Such is life in the British Parliament

PODCAST: It looks like total chaos when British politicians debate in Parliament. But there is order in chaos.

Many Norwegians are interested in activities in the British Parliament. Life in the Palace of Westminster or the Houses of Parliament seems very different from that in the Norwegian Parliament. First and foremost in difference is his interest. The Upper and Lower Houses form a two-chamber system in the British parliamentary tradition. The British parliamentary tradition is the longest living in the world.

In this week’s podcast Pod Britannia, Trine Andersen and Erik Mustad talk about life in Parliament in London.

The Parliament of London is the highest Parliament of the United Kingdom, but there is also a Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland and two parliaments in Cardiff, Wales and Belfast, Northern Ireland. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, political institutions have internal autonomy, but are subject to the London Parliament in matters of foreign affairs, defense and security policy, among others.

Two-room system

The British Parliament is a two-chamber system. It consists of the Upper House and the Lower House. The upper house is the upper house of Parliament and is made up of appointed representatives. There is no option for a seat in the Upper House. It is the only unelected chamber of all Western democracies. The upper house is an ancient institution made up of nobles who sit in chambers for life.

The lower house is the elected chamber. Representatives from across the UK are elected in parliamentary elections. There are currently 650 constituencies across the country, and each constituency sends one representative to the House of Commons. It is in this space that politics takes place with debate, voting and Prime Minister Q&A Time. He Speaker which governs all debates and sessions in the House of Commons.

The benches at home are facing each other, and the government party is sitting on the right Speaker with the opposition party on the left. It makes the exchange of words lively and alive.

Parliament is opened and closed by the queen and a period lasts about a year with a series of interruptions. During recess, the House of Commons can be recalled if political events require it. It is the Prime Minister who recalls MPs through the leader of the House of Commons. The leader of the House of Commons is part of the government.

Parlamentsmedlemmene (members of parliament)

The elected representatives divide their time between Westminster politics and the constituency they represent. Fridays are often spent in constituent offices while other days of the week go to political parties, committee work and debate in the House of Commons. Government members also spend a lot of time in the ministries they control. Many members of government parties are not part of the government apparatus. They are called backbenchers and sit in the backseat, behind their party colleagues who are part of the government.

Members of parliament also have a number of official duties, both in their constituencies and as representatives of their parties in public. They care about issues in the constituency and through their party they are involved in proposing laws and changes to the British people. But they also act as individual elected representatives who on occasion may vote against their own party in polls held in the House of Commons.

Long tradition

The British House of Commons is much noisier and seemingly confusing than the Norwegian. With shouts, buoys, beeps, and people coming and going all the time, the sessions in the room can seem chaotic at times. But there is order in chaos. While much may seem random, the speaker list and posting order is planned. He Speaker who manages the debate and has an idea of ​​what’s going on in the house.

There is a high ceiling for strong and loud counter-arguments during debate. If the noise level becomes too high, shout Speaker «message, message» to calm the atmosphere. During the debate, one can also see members standing halfway. This is to catch Speaker attention to signal that they want something in return. Everyone who speaks in the House of Commons must stand tall.

Every day Parliament sits in line Speaker in a small procession from his office to his high chair in the House of Commons. The procession is open to the public and showcases the centuries-old tradition of the British Parliament.

As part of the procession, a sergeant carries a scepter, a scepter gilded with silver and gold. This staff represents the Queen’s power over Parliament and in itself symbolizes the king’s presence in the House of Commons. The scepter is a physical manifestation of the power of the crown (queen) and indicates that the crown is the head of the state itself.

The wand may date back to the 17th century, and during sessions in the House of Commons it should be on the table. If the scepter is not present, the House of Commons cannot do its job. It is not permissible to pass laws without the scepter lying on the table or hanging from the pole at the end of the table. The scepter was brought back to St James’s Castle after a long day in the room.

Life in Parliament has enlightened and perhaps sometimes entertained British people since live TV broadcasting began in BBC Parliament in 1992. Lively debate, loud representation and long tradition have also entertained Norwegian TV viewers and increased interest in British political life. Majesty and splendor, draped in historical ceremony and solemnity, make the British Parliament a major learning arena for politics, history and culture.

In the studio in this episode of Pod Britannia: Erik Mustad, senior lecturer at Agder University and editor of and Trine Andersen, editor-in-chief of

You can hear the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or on the website, which is behind the podcast.

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Matt Thompson

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