader of the people,
not necessarily the government. In the United Kingdom, the government serves
in her majesty’s name and by her permission, but I’ll get to that later. In America, most of the background responsibilities
of the head of state are performed by the Secretary of State. In the UK, all of these responsibilities are
on the Queen. She appoints all ambassadors to other countries. In fact, the British Ambassador to the United
States is not “The British Ambassador,” he is a representative of the Crown, not the
government, and is therefore “Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States of America”
and the United States does not have an ambassador to the UK. It’s the “Ambassador of the United States
to the Court of St. James.” Which is the royal court of the Queen. In practice, obviously, they are ambassadors
to and from the government, but in reality, they are ambassadors to and from the Crown,
separate from the government. The Queen is also the commander-in-chief of
the military. In the United States, when you swear in, you
are swearing to uphold and defend the Constitution – which says that you will obey the lawful
orders of the President. But in the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth
Realm, you swear allegiance to the Crown. Not the constitution, not the government,
not your country. All of the ships in the navy are HMS, Her
Majesty’s Ship. Now, in practice, the government, under the
Ministry of Defence, spelled with a C, directs the day to day operations of the military. But in the end, she is the commander-in-chief. She has the ability to declare war, not parliament. It’s the reverse in the US. The President directs the day to day operations,
and the Congress declares war. The Queen has a number of other functions
that don’t necessarily come with a nice neat label. Like the President, she appoints all judges,
in England and Wales anyway. The court system there is royal. Until 2005, the House of Lords, which I’ll
get to in a moment, acted as the Supreme Court, but now there is a separate body, still appointed
by the Queen. The Queen is also the head of the church. Since we are a secular government and have
no state religion, we don’t really have an equivalent to that in the US, but if it
helps, you can think of her as the Anglican Pope. And like the President, she has final veto
power, or Royal Assent, on all acts passed by parliament – which then makes it a law. Just like how the President signs a bill from
Congress which then makes it a law. The Crown has not exercised its veto power
in over 300 years, but it is still there and is still possible. To make matters more complicated, the Crown
is also the head of state for most of the Commonwealth Nations, like Canada, Australia,
and New Zealand… which is why she is on all of the money there. She has less power there, but power nonetheless. So now let’s talk about the Prime Minister,
the head of government and the chief executive. This means that this person is the actual
leader of the government and runs its day to day operations. The Cabinet is chosen by the Prime Minister
and they mostly run government departments, much like the cabinet in the US. In the US we have a Secretary of State, a
Secretary of Defense, and twenty others, not all of them are heads of government departments. In the UK they have a Secretary of State for
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, a Secretary of State for Defence, and again, strangely
enough, twenty others. These names are usually shortened to Foreign
Secretary and Defence Secretary – again spelled with a C. Unlike the US, the UK Cabinet
does not require approval from parliament. So how is the Prime Minister chosen? This is what the election on Thursday was
about, but the people don’t directly vote for Prime Minister. We don’t directly vote for President either,
but that’s a complicated and- there are dozens of videos out there on the Electoral
College and for those of you who follow my channel regularly, you know that I have a
pretty strict “no beating dead horses” policy when it comes to my content- so I’ll
just leave it at. So again, how is the Prime Minister chosen? The United Kingdom has two houses of parliament. The House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is the upper house and
consists of 800 appointees by the Queen, yet another way that the Queen still has significant
power. House of Lords is actually the shortened name,
the official name is “The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.” They’re mostly hereditary position, but
they are bishops of the church, who are the Lords Spiritual, and most of the Lords, Dukes,
Barons, and Counts, who are the Lords Temporal. All acts of Parliament, go through them before
going to the Queen. They can scrutinize and amend acts, but they
can’t prevent them from becoming law. So if you want to talk about who the figurehead
is in this situation… The House of Commons is the elected lower
house, kind of like the US House of Representatives. The United Kingdom is divided up into 650
constituencies. You can kind of think of them like the 435
congressional districts in the US, but those are way larger. You have to remember that the UK is the size
of Oregon, with the populations of California and Texas crammed in. Typically, a constituency in the UK represents
about 70,000 people, whereas in the US, it varies dramatically because of the way we
apportion them by state, with the lowest being 526,000 in Rhode Island and the highest being
994,000 in Montana, but still on average, about ten times as many people. (710,000) Anyway, each of these constituencies
is represented by a Member of Parliament, or MP. And this is what people are voting for, they
