House of Commons (UK)
The House of Commons, or, strictly speaking, the Honourable the House of Commons, is the lower house of the British legislature. Together with the Queen and the House of Lords, it is one of the three components of the British Legislation.
The House consists of 650 elected members, who are known as Members of Parliament or MPs. Each MP is elected by a particular geographical area known as a constituency. By convention, the leader of the party which has the majority of MPs becomes Prime Minister and forms a government, with its members drawn from the House of Commons and, to a lesser extent, from the House of Lords. The party with the second-largest number of MPs becomes the official Opposition ("Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition"), and forms a "shadow cabinet", also consisting of MPs and Lords.
Elections to the House
Elections to the House of Commons are held when the Queen (in practice, acting at the request of the Prime Minister) dissolves Parliament. Elections must be held at least at five-yearly intervals.
Because Britain has three main parties (and a number of minor parties) and because each MP is elected to the House of Commons on the basis of winning the largest number of votes in his constituency (known as "first past the post"), the link between the overall number of votes won by each party nationwide and the number of MPs that it is able to return to the Commons can be relatively weak. The electoral system for the Commons has historically been criticised by the Liberal Democrats, who do particularly badly out of it. A proposed change to the electoral system from "first past the post" to the alternative vote system (as used by the Australians) was rejected by the British public at a national referendum held in May 2011.
The last elections to the House of Commons took place in May 2010. The current distribution of MPs is as follows:
Liberal Democrats: 57 seats
Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Irish unionists): 8 seats
Scottish National Party (Scottish nationalists): 6 seats
Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalists): 3 seats
Social Democratic and Labour Party (Irish nationalists): 3 seats
Green Party: 1 seat
Alliance Party (Northern Irish nonsecretarians): 1 seat
RESPECT Party: 1 seat
- Including Speaker John Bercow and Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans, neither of whom vote. Officialy Bercow does not stand for the Conservatives, instead listed as "Speaker seeking re-election"
- Including the Deputy Speakers Lindsay Hoyle and Dawn Primarolo, neither of whom vote.
- Sinn Fein have a policy of abstentionism and do not take their seats
- Sylvia Hermon, MP for North Down, had represented the Ulster Unionist Party since 2001. She resigned from the party shortly before the 2010 election, due to disagreeing with the UUP-Conservative pact.
- Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham, was suspended from the Labour Party in October 2010 after the Metropolitan Police began an investigation into his conduct.