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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
The British Government
Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

What is the difference between Parliament and the Government?

The Parliament and Government mean two different things.

  • Parliament represents the people
  • Government runs the country and is also elected by the people

The Government runs the country

Being a Member of Parliament (MP) is not the same as being in Government. The political party that has more seats than all the others runs the country.

For example after the 1992 general election the largest party, the conservatives, had 21 more seats than the all the others. This is called a majority. With such a majority they could out vote all the other parties, so they formed the Government. Their party Leader, John Major, became the Prime Minister.

After the 1997 general election the picture was rather different: the Labour Party had a majority of 179 and its leader, Tony Blair*, became Prime Minister. All parties aim to win a majority of seats. When they do, they become the Government.

In the 2010 general election no single party won enough majority of seats to form the government alone. So in order to form a government two or more parties had to join together. David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, formed a new government, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

A coalition is an alliance among individuals or groups, during which they cooperate in joint action, each in their own self-interest, joining forces together for a common cause.

David Cameron became Prime Minister and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats became his deputy.

The leader of the Government is the Prime Minister

The new Prime Minister chooses a team of people from Parliament who will run the country with him. Any MPs or Lords in the team he or she picks are now members of the UK Government.

There are normally about 100 people in a UK government.

The Government is different from Parliament.

The Government is also different from the the rest of the party who won the election.

Interesting Fact

England is the only country in the UK not to have its own separate parliament.

The Northern Ireland Assembly of 108 members was elected in June 1998. In May 1999 the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and a Welsh Assembly in Cardiff were established.

Despite Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having more control over their countries, the UK parliament in Westminster (London) retains responsibility for areas such as defence and foreign affairs. And they all have continued representation in the UK Parliament at Westminster in London.

How Britain is Governed | Parliament

House of Parliament | Elections | Government

Prime Minister | House of Commons

Making and Passing Laws


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