United Kingdom: Day 3 – British Politics

Dearest Summer, where are you?  I know it’s time for you to be here as I’m not currently teaching, but you didn’t the memo to come to Great Britain with me.  It’s be unseasonably cold and rainy here at Oxford which is just no fun for a Florida girl.  Luckily, I have spent a decent amount of time in my classes.

As of today, I have officially attended both my classes here at Oxford University in the History, Politics, and Society Summer School program.  I am taking courses on the Contemporary Middle East and Warfare in the Modern World (or as I like to call it, Modern Warfare.  It’s more concise and my students think I’m taking a class on a video game).  Luckily, we meet every other day AND we get Fridays off from these seminars.  Which means travel time in my near future!

We also have started our daily lectures that all the history students attend.  These lectures are broad symposium topics covering the different areas from all the history classes.  Yesterday’s lecture was on British Politics.  Let’s be real, British politics is something that I, as an American, know very little about.  I honestly know more about the royal family than the current political climate in Great Britain.  I could pick Tony Blair out of a line up and I know that he and George W. Bush were besties regarding the invasion of Iraq.  Does that count for something fancy British Oxford Professor?  No?

As this is an international program, I’ve realized how inept Americans are when it comes to our knowledge of other country’s governments.  I’m willing to bet that all the European, Australian, Canadian, and Chinese students could explain the American political structure and definitely name the current and past few US Presidents.  Whereas I couldn’t even name the current British Prime Minister.  😦 America, we need to step up our game and not be so unaware of the rest of the world.  So, if you are a bit clueless in this area (like me!), here is the basic run down on the current British Political situation:

WARNING: LOTS OF NERDY HISTORY TALK IS ABOUT TO BEGIN.

Great Britain has a Constitutional Monarchy with the Parliament holding the power.  The Queen is basically a figurehead (who does have to officially approve of the Prime Minister once they are elected).  The Prime Minister comes to power by being the leader of the party that won the majority in the Parliament.  Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have representation in the British Parliament as well (Northern Ireland is getting more and more freedom to do their own thing as long as they can somewhat behave and the IRA doesn’t kill anymore important British people).  Now, here’s the catch with this whole Prime Minister coming from the “majority” party… this party MUST hold 326 seats in Parliament (out of 650).  Currently, the party that holds the most seats in the British Parliament is the Conservative party with 307.  Oh no Conservatives!  You were 19 seats short of having your party leader be the Prime Minister.  That meant that the Conservatives had to make friends (or a Coalition) with another party  to combine their seats.  So now the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have a Coalition with the Conservative guy being the Prime Minister (David Cameron) and the Liberal Democrats hold the Deputy Prime Minister position (Nick Clegg).  Here is the crazy part – the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats (often viewed as the hippies) have to get along because neither want the power to fall back in the hands of the Labour Party (which is kind of like American Libertarian Party – less government involvement in businesses but also allows more human rights and equality.  This was Tony Blair’s party).  Whew, and that’s just HOW the system works.  The lecture I attended didn’t actually focus on most of this basic governmental structure, as the professor assumed we already knew all of this… yeah, right.  Instead, he jumped right into domestic policies and economic issues which could be a whole other post on it’s own.  Imagine how difficult this lecture was to sit through, not fully understanding the system when the weather has been completely dreary.  I’m lucky I didn’t fall asleep!

NERDY HISTORY TALK IS OVER.

So far my courses have been very thorough and they are helping me to gain perspective from different country’s point of view.  I’m super pumped to learn more in my Middle East class as the first session reviewed the basic history of Islam and the Islamic Empires (aka an AP World History teacher’s lesson plan).  The Modern Warfare class is bound to be eventful as well as the guy is ex-British military.  Now if only I knew more about military weapons and airplanes I could be buddy buddy with the professor like the guys in class…  I suppose I have a lot to learn about over the next three weeks!

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2 thoughts on “United Kingdom: Day 3 – British Politics

  1. Love to hear your adventures! So, while I know very few teachers who actually vacation during the summer, you seem to be packing in a LOT during your “break”. You make a veteran teacher proud to know the profession is in such capable and talented hands.

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