Section 1. Read and study.
1.1. Look through these questions before reading the text.
1. What is meant by “constitutional monarchy” and “parliamentary
2. Why is the British Constitution one of the most notable features of
the British system of government?
3. Why does Britain not have a written constitution? Does it need one?
4. What are the sources of the British constitution?
Britain is a constitutional monarchy. That means it is a country
governed by a king or queen who accepts the advice of parliament. It is
also a parliamentary democracy. That is, it is a country whose
government is controlled by a parliament which has been elected by the
people. In other words, the basic system is not so different from
anywhere else in Europe. The highest positions in the government are
filled by members of the directly elected parliament. In Britain, as in
many European countries, the official head of state, whether a monarch
(as in Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark) or a president (as in
Germany, Greece and Italy) has little real power.
However, there are features of the British system of government
which make it different from that in other countries and which are not
‘modern’ at all. The most notable of these is the question of the
Britain has a constitution, but not as an authoritative document or
set of rules which describes the powers and duties of government
institutions and the relations between them. It is not unwritten; rather, it
is uncodified. There is no single written document which can be
appealed to as the highest law of the land and the final arbiter in any
matter of dispute. Nobody can refer to ‘Article 6’ or ‘the first
amendment’ or anything like that, because nothing like that exists.
Instead, the principles and procedures by which the country is
governed and from which people’s rights are derived come from a
number of different sources. They have been built up, bit by bit, over the
centuries. Some of them are written down in laws agreed by Parliament,
some of them have been spoken and then written down (judgements
made in a court) and some of them have never been written down at all.
For example, there is no written law in Britain that says anything about
who can be the Prime Minister or what the powers of the Prime Minister
are, even though he or she is probably the most powerful person in the
country. Similarly, there is no single written document which asserts
people’s rights. Some rights which are commonly accepted in modern
democracies (for example, the rights not to be discriminated against on
the basis of sex or race) have been formally recognised by Parliament
through legislation; but others (for example, the rights not to be
discriminated against on the basis of religion or political views) have
not. Nevertheless, it is understood that these latter rights are also part of
Most written constitutions are adopted by states which are newly
independent or have suffered a rupture in their evolution (e.g. France in
1958). In the case of Britain, we cannot date the system of government
or set of rules as being constituted at one point in time.
The British system has been widely admired. Britain prepared
written constitutions for many of the colonies when they became
independent and many states, in drawing up constitution, tried to copy
Sources of the British constitution
1. Common law, or traditions and customs administered by the old
common law courts, e.g. freedom of expression, which have come to be
accepted as constituting the law of the land.
(a) Statutory, or parliamentary, law overrides common law and
provides a substantial written part of the constitution. It
includes such measures as the Act of Union, 1707, the Bill
of Rights, 1689, etc.
(b) Judges’ interpretations of statute law, or “judicial Review’,
as it is called. Judges do not decide on the validity of laws
duly passed by Parliament but on whether the law has been
applied properly (e.g. in 1975, when the courts found
against the Minister's of Education interpretation of his
discretionary power in refusing to allow Tameside to select
for secondary education)
3. Conventions are rules which, lack the force of law but have
been adhered to for so long that they are regarded as binding. Examples
include the resignation of the Prime Minister following defeat on a no-
confidence vote in the Commons; the Sovereign’s assent to a Bill passed
Conventions loom large as an element in the British constitution:
they are the key to its flexibility. Many essential features of the political
system – e.g. ministerial responsibility, collective responsibility,
occasions for a dissolution of Parliament, and constitutional monarchy
are all largely the product of convention.
1.2. Give the English equivalents to the following Russian words and
1. занимать основные посты в правительстве
2. официальный (исходящий от законной власти) документ
3. статья конституции
4. поправка (к конституции)
5. происходить из разных источников
6. отстаивать права
7. подвергаться дискриминации по какому-либо признаку
8. перелом, резкий поворот в развитии (государства)
9. общее право
10. статутное право
11. конституционные соглашения
12. вотум недоверия
13. королевская санкция
14. роспуск Парламента
Use the above given text and the glossary (2.2) to discuss the
constitutional process in Britain and in your own country.
constitution конституция, основной закон
“unwritten” constitution «неписаная конституция», в
Великобритании нет конституции в
полном смысле этого слова, ее
заменяют Парламентские статуты
(статутное право), конституционные
обычаи (соглашения) и общее
to adopt a constitution принять конституцию
to draft (draw up) a constitution составить проект конституции
Constitutional / unconstitutional конституционный / противоречащий
democracy 1. демократия
2. демократическое государство
inroads on democracy наступление (посягательство) на
to set up a facade of democracy создавать видимость демократии
to advance democracy развивать демократию дальше
to new levels
assaults on democratic liberties наступление на демократические
a sustained attack on democracy непрекращающееся наступление на
institutions and rights демократические институты и права
to extend (restrict) расширить (ограничить)
democracy rights демократические права
Common law общее, некодифицированное право,
основанное на прецеденте
statutory (statute) law статутное право, «писаный закон»;
закон, принятый Парламентом
Convention(s) Конституционные соглашения
(обычаи) в Великобритании
Section 3. Read the article, do task 3.2 given below the text.
THE MODERN SITUATION
During the last half century, the traditional confidence in the
British political system has weakened. At first sight, this phenomenon
seems paradoxical. After all, the general direction of public policy has
been the same for several decades, suggesting stability and a high level
of public confidence. Two developments may help to explain it.
The first concerns the perceived style of politics. Top politicians have
always had various personal advisers to help them with matters of policy
and presentation (for instance by writing their speeches). But in recent
years it is their public relations advisers, whose job is to make them look
good in the media, who have become their closest (and therefore most
powerful) advisers. To characterize this role and the importance attached
to it, the word “spin doctor” has entered the British vocabulary. The
second is a more serious matter. It concerns the style of
democracy and it has constitutional significan-
censorship laws, ce. There are signs that the traditional right
but they relate only of the individual to freedom from interference
to obscenity and by the state is being eroded. The proliferation
onational security. of CCTV cameras is one example. Another is
t There is a law the national DNA database. In 2007, about
5%against blasphemy, 5% of the population had their DNA stored
but it refers only to
on police databases. This proportion is
religion. growing rapidly. A further example is the
Moreover, the increased powers the authorities have to
tendency in the search people and their homes and to detain
them half of the them without charging them. Under the
presen present anti-terrorist laws, a suspect can be
kehas been to apply kept in police custody for 42 days without
both types of law
charge. as possible
and to give priority have not take place without protest. But it seems
to fear of crime,
that the principle of illegal immigration and terrorism have been enough to
There has been a long history of migration from Scotland, Wales
and Ireland to England. As a result there are millions of people who live
in England but who would never describe themselves as English. They
may have lived in England all their lives, but as far as they are
concerned they are Scottish or Welsh or Irish - even if, in the last case,
they are citizens of Britain and not of Eire. These people support the
country of their parents or grandparents rather than England in
sporting contests. They would also, given the chance, play for that
country rather than England.
There is, in fact, a complicated division of loyalties among many
people in Britain, and especially in England. But the same person is
quite happy to support England just as passionately in a sport such as
football, which the West Indies do not play. A person whose family are
from Ireland but who has always lived in England would want Ireland to
beat England at football but would want England to beat (for example)
Italy just as much. This crossover of loyalties can work the other way as
well. English people do not regard the Scottish, the Welsh or the Irish as
'foreigners' (or, at least, not as the same kind of foreigners as other
foreigners!). An English commentator of a sporting event in which a
Scottish, Irish or Welsh team is playing against a team from outside the
British Isles tends to identify with that team as if it were English.
A wonderful example of double identity was heard on the BBC
during the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992. The commentator for the
BBC was Terry Wogan. Mr. Wogan is an Irishman who had become
Britain's most popular television talk-show host during the 1980s.
Towards the end of the programme, with the voting for the songs nearly
complete, it became clear that the contest (in which European countries
compete to present the best new popular song) was going to be won by
either Ireland or the United Kingdom. Within a five-minute period, Mr.
Wogan could be heard using the pronoun 'we' and 'us' several times;
sometimes he meant the UK and sometimes he meant Ireland!
blasphemy [blæsfimi] or bad language about God or holy
things – богохульство
obscenity smth offensive to accepted ideas or morality,
indecent – непристойность
CCTV cameras - closed-circuit TV cameras
1. What are the main developments that may help to explain the
weakening confidence in the British political system?
2. Why has the role of “spin doctors” become so powerful in the modern
3. In what kind of a society could an unwritten constitution work?
4. Do you think Russia is a multicultural society? Why?
5. Are there any distinct national loyalties in your country? If so, is the
relationship between the 'nations' in any way similar to that between the
nations in Britain? Do these loyalties cause problems in your country?
FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
The Scottish Parliament
Before the 1980s, most Scottish people, although they insisted on many
differences between themselves and the English, were happy to be part of the UK.
But there was always some resentment about the way their country was treated by
the central government in London. From the mid 1980s onwards, opinion polls
consistently showed that a majority of the Scottish population wanted either
internal self-government within the UK or complete independence. A referendum
finally decided the issue and in 1999, nearly 300 years after it abolished itself, the
Scottish Parliament was reborn. It has considerable powers over internal Scottish
Support for the Scottish Parliament has grown since that time, and currently
the Scottish National Party (SNP), which wants complete independence from the
UK (but with the English monarch as the head of state too), is the largest party in
the Scottish Parliament. The present arrangement puts pressures on the relationship
between Scotland and England.
