Overview of London

Politics of London

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England's politics are tied to that of the greater area of the UK, but as the most populous nation, largest area, and greatest GDP, English are the well represented in UK politics. Her Majesty's Government is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Prior to the Union, in 1707, England was ruled by a monarch and the Parliament of England. Since the Union, England has not had its own government. The separation between the different nations is defined in the Bills of Exchange Act 1882, with the Companies Act of 1985 defining Great Britain is a single state.

England's head of state is the monarch of the United Kingdom, currently Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth has ruled since 1952 and will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in June 2012, marking 60 years on the throne. Under the British constitution, executive authority lies with the monarch; but currently this authority is exercised only by, or on the advice of, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

England's head of government is the Prime Minister, currently David Cameron of the Conservative party. The Prime Minister selects the remaining Ministers. The Prime Minister and the other most senior Ministers belong to the supreme decision-making committee, known as the Cabinet. Though power theoretically lies with the monarch, real power lies with the Cabinet members who advise the monarch as members of the Privy Council, and through the ability to exercise power directly as leaders of the Government Departments.


The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom. Located in Westminster, London, Parliament holds ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK. British Parliament invented the Westminster System, a parliamentary democracy which remains to this day the most widely used system of politics in the world.

The Parliament is bicameral.
House of Lords - Upper house. Includes two different types of members: the Lords Spiritual (the senior bishops of the Church of England) and the Lords Temporal (members of the Peerage) whose members are not elected by the population at large, but are appointed by the Sovereign on advice of the Prime Minister.
House of Commons - Lower house. Members are democratically elected every five years.
The Queen is the third component of the legislature, though her role is largely ceremonial.

The two Houses meet in separate chambers in the Palace of Westminster (commonly known as the Houses of Parliament). All government ministers, including the Prime Minister, are members of the House of Commons or, less often, the House of Lords, and are thereby accountable to the respective branches of the legislature.


English law is the legal system of England and Wales. It is based on common law and was exported to Commonwealth countries. This means that judges sit in courts deciding on cases, applying their common sense and knowledge of legal precedent (stare decisis) to the facts before them. Decisions in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom are binding on every other court.

England and Wales are constituent countries of the United Kingdom, which is a member of the European Union. Hence, EU law is a part of English law. The European Union consists mainly of countries which use civil law and so the civil law system is also in England in this form.

The oldest written law currently in force is the Distress Act, part of the Statute of Marlborough, 1267. Three sections of the Magna Carta, originally signed in 1215 is a landmark in the development of English law. Also called Magna Carta Libertatum, this English charter remains on the statute books of England and Wales.


The English political scene was once dominated by the Whigs and the Tories.

  • Whigs - Leading aristocratic dynasties committed to the Protestant succession. Received support from emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants. Evolved into the Liberal Party (which later merged to make the Liberal Democrates).
  • Tories - Associated with the landed gentry, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. Evolved into the Conservative Party.

More loose alliances than political parties like today, these groups were the root of modern parties.

The Electoral Commission lists the details of parties.

The UK's election system is "First Past the Post". Abbreviated as FPTP or FPP, this system operates by an election won by the candidate(s) with the most votes. The winning candidate does not necessarily receive an absolute majority of all votes cast. This electoral system leaves small parties disadvantaged on a UK-wide scale. It does allow parties with concentrations of supporters in the constituent countries to flourish (a referendum championned by the Libdems was held in 2011 in order to decide whether this system should be changed to the alternative vote - AV, which allows the voter to give second preferences ; the proposal was rejected).


London is at the center of UK and English politics. The Parliament of the United Kingdom is located in London, as is its civil service, HM Treasury and most of the official residences of the monarchy.

The Mayor of London is elected by London residents and the office is currently held by Boris Johnson (Conservatives) at least until the next election in May 2012. This should not be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London whose principal role is as ambassador for all UK-based financial and professional services. The office is currently held by David Wootton.

The London administration was previously called Greater London Council. Ken Livingstone (Labour) was leader of the GLC from 1981 to 1986 when the Conservative's government lead by Margareth Thatcher abolished it and leased the County Hall building.

In 2000, a London-wide government was restored with the creation of the Greater London Authority (GLA) by Tony Blair's government. Ken Livingstone was elected and held the position until his succession by Johnson in 2008. This new authority was made up of a directly elected Mayor and a London Assembly. London was also recognised as one of the nine regions of England. The new City Hall (London House) is a distinctive building on the Thames (shaped as a glass ball beside Tower Bridge in the south bank) and the headquarters for the GLA.

Update 10/05/2012

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