don’t vote for Prime Minister. Each constituency is a race for both local
representation and for national government. Each Member of Parliament is chosen by a simple
majority which just means whoever got the most votes. Which means there are some constituencies
represented by MPs who only got 24% of the vote, but they were the highest voted candidate. And that can happen because the UK has a multi-party
system, unlike the US and our two-party system – they still only have two main ones, but
in the election on Thursday, nine parties won seats. The United States has 538 electoral votes
for President, and someone has to get 270 in order to win. The United Kingdom has 650 constituencies,
so a party must get 326 to win. I said party there, because again, people
are not directly voting for Prime Minister. They vote for their MP, who represents a party. The party that gets the most MPs choses their
Prime Minister, you usually know who that’s going to be before you vote. But what happens when no party gets the required
326, which is what happened on Thursday? They can form a Coalition Government. The Conservatives, or Tories, won 318 seats. The Labour Party, spelled with a U, won 262. These are the two main parties and you can
kind of think of them as the Republicans and Democrats and they hold somewhat similar views
on the issues with their US counterparts. The next biggest party is the Scottish National
Party with 35 seats, and as you might have guessed, only ever wins in Scotland, and since
Brexit they’ve been pushing for independence. Then with 12 seats, the Liberal-Democrats,
who formed a Coalition government with the Tories in 2010. And then the Democratic Unionist Party, with
ten seats, are the ultra-right wing party, if it helps, you can think of them like the
Tea Party. And then there are four other smaller parties
which I’m not going to talk about because… c’mon the screen is already pretty full. So the Conservatives and the Liberal-Democrats
had formed a Coalition Government in the past, which just means the two parties getting together
to cross that 326 threshold, elect the main party’s candidate as Prime Minister, and
they usually share some cabinet positions. Why didn’t they this time? Because of Brexit. The Liberal-Democrats are very much against
Brexit, while the Conservatives are apparently now for it. I say that with some uncertainty because the
Conservatives weren’t always for it. In the last general election in 2015, in order
to sway UKIP (UK Independence Party) voters, the Tories promised to allow a referendum
on the UK leaving the EU or British Exit or “Brexit.” That unstated coalition made them win. The Tories didn’t really think that the
people would go for it, but in 2016, they did… so David Cameron resigned. Since then there has been a lot of turmoil
in the UK over whether the people really honestly knew what they were voting for, so the new
PM, Theresa May called for a snap election. As I said in the beginning, this was more
or less a re-vote on Brexit without calling it that, in order to save face. So now that we’re caught up, back to the
election results on Thursday. The conservatives didn’t get the 326 majority,
so in order to make the process easier anyway, they have to form a coalition government with
one of the other parties. Labour is against Brexit, the Scottish National
Party is against it, the Liberal Democrats are against it, but the DUP is for it. And that’s who they’re going to form a
coalition with, which will put them at 328 seats. And that’s why I also didn’t mention the
smaller parties, because while they could form a coalition with the Green Party and
their one seat, that won’t really make a difference. The coalition with the DUP is controversial
because of their super right-wing stance on the issues, like being against abortion, gay
marriage and other LGBT rights, but they are for UK independence from the EU, so there
you go. Could the Labour party have formed a coalition
to get the needed 326? In theory, yes, but it would have had to include
the DUP AND three other parties… so no. So the Prime Minister is chosen by whichever
party has a majority in the House of Commons. Who then asks the Queen for permission to
form a government. They could, in theory, do away with everything
that is already established and form an entirely new government, which would likely be chaos
and they’d probably lose in a vote of no confidence, which is kind of like impeachment
but way easier, so they don’t. But then they fill the cabinet to lead the
various ministries. And because of that, the UK government is
described as a one-party government. Unlike in the US where the President can be
from one party and the Houses of Congress can be from the other. Everything from the Prime Minister on down
all belong to a single party. The second largest party in the House of Commons
is then known as the Opposition, and their leader is the Leader of the Opposition. That person doesn’t really have any power
outside of the one on one debate they have with the Prime Minister in sessions of parliament. So the next time you hear the American media
say that Theresa May was elected or you hear that the Queen is just a figurehead or tourist
attraction, hopefully now, you’ll know better. I’m almost to one year and one thousand
subscribers, so stay tuned for a special video soon! But if you enjoyed this video, or you learned
something, make sure to give that like button a click. If you’d like to see more from me, I put
out new videos every Sunday, so make sure to elect that subscribe button. Also make sure to follow me on facebook and
twitter, and join us on the reddit to make sure you have input on any of my future videos. But in the meantime, if you’d like to watch
one of my older videos, how about this one?

