The British Political System
The UK is both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The Monarch is the head of the State, the Prime Minister is the political leader of the UK and leads the government. The British Parliament is made up of three branches: the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Sovereign, currently Queen Elizabeth II, the formal and symbolic head of State.
The House of Commons is an assembly of 650 MPs (Members of Parliament) elected by the people in general elections every 5 years. The House of Commons meets in the Palace of Westminster. This is the body which has real power: it takes decisions financial bills and proposes new taxes. The Members of the Commons debate the big political issues of the day and proposals for new laws.
The House of Lords is made of about one thousand non-elected members who come from the aristocracy, so they are archbishops and bishops, or from the politics, so they are peers and peeresses. The House of Lords also meets in the Palace of Westminster and it has limited powers.
The two largest parties are the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, also known as New Labour. The third largest party is the Liberal Democrats.