The British Political System

By André Mathiot; Jennifer S. Hines | Go to book overview

Introduction TRADITION AND ADAPTATION

GREAT BRITAIN is the traditional home of liberal institutions. She has been strikingly successful in preserving the balance, flexibility and aversion to violent change that has always been characteristic of her system of government, while at the same time making it singularly effective in discharging all the functions required of a modern state.

The temperament and traditions of the British people have enabled them to resolve their major problems of political organisation in a unique way which well deserves the attention of other countries.

Their political system has a number of features of particular interest. In the first place, it is the political system of a country which still ranks as a Great Power and whose conduct, both in peace and in war, continues to arouse the admiration of other nations. Yet it is not just the system of government of a single country. It has been successfully transplanted, with almost equally happy results, to what used to be the 'white' colonies of the British Empire. These almost invariably looked to British institutions as the pattern to guide them in their evolution towards Dominion status, and although they have now become independent sovereign states within the Commonwealth, this does not mean that they have in any way broken with the basic principles of the British system of government.

Another development of outstanding interest at the present time is the attempts now being made to install parliamentary government on the British model in various parts of tropical Africa. That the British system of government has already been adopted, in varying forms, in the other Commonwealth countries has strengthened the belief that it is capable of being introduced into other colonial territories. The gradual and cautious advance of these countries towards self-government and then towards responsible government provides further evidence of the singularly wide range of circumstances in which it is possible to apply a framework of political ideas that is entirely free from any kind of doctrinaire rigidity.

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