Posts created 22900

100 thoughts on “UK Government for Dummies… and Americans

  1. CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION: The parties I state are "against Brexit" were against it before the referendum. Now that the people voted in favor of Brexit, they are for a "soft" Brexit, as opposed to the "hard" Brexit that the Conservatives seem to be in favor of. The difference between the two is complicated, but mostly centers around trade with the EU.

  2. The house of lords can block, but moslt they dont because of a lack of elective legitimacy and the threat of the commons to reform the whole house

  3. So CGP Grey coloured N Ireland orange and then he colours it green. I feel like your doing this on purpose.

  4. Just to be clear the democratic unionist party is only a party in northern Ireland, and although they are quite right wing a more accurate comparison to the tea party would be UKIP, as they're a national party. However the first past the post system has usually meant they've never got that many MPs and they didnt win any in the election discussed

  5. Also, Theresa did not call this election to affirm Brexit, it was largely to crush the labour party that had been polling poorly, though when the actual election happened labour support held and they actually took seats, with the Tories losing their majority in the commons and having to do a deal with the democratic unionist party

  6. Also it's not an official coalition, not like the Tories and the lib dems back in 2010-2015, it's a confidence and supply deal, which just means the DUP has to help pass core legislation like budgets and stuff

  7. Hi! Love your content and appreciate your pragmatic and sensible view of things. However, it is pretty fair to say that the Queen is a figure head. Yes it is true that she holds many powers, including dissolving parliment for mot of her reign (she lost the power in 2011). However, she is expected never to exercise those powers against the interest of the government and its decisions. She could refuse to appoint someone as prime minister, or declare war on someone, but these powers are provided to her by the discretion of parliament. If she decided to exercise her powers in a dissenting way from what the house of commons has asked of her, they can just take that power from her with a simple vote. Which is the original point of parliament actually: curtail the monarch if need be. So it is true to say that she has these powers; however, she cannot use them against parliaments wishes, thus she is more or less a figure head since she exists solely to act as head of state. Im sure someone has brought this up to you before but I'm not reading those comments

  8. Man damn, according to the comments, this video is wrong about a lot of different things. The only thing I have to say is, if ypu can't explain a country's government, it must be a bunch of bullshit.

  9. Thanks man im trying to study for my Exam and this video really helped me refresh my memory. This video is well made and it is easy to understand.

  10. …but the Queen DOESN'T have any power. Not in practice. If she attempted to involve herself in politics without government permission, she would, ironically considering our past, be signing her own death warrant. The UK would become a republic. Even members of the House Of Lords are installed by the Government, the Prime Minister in fact and have been since around the late 1990s.

  11. Saying hello from 2019 after Theresa May's resignation. Thank GOODNESS she failed to win a majority in 2017. She clearly never wanted to deliver Brexit and in hindsight her 'snap election' was called so she could push through her 'Brexit in name only' agenda. Now we will be able to elect Boris Johnson, or a politician supportive of the people's will and make sure we depart the European Union properly.

  12. Army actually swear to queen and country, obligation to queen is mute if it contradicts a soldiers obligation to country

  13. I got halfway through this before I remembered I don't give a toss about politics. Thanks for reminding me.

  14. Just for reference the snap election wasn't a pseudo 2nd referendum, it was called so that May would get more MPs in parliament so she could whip through Brexit polices faster, though this is obviously not how it ended up going.

  15. Not sure if its been pointed out but we don't have hereditary Lords anymore since the passing of the House of Lords Act (1999)

  16. What would happen if a future monarch declared himself or herself to be an atheist? What happens to the church?

  17. The British cabinet members or ministers are chosen by the prime minister for dubious services rendered or to avoid appointing somebody of true ability. It is the same in the US?. It's certainly the same in the Commonwealth Countries. MP's aren't chosen by the people they're chosen by their party. Thirty five men in grubby raincoats or thirty five women in silly hats. They have no training and no experience and so the civil service has to do the job for them. If a minister upsets the civil servants that work for him or her those civil servants can shaft the minister or put into motion certain actions that show the minister in his or her true light. They basically refuse to help the minister who is totally useless without the backing of the civil servants. They may get the minister to make an announcement that the PM was going to make therefore making the PM rather angry who may even sack the minister.

