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UK Politics

The Northern Ireland Assembly has 108 elected members known as MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly ). The UK government kept the power to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly if the political leaders no longer agreed to work together or if the Assembly was not working in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. This has happened several times.

Towns, cities and rural areas in the UK are governed by democratically elected councils, often called local authorities. Many councils representing towns and cities appoint a mayor who is the ceremonial leader of the council but in some towns a mayor is appointed to be the effective leader of the administration.

Most of the money for the local authority services comes from the government through taxes. Only about 20% is funded through 'council tax'. It applies to all domestic properties, including houses, bungalows, flats, maisonettes, mobile homes or houseboats, whether owned or rented.

It's the task of judges (who are together called 'the judiciary') to interpret the law, and the government may not interfere with their role. Often the actions of the government are claimed to be illegal and, if the judges agree, then the government must either change its policies or ask Parliament to change the law. Judges cannot, however, decide whether people are guilty or innocent of serious crimes. When someone is accused of a serious crime, a jury will decide whether he or she is innocent or guilty and if guilty, the judge will decide on the penalty. For less important crimes, a magistrate will decide on guilt and on any penalty.

The police have 'operational independence', which means that the government cannot instruct them on what to do in any particular case. But the powers of the police are limited by the law and their finances are controlled by the government and by police authorities made up of councillors and magistrates.

Quango is short for QUAsi Non-Governmental Organization. Quasi (the 1913 Webster's Dictionary):
As if; as though; as it were; in a manner sense or degree; having some resemblance to; qualified; -- used as an adjective, or a prefix with a noun or an adjective; as, a quasi contract, an implied contract, an obligation which has arisen from some act, as if from a contract; a quasi corporation, a body that has some, but not all, of the peculiar attributes of a corporation; a quasi argument, that which resembles, or is used as, an argument; quasi historical, apparently historical, seeming to be historical.
Citizens of the UK, the Commonwealth and the Irish Republic ( if resident in the UK) can vote in all public elections. Citizens of EU states who are resident in the UK can vote in all elections except national parliamentary (general) elections.

The public can listen to debates in the Palace of Westminster from public galleries in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. You can either write to your local MP in advance to ask for tickets or you can queue on the day at the public entrance. Entrance is free. Sometimes there are long queues for the House of Commons and you may have to wait for at least one or two hours.

The Queen is the head of the Commonwealth, which currently has 53 member states. Most of the Commonwealth members are once part of the British Empire. Across the world, many former U.K. colonies use English as a major language, and their standard resembles the British standard , so called 'Commonwealth English'. Commonwealth English is not the official or most widely used language in some of the Commonwealth members, but it's extremely important in commerce and government — as is the case in Nigeria, Pakistan, and India. which is the second-most-populated country in the world.


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