The existence of two parliaments in Great Britain, one for the whole of the
UK and one for Scotland alone, has led to a curious situation which is known as
the West Lothian question (this being the name of the British parliamentary
constituency whose MP first raised it). Westminster MPs cannot vote on matters of
health, education, law and order, or welfare in Scotland because Scotland has a
separate parliament which decides these matters. They only decide these matters
for England and Wales. But they include in their number, of course, MPs from
Scotland, who are thus able to vote on matters which have nothing to do with the
people they represent! At the same time, these MPs do not have a vote on matters
of great concern to those people because, again, Scotland has a separate parliament
for these things! The situation has caused some resentment in England.
NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY
The New Northern Ireland Assembly was constituted under the Northern
Ireland (Elections) Act 1998. 108 members were elected to the Assembly on the 25
June 1998 by Proportional Representation from the existing 18 Westminster
constituencies. But it was only in 2007 that internal self-government, with an
elected assembly and a cross-party cabinet, was firmly established. Ironically, the
new “First Minister” (a Protestant) and “ Deputy First Minister” (a Catholic) were
people who each came from the more extremist wings of their communities. But
nothing could be more indicative of the changed climate than the fact that during
the ceremony in which they took up their new positions, while these two former
mortal enemies sat chatting and joking together over a cup of tea, the only trouble
which police encountered was from demonstrators protesting against the Iraq war!
The Assembly has full legislative and executive authority in respect of the
Finance and Personnel
Health and Social Services
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES
The Welsh Assembly was set up in the same year as the Scottish
Parliament, 1999. Its powers are much more limited than those of the Scottish
body. However, in Wales too, there is growing support for greater self-
Section 1. Read and study
1.1. Look through these questions before reading the text.
1. What are the powers of the Queen from the evidence of written law?
2. What are the real powers of the Queen?
3. Why does the British Prime Minister continue to “advise” and
“request” the Queen, when everybody knows that he or she is really
telling her what to do? What then, is the monarch’s role?
4. Why is it believed that the British monarchy is probably more
important to the economy of the country than it is to the system of
5. The attitude of the British people towards their royal family has
changed over the last quarter of the twentieth century. In what way
has it changed, and what demonstrates that there has been a change?
Why do you think this has happened?
6. Would you advise the British to get rid of their monarchy?
7. Do you think your country would benefit from having a figurehead
who could perform the functions of a monarch?
The monarchy and the Commonwealth. The British people
look to the Queen not only as their head of State, but also as the symbol
of their nation’s unity. The monarchy is the most ancient secular
institution in Britain. During the last thousand years its continuity has
only once been broken (by the establishment of a republic which lasted
from 1649 to 1660) and, despite interruptions in the direct line of
succession, the hereditary principle upon which it was founded has
always been preserved. The royal title in Britain is: ‘Elizabeth the
Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen,
Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith’. The form of the
royal title is varied for those other member states of the Commonwealth
of which the Queen is head of State, to suit the particular circumstances
of each. The Commonwealth countries where the Queen is head of State
include Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize,
Canada, Grenada, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and others. Some
member states of the Commonwealth are republics or have their own
The seat of the Monarchy is in Great Britain, while in other
member nations of the Commonwealth the Queen is represented by the
Governor–General, appointed by her on the advice of the ministers of
the country concerned and completely independent of the British
The appearance. The position of the monarch in Britain is a
perfect illustration of the contradictory nature of the constitution. From
the evidence of written law only, the Queen has almost absolute powers,
and it all seems very undemocratic. The American constitution talks
about ‘government of the people for the people by the people’. There is
no law in Britain which says anything like that. If fact, there is no legal
concept of ‘the people’ at all.
Every autumn, at the state opening of
The house of Windsor
Parliament, Elizabeth II, who became Windsor is the family
Queen in 1952, makes a speech. In it, she name of the royal family.
says what ‘my government’ intends to do The press sometimes refers
in the coming year. And indeed, it is her to its members as ‘the
government, not the people’s. As far as the Windsors’. Queen Elizabeth
law is concerned, she can choose anybody is only the fourth monarch
she likes to run the government for her. with this name. This is not
because a ‘new’ royal family
There are no restrictions on whom she took over the throne of
picks as her Prime Minister. It does not Britain four reigns ago. It is
have to be somebody who has been because George V,
elected. The same is true for her choices of Elizabeth’s grandfather,
people to fill some hundred or so other changed the family name. It
ministerial positions. And if she gets fed was Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but
up with her ministers, she can just dismiss during the First World War it
was thought better for the
them. Officially speaking, they are all king not to have a German-
‘servants of the Crown’ (not servants of sounding name.
anything like ‘the country’ or ‘the
people’). She also appears to have great power over Parliament. It is she
who summons a Parliament, and she who dissolves it before a general
election. Nothing that Parliament has decided can become law until she
has given it the royal assent.
Similarly, it is the Queen, and not any other figure of authority,
who embodies the law in the courts. In the USA, when the police take
someone to court to accuse them of a crime, the court records show that
‘the people’ have accused that person. In other countries it might be ‘the
state’ that makes the accusation. But in Britain it is ‘the Crown’. This is
because of the legal authority of the monarch. And when an accused
person is found guilty of a crime, he or she might be sent to one of ‘Her
Other countries have ‘citizens’. But in Britain people are legally
described as ‘subjects’ – subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. Moreover,
there is a principle of English law that the monarch can do nothing that
is legally wrong. In other words, Queen Elizabeth is above the law.
The reality. In practice, of course, reality is very different. In
fact, the Queen cannot choose anyone she likes to be Prime Minister.
She has to choose someone who has the support of the majority of MPs
in the House of Commons (the elected chamber of the two Houses of
Parliament). This is because the law says that ‘her’ government can only
collect taxes with the agreement of the Commons, so if she did not
choose such a person, the government would stop functioning. In
practice the person she chooses in the leader of the strongest party in the
House of Commons. Similarly, it is really the Prime Minister who
decides who the other government ministers are going to be (although
officially the Prime Minister simply ‘advises’ the monarch who to
It is the same story with Parliament. Again, the Prime Minister will
talk about ‘requesting’ a dissolution of Parliament when he or she wants
to hold an election, but it would normally be impossible for the monarch
to refuse this ‘request’. Similarly, while, in theory, the Queen could
refuse the royal assent to a bill passed by Parliament – and so stop it
becoming law – no monarch has actually done so since the year 1708.
Indeed, the royal assent is so automatic that the Queen doesn’t even
bother to give it in person. Somebody else signs the documents for her.
In reality, the Queen has almost no power at all. When she opens
Parliament each year the speech she makes has been written for her. She
makes no secret of this fact. She very obviously reads out the script that
has been prepared for her, word for word. If she strongly disagrees with
one of the policies of the government, she might ask the government
ministers to change the wording in the speech a little beforehand, but
that is all. She cannot actually stop the government going ahead with
any of its policies.
The role of the monarch. What, then, is the monarch’s role?
Many opinions are offered by political and legal experts. Three roles are
often mentioned. First, the monarch is the personal embodiment of the
government of the country. This means that people can be as critical as
they like about the real government, and can argue that it should be
thrown out, without being accused of being unpatriotic. Because of the
clear separation between the symbol of government (the Queen) and the
actual government (the ministers, who are also MPs), changing the
government does not threaten the stability of the country as a whole.
Other countries without a monarch have to use something else as the
symbol of the country. In the USA, for example, one of these is its flag,
and to damage the flag in any way is actually a criminal offence.
Second, it is argued that the monarch could act as a final check on
a government that was becoming dictatorial. If the government ever
managed to pass a bill through Parliament which was obviously terribly
bad and very unpopular, the monarch could refuse the royal assent and
the bill would not become law. Similarly, it is possible that if a Prime
Minister who had been defeated at a general election (and so no longer
commanded a majority in the House of Commons) were to ask
immediately for another dissolution of Parliament (so that another
election could take place), the monarch could refuse the request and
dismiss the Prime Minister.
Third, the monarch has a very practical role to play. By being a
figurehead and representing the country, Queen Elizabeth II can perform
the ceremonial duties which heads of state often have to spend their time
on. This way, the real government has more time to get on with the
actual job of running the country.
The value of monarchy. However, all these advantages are
hypothetical. It cannot be proved that only a monarch can provide them.
Other modern democracies manage perfectly well without one. The
British monarch is probably more important to the economy of the
country than it is to the system of government. Apart from this, the
monarchy is very popular with the majority of the British people. The
monarchy gives British people a symbol of continuity, and a harmless
outlet for the expression of national pride. Even in very hard times it has
never seemed likely that Britain would turn to a dictator to get it out of
its troubles. The grandeur of its monarchy may have been one of the
reasons for this.
Occasions such as the state opening of Parliament, the Queen’s
official birthday, royal weddings, and ceremonial events such as the
changing of the guard make up for the lack of colour and ceremony in
most people’s daily lives. (There is no tradition of local parades as there
is in the USA, and very few traditional
The economic argument
local festivals survive as they do in
Every tourist brochure for
Britain in every country in the other European countries.) In addition
world gives great prominence the glamorous lives of ‘the royals’
to the monarchy. It is provide a source for entertainment that
impossible to estimate exactly often takes on the characteristics of a
how much the British royal television soap opera. When, in 1992, it
family and the events and became known that Prince Charles and
buildings associated with the
his wife Princes Diana were separating,
monarchy help the tourist
industry, or exactly how much even the more ‘serious’ newspapers
money they help to bring into discussed a lot more than the possible
the country. But most people political implications. The Sunday
working in tourism think it is Times published a ‘five-page royal
an awful lot! separation special’. Since the Princes
“Wills” and “Harry” grew up, most of
the press has been more interested in
their love lives than in the implications
of their military roles in Iraq and
The future of the monarchy. For the last 250 years, the
British monarchy as an institution has only rarely been a burning
political issue. Only occasionally has there been debate about the
existence of the monarchy itself. Few people in Britain could be
described as either ‘monarchists’ or ‘anti-monarchists’, in the sense in
which these terms are often used in other countries. Most people are
either vaguely in favour or they just don’t care one way or the other.
