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Background The United Kingdom officially named the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland population 595 million was the dominant power in both the industrial and maritime sectors of the economy in the 19th century It played a leading role in the development of parliamentarian democracy and in advancing literature and science At its height the British Empire covered over a quarter of the globe Despite this overwhelming success the 20th century proved to be hard times for the UK The power held by the UK has been seriously depleted after its participation in the two World Wars Nevertheless The UK has managed to rebuild itself into a prospering and growing nation Political Structure The current political structure consists of three branches Executive Legislative and Judicial The Executive branch consists of the chief of state Queen Elizabeth II the head of government Prime Minister Anthony Blair and the cabinet of ministers who are appointed by the Prime Minster There are no elections the monarchy is hereditary and the Prime Minister is the majority party leader in the House of Commons The Legislative branch also known as Parliament is a bicameral house consisting of the House of Lords and the House of Commons The House of Lords consists of 500 members one-fifth elected and the others appointed The House of Commons consists of 659 seats all elected by popular vote and serve five year terms The Judicial branch is the House of Lords several Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are appointed by the monarch and serve a life term There are several parties in the United Kingdom The parties include the Alliance party the Conservative and Unionist Party the Democratic Unionist Party the Labor party largest party in the UK the Social Democratic and Labor party the Ulster Unionist party and the Welsh National party Lately these parties have been involved with such issues as the campaign for nuclear disarmament the confederation of
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