United Kingdom flag United Kingdom: Economic and Political Overview

The political framework of the United Kingdom

Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
King: Charles III (since 8 September 2022). Predecessor: Queen Elizabeth II.
Prime Minister: Sir Keir Starmer (since 5 July 2024), The Labour Party.
Next Election Dates
General elections (House of Commons): 28 January 2025 (at the latest).
Current Political Context
Rishi Sunak took over as prime minister of a Conservative-led government in October 2022. On November 13, 2023, Sunak conducted the second cabinet reshuffle of his premiership. The next general election must take place no later than early January 2025; considering the improbability of holding elections during the Christmas period, it is likely that 2024 will be designated as an election year. As of the end of 2023, the polls show the Conservative Party maintaining a steady 27%, significantly lower than the Labour Party (45%), the primary opposition on the left. Consequently, Sunak is anticipated to delay calling for an election as much as possible, particularly to avoid association with memories of elevated inflation and ongoing strikes.
Although political tensions have somewhat subsided since their peak in 2022, they persist both domestically and internationally. The ongoing discord between the government and unions regarding wage issues remains, and a notable number of strikes continued to take place.
In the meantime, the relationship with the European Union has seen improvement following the announcement of the Windsor Framework - a comprehensive package of joint solutions responding to the challenges that have emerged in the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland over the past two years - in February 2023, which was subsequently adopted the following month.
Main Political Parties
The three dominant parties:
- Labour Party: left-wing socialist and social democratic, grew out of trade union movement in the 19th century;
- Conservative Party: centre-right; believes in free-market economy, strong military and traditional cultural values;
- Liberal Democrats: centrist, moderate pro-European, opposed the Iraq war and strong on civil rights.
Other parties exist, such as:
- Scottish National Party (SNP): centre-left;
- UK Independence Party (UKIP): Eurosceptic, right-wing populist;
- Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales: centre-left to left-wing, Welsh nationali;sm;
- Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW - Greens): environmentalist
- Alba Party: Scottish nationalist and pro-independence;
- Democratic Unionist Party: right-wing;
- Reform UK (Brexit Party): Eurosceptic.
Executive Power
The King is the head of state. But above all he plays a symbolic and representational role. He continues to exercise three essential rights: the right to be consulted, to advise and to warn. Following legislative elections to the lower house of parliament, the leader of the majority party or coalition is usually appointed Prime Minister by the King to serve a five-year term. The Prime Minister is the head of government and has all executive powers, which include law enforcement and the conduct of the day-to-day affairs of the country. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the Prime Minister.
Legislative Power
The United Kingdom has a bicameral legislative system. The parliament is made up of: the House of Lords (the upper house), whose members are appointed for life by the King on the proposal of the Prime Minister (the number of members varies, currently at about 800), 90 hereditary peers and 25 members of the clergy. The House of Commons (lower house) has 650 seats, and its members are elected by universal suffrage, for a 5-year term. The government is directly responsible to and dependent on parliament.

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:

Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Political Freedom:

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House


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Latest Update: July 2024