There is, however, a great deal of debate about what kind of monarchy
Britain should have. During the last two decades of the twentieth
century, there has been a general cooling of enthusiasm. The Queen
herself remains popular. But the various marital problems in her family
have lowered the prestige of royalty in many people’s eyes. The problem
is that, since Queen Victoria’s reign, the public have been encouraged to
look up to the royal family as a model of Christian family life.
The change in attitude can be seen by comparing Queen
Elizabeth’s 25th anniversary as Queen with her 40th anniversary. In
1977, there were neighbourhood street parties throughout the country,
most of them spontaneously and voluntarily organised. But in 1992,
nothing like this took place. On 20 November 1993, a fire damaged one
of the Queen’s favourite homes to the value of £ 60 million. There were
expressions of public sympathy for the Queen. But when the
government announced that public money was going to be paid for the
repairs, the sympathy quickly turned to anger. The Queen had recently
been reported to be the richest woman in the world, so people didn’t see
why she shouldn’t pay for them herself.
It is, in fact, on the subject of money that ‘anti-royalist’ opinions
are most often expressed. In the early nineties even some Conservative
MPs, traditionally strong supporters of the monarchy, started protesting
at how much the royal family was costing the country. For the whole of
her long reign Elizabeth II had been exempt from taxation. But, as a
response to the change in attitude, the Queen decided that she would
start paying taxes on her private income. In addition, Civil List
payments to some members of the royal family were stopped. (The Civil
List is the money which the Queen and some of her relatives get from
Parliament each year so that they can carry out their public duties).
For most people, the most notable event marking Queen
Elizabeth’s 40th anniversary was a television programme about a year in
her life which showed revealing details of her private family life. In the
following year parts of Buckingham Palace were, for the first time,
opened for public visits (to raise money to help pay for the repairs to
Windsor Castle). These events are perhaps an indication of the future
royal style – a little less grand, a little less distant.
1.2. Give the English equivalents to the following Russian word-
1. служить прекрасной иллюстрацией противоречивого характера
2. юридическое понятие;
3. олицетворять закон;
4. решительно не соглашаться с политикой правительства;
5. не угрожать стабильности государства в целом;
6. принимать характер телевизионной «мыльной оперы»
7. являться высшей инстанцией, контролирующей деятельность
8. общее охлаждение восторженного отношения;
9. быть освобожденным от уплаты налогов;
10. организованный спонтанно, на добровольной основе.
Use the above-given text and the glossary (2.2) to discuss the
institution of monarchy.
the Civil List выделяемая государством сумма на
Civil List payments содержание королевского двора
a subject подданный
to summon the Parliament созывать Парламент
to dissolve Parliament распускать Парламент
the committee dissolved комитет прекратил свое
an heir to the throne наследник престола
to succeed smb on the throne стать чьим-либо преемником на
a direct descendant потомок по прямой линии
in the direct line of прямая очередность
succession through the право на наследование по мужской
male line линии
to pass the Crown to smb передавать королевскую власть
hereditary power наследственная власть
continuity of power преемственность власти
to abdicate отрекаться (от престола)
abdication1 отречение (от престола)
non-partisan внепартийный, беспристрастный
to carry public/ceremonial выполнять общественные или
duties государственные функции
to give/refuse the royal assent давать (отказывать) королевское
to smth согласие (о законопроекте,
проведенном через Парламент)
the Royal prerogatives права суверена
an office holder высокопоставленный чиновник
the Governor-General генерал-губернатор
FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
The abdication crisis
For the last two centuries, the public have wanted their monarch to show
their high moral standards. In 1936, Edward VIII, the uncle of the
present queen, was forced to abdicate (give up the throne) because he
wanted to marry a woman who had divorced two husbands. (On top of
that, she wasn’t even an aristocrat – she was an American!) The
government and the major churches in the country insisted that Edward
could not marry her and remain king. He chose to marry her. The couple
then went to live abroad. At Winston Churchill’s invitation, the Duke of
Windsor (as Edward later became) served as governor of the Bahamas
during World War II, and after 1945 the couple lived in Paris. Though
they were counted among the social elite, not until 1967 were they
invited to attend an official public ceremony with other members of the
PARLIAMENT. THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Section 1. Read and study
1.1 Look through these questions before reading text 1.
1. What are the major activities of Parliament in Britain?
2. What are the distinctive features of the design and layout of the
House of Commons? Can we say that the fairly informal atmosphere
in the House is the result of these features?
3. In what way do MPs organise their work?
4. What is the central rule of procedure in Parliament set out by standing
5. When the Commons decide to vote, they don’t vote immediately.
Instead, a “division bell” rings throughout the Palace of Westminster,
after which MPs have eight minutes in which to vote. Why?
6. What makes the House committees so powerful?
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
The activities of Parliament in Britain are more or less the same as
those of the Parliament in any western democracy. It makes new laws,
gives authority for the government to raise and spend money, keeps a
close eye on government activities and discusses those activities. The
British Parliament is divided into two ‘houses’, and its members belong
to one or other of them, although only members of the Commons are
normally known as MPs (Members of Parliament). The Commons is by
far the more important of the two houses.
The atmosphere of the House. The design and layout of the
House of Commons differ from the interior of the parliament buildings
in most other countries. These differences can tell us a lot about what is
distinctive about the British Parliament. First, there are just two rows of
benches facing each other. There is no opportunity in this layout for a
reflection of all the various shades of political opinion (as there is with
semi-circle). According to where they sit, MPs are seen to be either ‘for’
the government (supporting it) or against it. This physical division is
emphasized by the table on the floor of the House between the two rows
of benches. The Speaker’s chair, which is raised some way off the floor,
is also here. From this commanding position, the Speaker chairs (that is,
controls) the debates. The arrangement of the benches encourages
confrontation between government and opposition.
Second, the Commons has no ‘front’, no obvious place from which
an MP can address everybody there. MPs simply stand up and speak
from wherever they happen to be sitting. Third, there are no desks for
the MPs. The benches where they sit are exactly and only that –
benches, just as in a church. This makes it physically easy for them to
drift in and out of the room, which is something that they frequently do
during debates. Fourth, the House is very small. In fact, there isn’t
enough room for all the MPs. There are more than 650 of them, but there
is seating for less than 400. A candidate at an election is said to have
won ‘a seat’ in the Commons, but this ‘seat’ is imaginary. MPs do not
have their ‘own’ place to sit. No names are marked on the benches. MPs
just sit down wherever (on ‘their’ side of the House) they can find room.
All these features result in a fairly informal atmosphere. Individual
MPs, without their own ‘territory’ (which a personal seat and desk
would give them), are encouraged to co-operate. Moreover, the small
size of the House, together with the lack of a podium or dais from which
to address it, means that MPs do not normally speak in the way that they
would at a large public rally. MPs normally speak in a conversational
tone, and because they have nowhere to place their notes while
speaking, they do not normally speak for very long either! It is only on
particularly important occasions, when all the MPs are present, that
passionate oratory is sometimes used.
The ancient habits are preserved today in the many customs and
detailed rules of procedure which all new MPs find that they have to
learn. The most noticeable of these is the rule that forbids MPs to
address one another directly or use personal names. All remarks and
questions must go ‘through the Chair’. An MP who is speaking refers to
or asks a question of ‘the honorable Member for Winchester’ or ‘my
right honorable friend’. The MP for Winchester may be sitting directly
opposite, but the MP never says ‘you’. These ancient rules were
originally formulated to take the ‘heat’ out of debate and decrease the
possibility that violence might break out. Today, they lend a touch of
formality which balances the informal aspects of the Commons and
further increases the feeling of MPs that they belong to a special group
An MP’s life. Traditionally, MPs were supposed to be ordinary
people giving some of their time to representing the people. This is why
MPs were not even paid until the beginning of this century.
Traditionally, they were supposed to be doing a public service, not
making a career for themselves. In fact MPs have been paid salaries
since 1911. The rate has lately been nearly twice the average industrial
worker’s wage. The Leader of the Opposition receives a salary from the
state funds as if he were a minister. But many MPs say that they need to
have outside earnings, through journalism, work in the law courts or
business, to enable them to live at the standard they expect. British MPs
do not get paid very much in comparison with many of their European
counterparts. Moreover, by European standards, they have incredibly
poor facilities. Most MPs have to share an office and secretary with two
or more other MPs.
The ideal of the talented amateur does not, of course, reflect
modern reality. Politics in Britain in the last forty years has become
professional. Most MPs are full-time politicians, and do another job, if at
all, only part-time. But the amateur tradition is still reflected in the hours
of business of the Commons. They are ‘gentleman’s hours’. The House
does not sit in the morning. This is when, in traditional ideal, MPs would
be doing their ordinary work or pursuing other interests outside
Parliament. From Monday to Thursday, the House does not start its
business until 14.30 (on Friday it starts in the morning, but then finishes
in the early afternoon for the weekend). It also gives itself long holidays:
four weeks at Christmas, two each at Easter and Whitsun (Pentecost)2
and about eleven weeks in the summer (from the beginning of August
until the middle of October).