  18. We in the US have a two party majority in a multiparty system like the Libertarian party got 3% of the votes in the 2016 election.

  19. 3904 Woah, hold up. tories are republicans?
    labour is democrat?
    politics is shifted way left in europe (or right in the states, depending on your reference point.)
    tories are closer to a left wing faction in the democratic party.
    labour is what american's would call "communists" even though they aren't.

  20. THE CONSERVATIVES DIDNT FORM A COALITION THIS TIME – its a supply and confidence arrangement. the difference is that the DUP have no cabinet positions. They got £5 billion instead.

  21. MPs do not represent partied, they only represent themselves. However, they themselves, can be members of parties, which can be viewed as a coalition of MPs in of itself.

    This is important to point out, because the basis of representative parliamentarian democracies lies not in which parties are elected, but which people one would choose to represent oneself. You don't vote on parties, but on people.

    In representative parliamentarian democracies, the MPs themselves (or rather usually, a majority of them) agree on which MPs should be allowed to ask the monarch to create a government.

    Though, this is mostly only by convention. In the past, it was usually the other way around, in that the monarch actively chose which MPs who should create in government. Technically, this is still what happens when a new government is created, but monarchs nowadays take a much more passive role.

  22. Only problem with this video is that you said that northern Irish people were british. British refers to the island of britian.

  23. Yes the queen does have all of those powers but she knows that if she does use her power above her ceremonial powers she would have her power taken away.

  24. At 1:30 this isn't really true as only Scotland has a parliament and Wales and Northern Ireland have assemblies. England has neither their own parliament nor an assembly. In fact England really doesn't have their own government separate from the British government at all.

  25. Disrespect for the US and its people seems to be common among the people in the UK. Maybe only the french are more disrespectful to the country who sacrificed so much for for Europe's. freedom then the UK. If it wasn't for the US, you would be speaking German now!

  26. the DU are not the goddamn tea party, they're the opposite of the SNP but in Ireland… Weird bout stance on abortion etc., you'd think they'd get on better with the irish…

  27. do not reply to this comment or i am big gay
    EDIT: it was a dare i'm not allowed to edit lol it to plz dont reply thx!

  28. Fun fact: the Queen is not in charge of the army, Parliament is. But the Queen does own the RAF and Royal Navy.

  29. This video has one huge flaw:

    All of the powers you've attributed to the Queen? Those are only exercized by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, and the Queen does not say no to the PM.

    In effect, the UK's (and the Commonwealth realms) system of government is democratic because elected officials, the PM and the cabinet, control the powers of the crown and carry out the duties of the Queen. In Canada, for example, the Queen appoints the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors on advice of the Prime Minister, the Crown (or the Governor General) appoints judges on advice of the Prime Minister, the Crown (Governor General) appoints Senators on the advice of the Prime Minister, and the Crown dissolves parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister. Nobody seriously believes that the Queen would ever make these appointments of her own volition without taking the advice of the Prime Minister, so in countries with the Queen this often just gets shortened to something like "the Prime Minister dissolves parliament."

    If the Queen ever tried to dissolve parliament without seeking the advice of the Prime Minister, Parliament would simply pass and act forcing her to abdicate. This is because the office of the Queen is actually controlled by Parliament, who get to determine who the monarch is and what their powers are, which is why it took and Act of Parliament to change the order of succession to include the elder daughter of the monarch over her younger brothers.

    There are a few powers the Queen holds onto, though these are often seen as non-political and somewhat personal. For example, the PM and cabinet get to determine who is on the honours list (who gets made a knight, etc) except for in the case of the Order of the Garter, which the Queen personally gets to determine since it's awarded for personal service to the Queen.

  30. A couple of minor nitpicks seen as though everyone else seems to be trying to hit the big ones.

    Firstly the UK isn't a country, it is a nation made up of four countries and a variety of territories.

    And secondly, for when you said "The Opposition" as the name of the second largest party, it's actually "Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition".

    That's my minor nitpicks.

