England's Silly Little Government
Trip Start Jun 20, 2009
21Trip End Aug 01, 2009
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Like the United States Congress, the English Parliament is a bicameral legislature, divided into two 'houses': The House of Commons, and the House of Lords. The House of Commons consists of about 650 Members of Parliament (MP's) that are directly elected. The leader of the 'Majority' party in the House of Commons becomes the Prime Minister. There is also the 'Opposition' party, which is the (larger) party that does not have a majority. There are three 'main' political parties in England: the Labour party (a rough analog of American Democrats), the Conservative 'Tory' party (a rough analog of American Republicans), and the Liberal Democrat party (a strange, rough hybrid of the American Libertarian and Democratic parties)
There is no 'Constitution' in England; rather, the foundation for its government is a complex tangle of ever-changing laws. Only a couple of clauses in the original Magna Carta are still applicable. Of course, the Queen no longer has any actual power in the English government. Yet, they love her and they're happy to have the royal family live on taxpayer money, thank you very much. The Queen presides over the House of Lords, which is, if you'll believe it, not democratically elected. Membership in the House of Lords is entirely by peerage; the most recent definitions of which were made in 1999. There is currently no upper limit in membership in the House of Lords, and their chamber is much bigger and nicer than that of the House of Commons, though I believe that neither chamber can fit all of their respective members at the same time. The House of Lords, however, has much less power than the House of Commons, and has no say whatsoever in the UK's financial policies. There are many other differences between the UK's and America's government, but I won't bore you with the details and I don't know all of them anyways.
Anyways, I saw both Houses, and I got to see the 'exciting' inner workings of the English government
After visiting Parliament, I returned to Trafalgar Square and found them celebrating 'Canada Day.' I didn't stay too long this time and instead visited the National Gallery, which is enormous and magnificent. I barely had time to see many paintings before I had to leave for the night's play, but I did manage to see two unfinished paintings by Michelangelo, several Raphaels, a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci, and a Botticelli.
The play that night was one of my most-anticipated, 'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett, starring Ian McKellan (!) and Patrick Stewart (!!)
On my way back I headed through the famous Piccadilly Circus, one of the coolest places in London, especially at night. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to do anything there but take a bunch of pictures, but I plan on returning soon.