But this apparently easy life is misleading. In fact, the average
modern MP spends more time at work than any other professional in the
country. From Monday to Thursday, the Commons never ‘rises’ (i.e.
finishes work for the day) before 22.30 and sometimes it continues
sitting for several hours longer. Occasionally, it debates through most of
Whitsun (Pentecost) – церк. Троицын день
MP’s mornings are taken up with committee work, research,
preparing speeches and dealing with the problems of constituents (the
people they represent). Weekends are not free for MPs either. They are
expected to visit their constituencies (the areas they represent) and listen
to the problems of anybody who wants to see them. It is an extremely
busy life that leaves little time for pursuing another career. It does not
leave MPs much time for their families either. Politicians have a higher
rate of divorce than the (already high) national average.
Parliamentary business. The basic procedure for business in the
Commons is a debate on a particular proposal, followed by a resolution
which either accepts or rejects this proposal. Sometimes the resolution
just expresses a viewpoint, but most often it is a matter of framing a new
law or of approving (or not approving) government plans to raise taxes
or spend money in certain ways.
Standing Orders set out the main formal rules of procedure. The
central rule of procedure is that every debate must relate to a specific
proposal or “motion”. Some member moves (proposes) a motion; the
House debates it and finally decides whether to agree or disagree with it,
When a motion has been moved, another member may propose “to
amend” it, and in that case his proposal is debated. When the House has
decided on the amendment it goes back to the original motion, which is
now in a new form if an amendment to it has been accepted. A debate
ends either (1) when every member who wants to speak has done so, or
(2) at a time fixed in advance by informal agreement between the
parties, or by a vote of the House (that is, by the Government without
the agreement of the Opposition), or (3) when the House with the
Speaker’s consent, votes that it shall end. At the end of every debate the
Speaker puts the question whether or not to accept the motion that has
Occasionally, there is no need to take a vote, but there usually is,
and at such times there is a ‘division’. That is, MPs have to vote for or
against a particular proposal. They do this by walking through one of
two corridors at the side of the House – one is for the “Ayes” (those who
agree with the proposal) and the other is for the “Noes” (those who
disagree). Eight minutes after the beginning of the division the doors
leading into the lobbies are locked. The practice of allowing eight
minutes before members must enter their lobbies gives enough time for
them to come from any part of the Palace of Westminster. Bells ring all
over the building to summon members to the chamber to vote. Members
often vote without having heard a debate and perhaps without knowing
exactly what is the question; they know which way to vote because
whips of the parties stand outside the doors and members vote almost
automatically with their parties.
But the resolutions of the Commons are only part of its activities.
There are also the committees. Some committees are appointed to
examine particular proposals for laws, but there are also permanent
committees whose job is to investigate the activities of government in a
particular field. There is a Commons Select Committee for each
government department, examining three aspects: spending, policies and
administration. These departmental committees have a minimum of 11
members, who decide upon the line of inquiry and then gather written
and oral evidence. Findings are reported to the Commons, printed, and
published on the Parliament website. The government then usually has
60 days to reply to the committee's recommendations. (Other Commons
Committees are involved in a range of on-going investigations, like
administration of the House itself or allegations about the conduct of
The Committees often have to decide on whether to produce a
hostile and critical report, which will simply be repudiated by the
government and may cost some of their members their chances of
promotion, or to trade some of their criticism away in return for minor
concessions from the ministers. As elsewhere in Parliament, the result is
a mixture of general compliance with a dash of independence.
1.2. Give the English equivalents to the following Russian words and
1. уполномочивать правительство собирать и расходовать
2. профессиональный политик
3. иметь какие-либо интересы (работу) вне Парламента
4. избирательный округ
5. вырабатывать закон
6. вносить предложение
7. быть отвергнутым, не принятым правительством (о докладе,
8. ослаблять критику в обмен на уступки со стороны министров.
1.3. Look through these questions before reading Text 2.
1. What powers are allotted to the Whips in the House? How can you
account for the downgrading of the Whips' office under the present
2. Why do MPs nearly always vote the way their party tells them to? Do
the major parties sometimes allow a "free vote" to their MPs? When?
3. What makes the government and the legislature so dissolubly fused
together in the United Kingdom? What are advantages and
disadvantages of this system of governing the country?
4. Describe the procedure of appointing a new speaker and the traditions
connected with it.
5. What are the powers of the Speaker in the House?
6. Why does the newly-appointed speaker agree to give up all party
politics for the rest of his or her life?
THE PARTY SYSTEM IN PARLIAMENT
Most divisions take place along party lines. MPs know that they
owe their position to their party, so they nearly always vote the way that
their party tells them to. They are subject to the constraints of strict party
discipline. The people who make sure that MPs do this are called the
Whips. Each of the two major parties has several MPs who perform this
role. It is their job to inform all MPs in their party how they should vote.
By tradition, if the government loses a vote in Parliament on a very
important matter, it has to resign. Therefore, when there is a division on
such a matter, MPs are expected to go to the House and vote even if they
have not been there during the debate.
The Whips act as intermediaries between the backbenchers and the
frontbench of a party. They keep the party leadership informed about
Frontbenchers and backbenchers backbench opinion. They are
Although MPs do not have their powerful people. Because they ‘have
own personal seats in the the ear’ of the party leaders, they can
Commons, there are two seating have an effect on which
areas reserved for particular MPs. backbenchers get promoted to the
These areas are the front benches front bench and which do not. For
on either side of the House. These
benches are where the leading
reasons such as this, ‘rebellions’
members of the governing party among a group of a party’s MPs (in
(i.e. ministers) and the leading which they vote against their party)
members of the main opposition are very rare.
party sit. These people are thus Sometimes the major parties
known as ‘frontbenchers’. MPs allow a ‘free vote’, when MPs vote
who do not hold a government post according to their own beliefs and
or a post in the shadow cabinet are
known as ‘backbenchers’
not according to party policy. Some
quite important decisions, such as the
abolition of the death penalty and the decision to allow television
cameras into the Commons, have been made in this way.
The result of the dominance of party is that Parliament has found it
hard to perform the functions allotted to it. In countries such as the USA,
the powers of the government and the legislature are separated. They are
elected on separate occasions and are granted separate rights and
responsibilities in the constitution. The legislature cannot easily remove
the government, short of impeachment, nor can the government dissolve
the legislature. In the UK, the government and the legislature are
dissolubly fused together. They are not elected on separate occasions
and they do not enjoy separate legitimacy. This has the advantage that
clashes or deadlock between the government and legislature are
relatively uncommon in the United Kingdom.
Should the Government be caught out in some unethical behaviour
it can usually rely on its parliamentary majority to pull it through the
crisis. This was made painfully apparent in 1996 when the publication of
the Scott Report into British arms sales to Iraq revealed that
Conservative Government ministers had repeatedly “misled” Parliament.
The failure of Parliament to force the resignations of the ministers
involved was largely the results of the work of the Conservative party
whips in twisting the arms of those on the Government side who might
FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
Anybody who happened to be watching the live broadcast of
Parliament on 22 June 2009 was able to witness an extraordinary
spectacle. An MP was physically dragged, apparently against his will,
out of his seat on the back benches by fellow MPs and was forced to sit
in the large chair in the middle of the House of Commons.
What the House of Commons was actually doing was appointing a
new Speaker. The Speaker is the person who chairs and controls
discussion in the House, decides which MP is going to speak next and
makes sure that the rules of procedure are followed. (If they are not, the
Speaker has the power to demand a public apology from an MP or even
to ban an MP from the House for a number of days). It is a very
important position. In fact, the Speaker is, officially the second most
important ‘commoner’ (non-aristocrat) in the kingdom after the Prime
Hundreds of years ago it was the Speaker’s job to communicate the
decisions of the Commons to the King (that is where the title ‘Speaker’
comes from). As the king was often very displeased with that the
Commons decided this was not a pleasant task. As a result nobody
wanted the job. They had to be forced to take it. These days, the position
is a much safer one, but the tradition of dragging an unwilling Speaker
to the chair has remained.
The occasion in 2009 was the first time that the Speaker (John
Bercow) had been elected by an exhaustive secret ballot. The process is
MPs are given a list of candidates and place an x next to the
candidate of their choice
If a candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, the question
is put to the House that he or she takes the chair as Speaker
If no candidate does so, the candidate with the fewest votes, and
those with less than five per cent of the vote, are eliminated
In addition, any candidate may withdraw within 10 minutes of
the announcement of the result of the ballot
MPs then vote again on the reduced slate of candidates and
continue doing so until one candidate receives more than half
Once a Speaker has been appointed, he or she agrees to give up all
party politics for the rest of his or her life and remains in the job for as
long as he or she wants it. However, the Speaker will deal with their
constituents’ problems like a normal MP. Speakers still stand in general
elections. They are generally unopposed by the major political parties,
who will not field a candidate in the Speaker’s constituency – this
includes the original party they were a member of. During a general
election, Speakers do not campaign on any political issues but simply
stand as “the Speaker seeking re-election”
This is the best attended, and usually the noisiest, part of the
parliamentary day. MPs are allowed to ask questions of government
ministers. Opposition MPs in particular have an opportunity to make
government ministers look incompetent or perhaps dishonest.