  31. England doesn't have its own Parlaiment. Also the Tories and Labour can't really be compared to the Republican and Democratic parties. You Yanks are way off to the right dawg.

  32. Can't help but feel like you should have consulted with/collaborated with a British person when making this video..

  33. Something funny: if the government of any commonwealth nation wanted to sue another commonwealth government (or the uk), the lawsuit is titled as the queen of x vs the queen of y. She's basically suing herself.

  34. Your title bro. 😁😁
    Just..,,,nah.
    Well actually yeah.
    God we are stupid here.
    Not all of us, just most of us.

  35. There's an awful lot of simple Brits that think the queen is but a relic but fortunately for now not a majority, the monarchy is great Britain

  36. I don't understand how you were making this level of content for a year and were at less than a thousand subs. I haven't binged your videos in a while, and I don't really read dates too often, but I don't remember seeing a bad one. Doing that for a year and only getting a thousand subs is a travesty. Thanks for sticking through it.

  37. Oh, dear, the Queen is also the Leader of the Church or Popesse if you like. Carry on, jolly good show old chap!

  38. I recommend watching Jay Foreman if people want to know a little more, he's funny, education and his videos are to the point

  39. Objection: northern Ireland, despite being in the UK, is not in great Britain and thus calling people there "british" will probably result in a punch to the face.

  40. The queen doesn't have any powers. The minute a monarch tries to take over the government will take the power from them.

  41. Yes the crown has power but if it ever exercised that power when the people didn’t want it they would abolish it. So in reality the crown can’t do what it wants it can only do what the people want

  42. 4:00 okay but if the queen is the commander and chief and is in charge the military technically then how come and several different videos of watch they say that every time there's a new prime minister they write their orders for the Royal submarines that have the nuclear weapons on board and what to do if the entire British government is essentially killed or overtaking..? So I guess my question is why did those video say that the Prime Minister writes those final orders to the submarine captains instead of the queen cuz they specifically said it was the Prime Minister and that it changes every four years or however long it is that they get a new prime minister and they never read them they just dispose of them and write a new one

  43. So, who owns British Petroleum (BP)? That's right, the queen. The closest the US ever got to that was Devil Bill's little boy, John D.

  44. Erm… the Queen IS just a figurehead. That's simply just the truth. You need to understand that there are very blurred lines between what is officially true and actually true. That's largely because we don't have a written constitution. So officially, the Queen appoints the Prime Minister; in reality, she always chooses whoever can command support in the house of commons. Officially, the queen uses her various prerogative powers on the advice of her ministers – in reality, her ministers use her powers, irrespective of her opinion. Officially, every law requires Royal Assent; in reality, she has to say yes to everything. The constitutional position is very clear: the crown has no democratic legitimacy, so has no right to exercise its powers. The executive, however (i.e. the Prime Minister and the cabinet) DRAW their powers from the crown, and can exercise those powers because they have the support of the commons, and therefore have democratic legitimacy.

    Its really not that hard to understand. The queen can officially do loads of stuff, and reality can do none of them. She officially uses her powers all the time, and in reality never uses them. You really can't be much more of a figurehead than that.

  45. how can you only have around 7700 subs??? your mini documentaries appeal to the way my mind processes information. i know this is on an older video, and i have spent many a rabbit hole evening binging on your content. Keep up the good work!!

  46. Hey social justice warrior wannabe. Americans are no dumber or smarter than any other territorial group in the world so shut the fuk up

  47. For people whose race, language and culture belongs to themselves and their NAMED country… and americans*
    The title called for it. Expect reciprocity with such statements.

  48. The Labour Party is nothing like the Democratic Party. Labour is actually socialist, Democratic is liberal.

    Labour would also never stand with the Conservative Party in a coalition unless its wartime or a government of national unity.

  49. Fancy having a go at updating this now? Good luck understanding and explaining as eloquently 2.5 years on what the F😉😂😎 is going on now

  50. The democratic unionist party are not 'the ultra right wing party of the UK' they are a northern Irish party, who are fairly right wing and support NI remaining in the UK (hence unionist).

  51. Why did you leave the whole colonizing Ireland part out when talking about the DUP. Like you barely talked about Northern Ireland at all. You cannot discuss the DUP without discussing Scottish And English Presbyterian colonialism in the north of Ireland….To discuss the DUP without discussing their hatred of Ireland and the Irish is insane!

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