Institutions and politics in the UK

This civilisation landmark provides a general overview of the institutions of the United Kingdom.

United States map

Map of the United Kingdom, image from


US flag

Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Countries: 4

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland

Capital: London

Monarch: Elizabeth II

Prime Minister: Boris Johnson

Legislature: Parliament

  • Upper house: House of Lords
  • Lower house: House of Commons

Population: 68 million

Area: 242,495 Km2

National language: English

Currency: Pound sterling (£)

NOTE: hover over words in blue for additional information


The United Kingdom: A constitutional monarchy

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy: government is voted into power by the people, to act in the interests of the people. Every adult has the right to vote (universal suffrage). The UK is also a constitutional monarchy. This is a situation where there is an established monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II), who remains politically impartial and with limited powers. There is no President in the UK.

Britain is unusual in that it has an “uncodified” constitution: there is no single legal document which sets out in one place the fundamental laws outlining how the state works. What Britain has instead is an accumulation of various statutes, conventions, judicial decisions, and treaties which collectively can be referred to as the British Constitution. Some of the documents this “uncodified” constitution is based on are the following:

Additionally, the constitutional system is based on Common Law (jurisprudence) and usage. European law is also increasingly impacting on the constitution. The UK is subject to international law as well. Parliamentary sovereignty is commonly regarded as the defining principle of the British Constitution. Other core principles are often thought to include the rule of law, the separation of government into three branches, and the existence of a unitary state, meaning ultimate power is held by “the centre”—the sovereign Westminster Parliament.



1. What type of government does the UK have?

2. Who can vote in the UK?

3. What is the name of the current monarch?

4. Who is the president of the UK?

5. Why do we say that the UK constitution is "uncodified"?

6. What is the name of the current prime minister?

7. What is the Magna Carta?

8. What is the defining principle of the British constitution?

9. How many branches is the government divided into?




Westminster, image from

Parliament comprises two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The Commons is publicly elected. The party with the largest number of members in the Commons forms the government. Members of the Commons (MPs) debate the big political issues of the day and proposals for new laws. It is one of the key places where government ministers, like the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, and the principal figures of the main political parties, work. The Commons alone is responsible for making decisions on financial Bills, such as proposed new taxes. The Lords can consider these bills but cannot block or amend them.

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. Members of the House of Lords (peers) are not elected. The House of Lords shares the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the government.


10. Name the houses making up the British parliament.

11. Who are MPs?

12. Are lords elected?

13. What is the function of Lords?

14. Which of these two groups of people can propose new taxes?


Political parties

  • The Tory Party (Conservative Party), founded in 1867. Originally representing landowners, it is now rather linked to the business world.
  • The Labour Party, founded in 1906. The influence of trade unions on this party tends to be reduced and those have been less and less influential in Tony Blair’s "New Labour".

Separation of powers

UK separation of powers, image from

Sources: and
More info:


15. What are the names of the most important political parties?

16. Which of the two is left wing?

17. Which of them is connected with trade unions and which one with businesses?

18. Which of the two holds the power now?


1. A parliamentary democracy.
2. Every adult.
3. Elizabeth II.
4. There is no president.
5. It is not only one document.
6. Boris Johnson.
7. The oldest document of the British Constitution.

8. Parliamentary sovereignty.
9. Three.
10. the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
11. Members of the Commons.
12. No.
13. Making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the government.

14. Members of the Commons.
15. The Tory (or Conservative) Party and the Labour Party.
16. The Labour Party.
17. The Labour Party is connected with trade unions and the Tory Party is connected with businesses.
18. The Tory Party.


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