The questions and answers, however, are not spontaneous. Questions to
ministers have to be “tabled” (written down and placed on the table
below the Speaker’s chair) two days in advance, so that ministers have
time to prepare their answers. In this way, the government can usually
avoid major embarrassment. The trick, though, is to ask an unexpected
“supplementary” question. After the minister has answered the tabled
question, the MP who originally tabled it is allowed to ask a further
question relating to the minister’s answer. In this way, it is sometimes
possible for MPs to catch a minister unprepared.
“Question Time” has been widely copied around the world. The vast
majority of television new excerpts of Parliament are taken from this
period of its day. Especially common is for the news to show an excerpt
from the 15 minutes each week when it is the Prime Minister’s turn to
How a bill becomes a law.
1.4 Study the chart and say how a bill becomes a law.
Before a proposal for a new law starts its progress through
Parliament, there will have been much discussion. If it is a government
proposal, Green and White Papers3 will probably have been published,
explaining the ideas behind the proposal. After this, lawyers draft the
proposal into a bill.
Most bills begin life in the House of Commons, where they go
through a number of stages.
Green Paper - a small book put out by the British Government containing suggestions to be
talked about which may later be used in making new laws.
White Paper - an official report from the British government, usually explaining the
government's ideas and plans concerning a particular subject before it
suggests a new law in Parliament.
This is a formal announcement only, with no debate
The house debates the general principles of the bill
and, in most cases, takes a vote.
A committee of MPs examines the details of the bill
and votes on amendments (changes) to parts of it.
The House considers the amendments.
The amended bill is debated as a whole.
The bill is sent to the House of Lords, where it goes
through the same stages. (If the Lords make new
amendments, these will be considered by the
After both Houses have reached agreement, the bill
receives the royal assent and becomes an Act of
Parliament which can be applied as a part of the law.
1.5 Give the English equivalents to the following words and word-
1. зависеть от давления/подвергаться давлению партийной
2. выступать в роли посредников между Парламентскими лидерами
и рядовыми членами Парламента
3. выполнять функции, которыми наделен Парламент
4. распускать законодательный орган власти
5. быть неразрывно связанным
6. разногласия (конфликты) и безвыходные (тупиковые) ситуации
между правительством и законодательной ветвью власти
Section 2. Use the above-given text and the glossary (2.2) to
discuss the British Parliament.
act акт, закон, постановление
act of Parliament Парламентский акт, закон (принятый
Палатой Общин и Палатой Лордов и
получивший королевскую санкцию)
to repeal an act отменить закон
bench место в Парламенте, скамья
a front bench предназначается соответственно для
членов правительства и членов
a frontbencher "переднескамеечник" (министр или
член "теневого кабинета")
back benches предназначаются для рядовых членов
a backbencher "заднескамеечник" (рядовой член
bill билль, законопроект
a parliament bill Парламентский билль (законопроект)
government правительственный законопроект
(sponsored) initiated bill
a Private bill законопроект, внесенный на
рассмотрение рядовым членом
reading of a bill слушание законопроекта
the bill's chances of законопроект едва ли станет законом
becoming law are remote
to draft a bill составлять законопроект
to amend (alter) a bill изменять (вносить поправки) в
to initiate (introduce, вносить законопроект на
propose, sponsor, bring рассмотрение
in) a bill
to rush (push) a bill поспешно провести законопроект
(through Parliament) через Парламент
to place a bill (before the представить законопроект на подпись
Queen) for signature (королеве)
debate a bill вести дебаты по законопроекту
to delay (disapprove of, затягивать, задерживать; не одобрять;
defeat, oppose) a bill отклонять; воспрепятствовать
chamber (syn. House) 1. Палата Парламента
2. зал, конференц-зал
lower (upper) chamber нижняя (верхняя) Палата
elective chamber выборная Палата
a one (two) chamber одно (двух) палатный Парламент
the House of Commons (the Палата Общин (нижняя Палата в
Commons) Британском Парламенте))
the House of Lords (the Lords) Палата Лордов (верхняя Палата в
the House (coll.) Палата Общин
to enter the House стать членом Парламента
to attend the House присутствовать на заседании Палаты
to preside the House председательствовать в палате
to obtain (gain)the majority of получать большинство мест в Палате
seats in the House (both (в обеих палатах)
to keep (make) a House обеспечит кворум
the House rose at 9 заседание палаты закончилось в 9
debate дискуссия, дебаты, прения (в
debates on bills прения по законопроектам
debates on motions прения по предложениям, внесенным
the order of speaking in a порядок выступления в прениях
debate is arranged in оговаривается заранее
to initiate the debate быть инициатором обсуждения
данного вопроса (предложить вопрос
divide (v) 1. голосовать, ставить на голосование,
2. разделяться при голосовании
Divide! Divide! Ставьте на голосование!
division голосование членов Парламента в
division bell Парламентский звонок (извещающий
членов Парламента о начале
division bell district район «Парламентского звонка»
(улицы близ здания Парламента, на
которых проживают некоторые его
члены; в их дома, в ряд местных
ресторанов проведен звонок,
извещающий о начале голосования)
division lobby лобби для голосования (один из двух
коридоров в Палате Общин, правое от
спикера лобби предназначается для
голосующих «за», левое – для
голосующих «против», при выходе
Парламентарием из Палаты счетчики
голосов (tellers) отмечают число
проголосовавших членов Палаты)
legislation 1. законодательство, законы
2. законопроекты, находящиеся на
to pass (endorse) принимать (одобрять)
government-proposed правительственные законопроекты
legislature (syn. 1. законодательный орган
legislative power 2. законодательная власть
legislate осуществлять законодательную
власть, издавать законы
to legislate on a wide издавать законы по широкому кругу
range of matters вопросов
to legislate against smth запретить что-либо в законодательном
lobby 1. лобби, коридор для голосования
2. лобби, кулуары Парламента
3. (собир.) группа (представители
компаний, организаций и т.д.),
to lobby for a proposal проталкивать предложение
to lobby (a bill) through провести (законопроект) с помощью
Parliament закулисных махинаций
to lobby MPs оказывать давление на членов
member (n) член какой-либо организации
Member of Parliament член Парламента, член Палаты
a Labour (Tory) MP член Парламента от лейбористской
an old hand опытный член Парламента
hard-left (right) MPs крайние левые (правые) члены
swearing in of MPs присяга членов Парламента, дается
новым составом Парламента после
an ex-MP бывший член Парламента
to recall an MP отзывать члена Парламента
an increase (decline) in увеличение (сокращение) численного
to provide the main body составлять костяк членов
The British Parliament высший орган законодательной
(but: - Parliament) власти в Великобритании возник в
конце 13 века
to summon Parliament/to созвать Парламент
to prorogue Parliament объявить перерыв в работе
Парламента, не распуская его
to dissolve Parliament распускать Парламент
dissolution of Parliament роспуск Парламента
the State Opening of торжественное открытие Парламента
Parliament is in session в Парламенте идут заседания
a hung Parliament ситуация в Парламенте, когда ни одна
из представленных в нем партий не
имеет необходимого большинства для
to sit in Parliament/to быть членом Парламента
have a seat in Parliament
to stand (run) for выставить свою кандидатуру в
Parliament/to contest a Парламент
seat in Parliament
Parliament reassembles Парламент возобновляет свою работу
to sidestep (by-pass) игнорировать, действовать в обход
to rob Parliament of лишать Парламент каких-либо
some powers (to limit its полномочий (ограничивать его
Parliamentary statutes статуты, акты Парламента,
(statutory law) составляющие основу британской
to have a parliamentary иметь большинство в Парламенте с
majority of (one or two перевесом в (один-два (и т.д.) голоса)
parliamentary recess Парламентские каникулы (перерыв в
работе Парламента между сессиями)
reading чтение (стадия прохождения
законопроекта в британском
the bill was rejected at законопроект был отклонен при (во)
the second reading втором чтении
the bill failed to obtain a законопроект был отклонен при
second reading первом чтении
speaker’s chair кресло спикера в Палате Общин
to catch the speaker’s eye привлечь внимание спикера, получить
слово для выступления в дебатах в
whip парламентский партийный
организатор («кнут», «хлыст»)
majority whip организатор парламентской фракции
minority whip организатор парламентской фракции
This is the name given to the daily verbatim reports of
everything that has been said in the Commons. They are published
within forty-eight hours of the day they over.
The pairing system
The pairing system is an excellent example of the habit of
cooperation among political parties in Britain. Under this system,
an MP of one party is ‘paired’ with an MP of another party. When
there is going to be a vote in the House of Commons, and the two
MPs know that they would vote on opposite sides, neither of them
bother to turn up for the vote. In this way, the difference in
numbers between one side and the other is maintained, while the
MPs are free to get on with other work. The system works very
well. There is hardly ever any ‘cheating’.
PARLIAMENT. THE HOUSE OF LORDS
Section 1. Read and study
1.1 Look through these questions before reading text 1.
1. What ancient institution does the House of Lords stem from?
2. What powers are vested in the House of Lords?
3. What role does the "life peerage" system play in party politics? What
practice has become known as being "Kicked upstairs"?
4. Why is the House of Lords sometimes regarded as a forum for public
5. Who chairs debates in the Lords? Why are their powers so limited?
THE HOUSE OF LORDS
Historical background. The House of Lords is the continuation
into modern times of the original Norman King's Court, to which the
King summoned the great men of the land. Each was summoned
individually and the right to be summoned passed to the eldest son. Later
the right was associated with the grant of a specific hereditary title
(lord). From time to time new peerages were conferred. Some soon
became extinct through the lack of any heir, others survived through
But who are the members of the House of Lords now and how do
they get there? Its name suggests that its members are aristocrats. In fact,
only a very small proportion of them are there by hereditary right and
even these are unlikely to be there for much longer.
