United Kingdom

Constitutional Background

Britain does not have a written constitution. There is no agreed mechanism for changing the (unwritten) de-facto constitution and not even agreement about what it actually contains. In this ICL-edition, some information about the legal system is provided covering the subjects usually dealt with by a constitution. There is a paperback draft constitution of an advisory group (Anthony Bradley et al.) available from the Institute for Public Policy Research (ed.), A Written Constitution for the United Kingdom, 2nd ed. 1993.

The current first-past-the-post electoral system, on the general election on 1 May 1997, put Labour in charge of nearly two-thirds of the seats in the Commons with only 43% of the national vote. The Tories received 30.7%, but only 25% of the seats. Liberal Democrats got 16.8% of the vote, but only 7% of the seats. Also, the Tories got no seats in Wales or Scotland (where they received 17.5% of the vote).

History and News

  • Sep 1997: Referendums about the devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales are successful.
  • May 1997: Tony Blair (Labour) wins parliamentary elections over John Major (Tories), installs a new government, and immediately gives independence to the Bank of England by limiting the directive activity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Labour wins 56 of the 72 Scottish and 34 of the 40 Welsh seats. 
  • June 1995: Greenpeace defeats British Government and international Shell oil company by consumer boycott after announcements of dumping oil tank 'Brent Spar' into the Atlantic. 
  • 9 April 1992: Tories are winning parliamentary elections (41.9%, 336 of 651 seats), defeating Labor Party (34.5%, 271), Liberal Democratic Party (17.9%, 20), and Others (5.7%, 24). However, the British electoral system of single-member majority constituencies results, in the two parties' winning of 93% of the seats with only 76% of the votes.
  • 28 Nov 1990: John Major becomes Prime Minister.
  • 6 Feb 1952: Queen Elizabeth II takes the crown.
  • 1945: Labour scores one of its rare electoral victories.
  • 1 Jan 1801: Establishment of the United Kingdom.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - 27.6.2020 / For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.