The composition of the Lords began to change in 1958, when it
became possible to award "life peerages" through the honours system.
Entitlement to sit in the Lords does not pass to the children of life peers.
The life peerage system is also used as a means of finding a place in
public life for distinguished retired politicians who may no longer wish
to be as busy as MPs in the Commons, but who still wish to voice their
opinions in a public forum. In the late 1990s four of the last five Prime
Ministers, as well as about 300 past ministers and other respected
politicians, accepted the offer of a life peerage. Political parties are, in
fact, especially keen to send their older members who once belonged to
the leadership of the party to the House of Lords. It is a way of
rewarding them with prestige while at the same time getting them out of
the way of the present party leaders in the Commons, where
their status and reputation might otherwise create trouble for party unity.
Informally, this practice has become known as being "kicked upstairs".
In 1999 the number of aristocrats with the right to sit in the lords was
limited to 92 (about 15% of the total members). At the same time, the
numbers of life-peerage appointments was increased. As well as life
peers (and the remaining hereditary peers), there is one other kind of
peer in the House of Lords. These are the 26 most senior bishops of the
Church of England. (By tradition the Archbishops of Canterbury and
York are also given life-peerages on their retirement.) Until 2009 there
was also a group of “Law Lords”, who fulfilled the Lords’ role as the
final Court of Appeal in the country. But this role is now in the hands of
the Supreme Court.
The House of Lords has no real power and only limited influence.
Although the Lords can delay a bill, they cannot stop it becoming law in
the end. Its role, therefore, is a consultative one. In the Lords, bills can
be discussed in more detail than the busy Commons has time for – and
in this way irregularities or inconsistencies in these proposals can be
avoided before they become law. In addition, the Lords act as a forum
for discussion, and can sometimes bring to attention matters that the
Commons has been ignoring. Most importantly of all, it is argued, the
Lords can act as a check on any governments which, through their
control of the Commons, are becoming too dictatorial.
The Lords currently has around 740 members, and there are three
different types: life-peers, bishops and elected hereditary peers.
Unlike MPs, the public do not elect the Lords. The majority are
appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or
of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The Lord Speaker
chairs the Lords debating chamber (this duty used to be performed by
the Lord Chancellor) but they have less authority than their counterpart
Speaker in the Commons. This is because the Lords regulate themselves
and the order of business in the House. Unlike the Speaker in the House
of Commons, the Lord Speaker does not:
call the House to order or rule on points of order
call members to speak
The House of Lords elected Baroness Hayman as its first Lord
Speaker on 4 July 2006. Lord Speakers can sit for two terms only, which
last a maximum of five years each.
1.2 Give the English equivalents to the following Russian word-
1. созывать, призывать кого-либо (зд. выдающихся людей страны)
2. даровать титул пэра
3. пресекаться (о роде)
4. награждать титулом "пожизненного пэра"
5. право заседать в Палате Лордов
6. контролировать работу правительства
7. иметь ограниченное влияние
2.1 Use the above-given text and the glossary to discuss the House of
Lord лорд, пэр, член Палатой Лордов
The House of Lords палат лордов
peer пэр, лорд
peer of the realm пэр Англии
a life peer пожизненный пэр
a hereditary peer наследный пэр
peeress супруга пэра; леди
peeress in her own right женщина, имеющая титул леди не
peerage 1. сословие пэров, высшая знать
2. звание пэра
to confer peerage on smb возводить кого-либо в звание пэра
to disclaim peerage отказаться от прав на титул пэра
to succeed to a peerage получить титул пэра по наследству
counterpart человек, занимающий
аналогичный пост в другой
организации, департаменте и т.п.
3.1 Read the article, do the task (3.2) given below the text
It is often forgotten that the Lords Spiritual constitute a small but
significant part of the House of Lords. Now that the government has
almost removed hereditary peers from the House, it is about time they
paid attention to “another offence to democratic decency”: the 26 senior
Anglican clergymen who sit in the House of Lords as of right. This is a
right that is not shared by any of Britain's other churchfolk, including the
"established" Church of Scotland.
God's party in the Lords is an all-English affair. It is led by the
archbishops of Canterbury and York, who are followed by the bishops of
London, Durham and Winchester, plus 21 other "senior diocesan
bishops of the Church of England". Nobody elected them, no
government minister appointed them, but there they are, entrenched on
the red benches, and with the right to sound off about the country's
morals while topping up their stipends with House of Lords expenses
(£34.50 day subsistence, £78 if they have to do an overnight).
Now we have no particular animus against Anglican bishops. They
seem decent enough coves. But it does seem a bit rich that they, and
only they, have the constitutional right to sit in the legislature,
Presbyterians, Jews, Methodists, Baptists, Muslims and all the rest can
(and occasionally do) make it on to the red benches by dint of good
works and/or ecclesiastical renown. But only the Church of England's
top chaps can moonlight as parliamentarians. Which is unfair and should
be put right.
After New Statesman Scotland
1. Why does the author of the article call the 26 senior Anglican
clergymen who sit in the House o Lords an offence to democratic
decency? Do you agree?
2. In what ways and to what extent, can different churches and religions
be associated with particular geographical areas and particular social
classes in your country?
3. What is the relation between religion and politics in your country?
4. In Britain most people's everyday language is no longer, as it was in
previous centuries, enriched by their knowledge of the Bible. What
about your country?
Section 1. Read and study
1.1 Look through these questions before reading the text.
1. What are the two ways in which the term “government” may be
2. Where do all ministers come from?
3. What are the titles of the heads of the corresponding government
4. Why does Great Britain still observe the tradition of having “single-
party government”? How is so-called “collective responsibility”
connected with the system of “single-party government”?
5. How does the Cabinet work?
6. What are the Cabinet office and Cabinet committee responsible for?
7. What are the actual powers of the Prime Minister as opposed to those
of the monarch?
8. A British Prime Minister has no status in law which puts him or her
above other politicians. So why are modern British PMs so
Who governs Britain? When the media talk about ‘the
government’ they usually mean one of two things. The term ‘the
government’ can be used to refer to all of the politicians who have been
appointed by the monarch (on the advice of the Prime Minister) to help
run government departments (there are several politicians in each
department) or to take on various other special responsibilities, such as
managing members of ‘the government’ in this sense. Although there
are various ranks, each with their own titles, members of the government
are usually known as ‘ministers’. All ministers come from the ranks of
Parliament, most of them from the House of Commons. Unlike in the
USA and in some other countries in Europe, it is rare for a person from
outside Parliament to become a minister.
The other meaning of the term ‘the government’ is more limited. It
refers only to the most powerful of these politicians, namely the Prime
Minister and the other members of the cabinet. There are usually about
twenty people in the cabinet (thought there are no rules about this). Most
of them are the heads of the government departments.
Most heads of government departments have the title ‘Secretary of
State’ (as in, for example, ‘Secretary of State for the Environment’). The
minister in charge of Britain’s relations with the outside world is known
to everybody as the ‘Foreign Secretary’. The one in charge of law and
order inside the country is the ‘Home Secretary’. Their departments are
called the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office
respectively (the words ‘exterior’ and ‘interior’ are not used). The words
‘secretary’ and ‘office’ reflect the history of government in Britain, in
which government departments were one time part of the domestic
arrangements of the monarch. Another important person is the
‘Chancellor of the Exchequer’, who is the head of the Treasury (in other
words, a sort of Minister of Finance).
Normally all members of the government belong to the same
political party. Britain has had a total of only twenty-one years of
coalition governments (1915-1922 and 1931-1945). Even when, for brief
periods in the 1970s, no single party had a majority of seats in the House
of Commons, no coalition was formed. There was a ‘minority
government’ instead. But in 2010 as the result of the general election on
May 6th the first coalition government in 65 years was formed – the first-
ever Conservative – Liberal Democrat government.
The habit of single-party government has helped to establish the
tradition known as collective responsibility. That is, every member of
the government, however junior, shares the responsibility for every
policy made by the government. This is true even if, as is often the case,
he or she did not play any part in making it. Of course, individual
government members may hold different opinions, but they are expected
to keep these private. By convention, no member of the government can
criticise government policy in public. Any member who does so must
The cabinet. Obviously, no government wants an important
member of its party to start criticising it. This would lead to divisions in
the party. Therefore, the leading politicians in the governing party
usually become members of the cabinet, where they are tied to
government policy by the convention of collective responsibility.
The cabinet meets once a week and takes decisions about new
policies, the implementation of existing policies and the running of the
various government departments. Because all government members
must be seen to agree, exactly who says what at these meetings is a
closely guarded secret.
The final responsibility of ministers is to Parliament. The
knowledge that any departmental action may be reported to and
examined in Parliament discourages the taking of arbitrary and ill-
considered decisions. On assuming office ministers must resign
directorships in private and public companies, and must order their
affairs so that there is no conflict between public duties and private
The Prime Minister. The position of a British Prime Minister
(PM) is in direct contrast to that of the monarch. Although the Queen
appears to have a great deal of power, in reality she has very little. The
PM, on the other hand, appears not to have much power but in reality
has a very great deal indeed. The Queen is, in practice, obliged to give
the job of Prime Minster to the person who can command a majority in
the House of Commons. This normally means the leader of the party
with the largest number of MPs.
From one point of view, the PM is no more than the foremost of
Her Majesty’s political servants. The traditional phrase describes him or
her as primus inter pares (Latin for ‘first among equals’). But in fact the
other ministers are not nearly as powerful. There are several reasons for
this. First, the monarch’s powers of patronage (the power to appoint
people to all kinds of jobs and to confer honours on people) are, by
convention, actually the PM’s powers of patronage. The fiction is that
the Queen appoints people to government jobs ‘on the advice of the
Prime Minister’. But what actually happens is that the PM simply
decides. Everybody knows this. The media do not even make the
pretence that the PM has successfully persuaded the Queen to make a
particular appointment, they simply state that he or she has made an
The strength of the PM’s power of patronage is apparent from the
modern phenomenon known as the ‘cabinet reshuffle’. For the past
thirty years it has been the habit of the PM to change his or her cabinet
quite frequently (at least once every two years). A few cabinet members
are dropped, and a few new members are brought in, but mostly the
exiting members are shuffled around, like a pack of cards, each getting a
new department to look after.
The second reason for a modern PM’s dominance over other
ministers is the power of the PM’s public image. The mass media has
tended to make politics a matter of personalities. The details of policies
are hard to understand. An individual, constantly appearing on the
television and in the newspapers, is much easier to identify with.
Everybody in the country can recognise the Prime Minister, while many
cannot put a name to the faces of the other ministers. As a result the PM
can, if the need arises, go ‘over the heads’ of the other ministers and
appeal directly to the public.
Third, all ministers except the PM are kept busy looking after their
government departments. They don’t have time to think about and
discuss government policy as a whole. But the PM does, and cabinet
committees usually report directly to him or her, not to the cabinet as a
whole. As a result, the PM knows more about what is going on that the
other ministers do. Because there is not enough time for the cabinet to
discuss most matters, a choice has to be made about what will be
discussed. And it is the PM who makes that choice. Matters that are not
discussed can, in effect, be decided by the PM.
The new coalition government. There are two broad challenges
for the new government led by David Cameron, the Tory leader, and
Nick Clegg, his Lib Dem deputy. The first is fiscal. The broad policy
outlines are clear – and pretty good. Supply-side education reform, the
strongest policy in the Tory manifesto, is to go ahead, with the desirable
addition of the Lib Dem commitment to put quite a lot of extra money
into teaching poor children. Moving benefit recipients from welfare to
work, is sound Tory (and indeed Labour) policy, will also be pursued.
More divisive will be the new government’s second challenge:
political reform. Among the novelties is Britain’s first fixed-term
Parliament, thanks to the non-aggression pact between the two parties. It
will run for five years unless enough MPs vote for dissolution. A more
important issue is the first-past-the-post electoral system, which
regularly denies the Lib Dems and smaller parties a share of
parliamentary seats commensurate with their share of the vote. Mr.
Cameron, over the shrieks of most of his party, has promised a
referendum on introducing an alternative-vote (AV) system allowing
voters to rank candidates by preference. It was the price of coalition.
Many say that the coalition could break down before the five years
expire. Though all 57 Lib Dem MPs approved it, many will oppose the
government on individual issues or abstain from voting, and a few may
walk altogether. On the Tory side, right-wingers will resist each
compromise. A cabinet containing disgruntled folk from both parties
will be a nightmare to run. Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg may get on well
together, but their man-management skills will be sorely tested by their
own party members.
Supply-side – (of economic ideas) favouring the producers of
goods and services, e.g. by law taxes, so that they will find it easy to
FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
The history of the cabinet is a good example of the
tendency to secrecy in British politics. It started in the
eighteenth century as an informal grouping of important
ministers and officials of the royal household. It had no
formal recognition. Officially speaking, the government
was run by the Privy Council, a body of a hundred or
more people (including those belonging to ‘the cabinet’).
directly responsible to the monarch (but not to each
other). Over the years, the cabinet gradually took over
effective power. The Privy Council is now a merely
ceremonial organisation with no power. Among others, it
includes all the present ministers and the most important
In the last fifty years, there have been unofficial
‘inner cabinets’ (comprising the Prime Minister and a few
other important ministers). It is thought that it is here, and
in cabinet committees, that much of the real decision-
making takes place.
No. 10 Downing Street
The cabinet meets here and the cabinet office work
here. The PM lives above the shop on the top floor.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer lives next door, at
No. 11, and the Government Chief Whip at No. 12.
The PM also has an official country residence to
the west of London, called “Chequers”.
Counties are the oldest divisions of the country in
England and Wales. They are still used today for local
government purposes, although a few have been
‘invented’ this century (e.g. Humberside) and others have
no function in government but are still used for other
purposes. Many counties have ‘shire’ in their name (e.g.
Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Leicestershire). ‘Shires’ is
what the counties were originally called.
Boroughs were originally towns that had grown
large and important enough to be given their own
government, free of control by the county. These days,
the name is used for local government purposes only in
London, but many towns still proudly describe
themselves as Royal Boroughs.
Parishes were originally villages centred on a local
church. They became a unit of local government in the
nineteenth century. Today they are the smallest unit of
local government in England.
The name ‘parish’ is still used in the organisation
of the main Christian churches in England.
1.2 Give the English equivalents to the following Russian word-
1. в отличие от США и некоторых стран Европы
2. делить ответственность за всю политику, проводимую
3. придерживаться различных взглядов
4. не разглашать свое личное мнение
5. препятствовать принятию случайных и непродуманных решений
6. перестановки в правительстве
7. обращаться прямо к народу, минуя министров
8. пакт о ненападении
9. проголосовать за роспуск парламента
Use the above-given text and the glossary (2.1) to speak about
the British Government.
to run a government управлять работой министерства
Secretary of State министр
Home Secretary министр внутренних дел
the Home Office министерство внутренних дел
Foreign Secretary министр иностранных дел
the Foreign and министерство иностранных дел
Chancellor of the Exchequer министр финансов
The Treasury министерство финансов
collective responsibility коллективная ответственность
power of patronage привилегия назначения на должность
cabinet reshuffle перестановка кадров в кабинете;
перераспределение должностей в
civil service государственная служба
to pass a vote of no вынести вотум недоверия
confidence/an adverse vote in правительству
to appear (regularly) on (регулярно) вноситься в повестку дня
Cabinet agenda кабинета
election defeat поражение на выборах
3.1 Read the article, do the task (3.2) given below the text.
THE CIVIL SERVICE
Considering how complex modern states are, there are not really
very many people in a British ‘government’ (as defined above). Unlike
some other countries (the USA for example), not even the most senior
administrative jobs change hands when a new government comes to
power. The day-to-day running of the government and the
implementation of its policy continue in the hands of the same people
that were there with the previous government – the top rank of the civil
service. Governments come and go, but the civil service remains. It is no
accident that the most senior civil servant in a government department
has the title of ‘Permanent Secretary’.
Unlike politicians, civil servants, even of the highest rank, are
unknown to the larger public. There are probably less than 10,000
people in the country who, if you asked them, could give you the names
of the present secretary to the cabinet (who runs the cabinet office) or
the present head of the home civil service; still fewer know the names of
more than one of the present permanent secretaries.
For those who belong to it, the British civil service is a career. Its
most senior positions are usually filled by people who have been
working in it for twenty years or more. These people get a high salary
(higher than that of their ministers), have absolute job security (unlike
their ministers) and stand a good chance of being awarded an official
honour. By comparison, ministers, even those who have been in the
same department for several years, are still new to the job. Moreover,
civil servants know the secrets of the previous government which the
present minister is unaware of.
For all these reasons, it is often possible for top civil servants to
exercise quite a lot of control over their ministers, and it is sometimes
said that it is they, and not their ministers, who really govern the
country. There is undoubtedly some truth in this opinion. Indeed, an
interesting case in early 1994 suggests that civil servants now expect to
have a degree of control. At this time, the association which represents
the country’s top civil servants made an official complaint that four
government ministers ‘verbally abused’ their civil service adviser and
generally treated them ‘with contempt’. It was the first time that such
complaint had been made. It seemed that the unprecedentedly long
period of government by the same party (the Conservative) had shifted
the traditional balance of power.
However, the British civil service has a (largely) deserved
reputations for absolute political impartiality. Many ministers have
remarked on the struggle for power between them and their top civil
servants, but very few have ever complained of any political bias. Top
civil servants know that their power depends on their staying out of
‘politics’ and on their being absolutely loyal to their present minister.
Modern criticism of the civil service does not question its loyalty
but its efficiency. Despite reforms, the top rank of the civil service is
still largely made up of people from the same narrow section of society
– people who have been to public school and then on to Oxford or
Cambridge, where they studied subjects such as history or classical
languages. The criticism is therefore that the civil service does not have
enough expertise in matters such as economics or technology, and that it
lives too much in its own closed world, cut off from the concerns of
most people in society. In the late twentieth century, ministers try to
overcome these perceived deficiencies by appointing experts from
outside the civil service to work on various projects and by having their
own political advisers working alongside (or, some would say, in
competition with) their civil servants.
1. What makes the civil service in the structure of the British
2. Why is it said that sometimes it is the top civil servants and not the
ministers, who really govern the country?
3. Why does modern criticism of the civil service question not their
loyalty but their efficiency?
4. What particular sections of society do civil servants come from?
LAW AND THE COURTS
Section 1. Read and study.
1.1 Look through these questions before reading text 1.
1. Which parts of Great Britain share a single system of courts?
2. What is meant by “precedent”?
3. What are the two branches into which the legal profession is divided?
What has made the long established system of dividing these two
types of lawyer more relaxed?
4. What are the two main types of courts in Great Britain?
5. Who are Justices of the Peace? Are there any unpaid “amateur” legal
officers similar to Justices of the Peace in your country?
6. What cases do the magistrates’ courts try?
7. What are the functions of the judge?
8. What is the role of the jury? Why do you think the defence has the
right to the last speech at the trial before the judge sums up the
evidence for the jury?
9. What is the highest court in Great Britain?
LAW AND THE COURTS
Although the United Kingdom is a unitary state, England and
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all have their own legal systems,
with considerable differences in law, organisation and practice. However
a large volume of modern legislation applies throughout the United
The System of Justice. The system of justice in England and
Wales, in both civil and criminal cases, is (as it is in North America) an
adversarial system. In formal terms it is not the business of any court to
find out “the truth”. Its job is simply to decide “yes” or “no” to a
particular proposition (in criminal cases, that a certain person is guilty of
a certain crime) after it has heard arguments and evidence from both
sides (in criminal cases these sides are known as the defence and the
There is a common distinction between criminal law and civil law,
but there is no criminal code or civil code. The law as a whole consists
partly of statutes, or Acts of Parliament, and partly of common law
which is made up of past decisions of judges (if the matter is not
regulated by statutes) in accordance with custom and reason. Thus, a
large part of the civil law is not contained in statutes at all but made up
of a mass of precedents, previous court decisions, interpreted in
authoritative legal text books.
The personnel of the law. The courts of the UK are the Queen’s
Courts, since the Crown is the historic source of all judicial power.
Judges are normally appointed from practising barristers. Lay
magistrates in England and Wales need no legal qualification but are
trained to give them sufficient knowledge of the law. The legal
profession is divided into two branches: barristers and solicitors.
Barristers are known collectively as “the Bar”, and collectively and
individually as “counsel”. Solicitors undertake legal business for
individual and corporate clients, while barristers advise on legal
problems submitted though solicitors and present cases in the higher
But in the years around the turn of the century, the rules dividing
the roles of these two types of lawyer were relaxed. It became
permissible both for members of the public to approach barristers
directly without going through a solicitor first, and also for solicitors to
present cases in some higher courts, without hiring the services of a
barrister. As a result, the two kinds of lawyer came into competition
with each other for the first time. Now, in the popular image barristers
are in some sense “senior” to solicitors, more highly educated and so,
perhaps, “better”. Unlike solicitors they are mostly self-employed and
have a prestige similar to that of doctors. They belong to one of the four
Inns of Court, ancient institutions resembling Oxbridge colleges. And it
is mostly barristers from whose ranks judges are appointed.
Courts in England and Wales. There are two main kinds of
courts, and, respectively, two kinds of judicial officers. Very serious
offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery are tried only
by the Crown Court presided over by a judge sitting with a jury. The
least serious offences and the vast majority of criminal cases – are tried
by unpaid lay magistrates sitting without a jury. Magistrates’ courts are
one example of the importance of amateurism in British public life.
Magistrates, who are also known as Justices of the Peace (JPs), are not
trained lawyers. They are just ordinary people of good reputation who
have been appointed to the job by a local committee. They do not get a
salary or a fee for their work (though they get paid expenses). Inevitably,
they tend to come from the wealthier sections of society and, in times
past, their prejudices were very obvious. They were especially harsh, for
instance, on people found guilty of poaching (hunting animals on private
land), even though these people sometimes had to poach in order to put
food on their families’ tables. These days efforts are made to recruit JPs
from as broad a section of society as possible.
Even serious criminal cases are first heard in a magistrates’ court.
However, in these cases, the JPs only need to decide the there is a prima
facie case against the accused (in other words, that it is possible that he
or she is guilty). If they do, they then refer the case to a Crown Court,
where a professional lawyer acts as a judge. Unlike most other countries
in the world, the decision regarding guilt or innocence is not taken by
the judge but by a jury. Juries consist of 12 (in Scotland sometimes 15)
people selected at random from the list of voters. In order to reach a
verdict, there must be agreement among at least ten of them. If this does
not happen, the judge has to declare a mistrial and the case must start all
over again with a different jury. The duty of the judge during a trial is to
act as the referee while the prosecution and defence put their cases
across. It is also the judge’s job to impose a punishment (known as
“pronouncing sentence”) on those found guilty. A convicted person may
appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal in London either to have the
conviction quashed (i.e. the jury’s previous verdict is overruled and they
are pronounced “not guilty”) or to have the sentence reduced.
The final appeal. The highest court of all in Britain used to be the
House of Lords. But this long-established system was considered an
anachronism an also a contradiction of the principle of the separation of
powers (which states that the people who make the laws and those who
decide whether they have been broken should not be the same people).
Since 2009, the highest court in the UK has been the Supreme Court,
presided over by twelve independently appointed judges, known as
Justices of the Supreme Court. The 12 former Law Lords in the House
of Lords are the first justices of the Supreme Court and are disqualified
from sitting or voting in the House of Lords. When they retire from the
Supreme Court they can return to the House of Lords as full members
but newly-appointed Justices of the Supreme Court will not have seats in
the House of Lords. The Supreme Court hears matters on important
points of law, mostly civil cases. It also hears some criminal cases of
great public importance (except those in Scotland, where the High Court
of Justiciary is the highest criminal court).
Recent reforms, including the creation of the Ministry of Justice
and the election of a Lord Speaker for the House of Lords, have
significantly altered the role of Lord Chancellor who is no longer the
head of the judiciary and there is no requirement for the Lord Chancellor
to be a member of the House of Lords. But the role has not disappeared
– it has merely been amalgamated with that of Secretary of State for
Justice. Jack Straw MP is currently Justice Secretary and Lord
Chancellor, leading on policy for courts, prisons, probation and
constitutional affairs. He also performs ceremonial duties as Lord
Chancellor at State Opening of Parliament.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
Trial by Jury
In Britain, it is a centuries old practice that anybody accused of
a serious crime has the right to be tried by “12 good men and true”,
as the saying goes (though of course nowadays women are allowed
to be good and true as well!). But modern British governments and
some legal experts have sometimes expressed doubts about the jury
One reason for these may be that juries so often find the
defendant “not guilty” after remaining stable at around 32% for
decades, acquittal rates in the 1990s shot up to 43% (perhaps because
juries are less reverential towards police officers, lawyers and judges
than they used to be).
But there are more serious reasons for doubts. Modern cases
often involve a mass of technical information that an ordinary person
cannot be expected to understand. Making this problem worse, it is
argued, is the fact that juries are often unrepresentative. It is the duty
of every citizen to be available for jury service, but few people want
to do it. It means spending weeks, sometimes longer, stuck in a court
room listening to frequently boring evidence, instead of getting on
with your normal life. And though you get paid expenses, you do not
actually earn a fee. So people often try to escape jury service by
providing special reasons why they cannot do it. Naturally, it is the
more intelligent people who are more successful in these attempts. In
2001, a graffito was found in the toilets of the Central Criminal
Court in London (the Old Bailey) which read “I’m being tried by 12
people too stupid to get out of jury service”.
Nevertheless, the jury system remains as a central principle of
the law in Britain and, like the absence of identity cards, is widely
regarded as a symbol of British freedoms.
The sentence of this court is…
If it is someone’s first offence, and the crime is a small one,
even a guilty person is often unconditionally discharged and can go
free without punishment.
The next step up the ladder is a conditional discharge and/or a
suspended sentence. In both cases, this means that the guilty person
is set free. But if he or she commits another crime within a stated
time, the first crime will be taken into account (and any suspended
sentence will be imposed). He or she may also be put on probation,
which means that regular meetings with a social worker must take
A very common form punishment for minor offences is a fine,
which means that the guilty person has to pay a sum of money.
Another possibility is that the convicted person is sentenced to
a certain number of hours of community service.
Wherever possible, magistrates and judges try not to imprison
people. This costs the state money, the country’s prisons are already
overcrowded and prisons have a reputation for being “schools for
As in the rest of Europe, there is no death penalty in Britain. It
was abolished in 1969. For murderers there is an obligatory life
1.2 Give the English equivalents to the following Russian word
1. система соперничества между защитой и обвинением
2. уголовный / гражданский кодекс
3. юридическое образование
4. на рубеже веков
5. обращаться к адвокату напрямую
6. непредумышленное убийство
7. набирать мировых судей из самых разных слоев населения
8. выбирать наугад из списка избирателей
9. выносить приговор
10. объявить судебное разбирательство недействительным
11. считаться анахронизмом
12. потерять право заседать в Палате Лордов
13. значительно изменить функции Лорда Канцлера
14. объединить функции
1.3 Now that you have acquainted yourselves with the British system
of law and courts, give your own opinion on the following
1. Many people in Britain argue that imprisonment is an ineffective and
expensive form of punishment. Do you agree with this view?
2. What alternative forms of punishment in use in Britain do you think
are better, if any? Which of them can be introduced in your country
(if they don’t yet exist)?
3. What are the main differences between the legal systems in Great
Britain and your country? What do you see as the strengths and the
weaknesses of both systems?
Use the above given text and the glossary (2.2) for reference to
adversary/adversarial system система соперничества в суде между
защитой и обвинением
to appeal against a sentence обжаловать приговор
to make/to reject an appeal подать/отклонить апелляцию
bail судебный залог
to save one’s bail (=to явиться в суд в назначенный срок (об
surrender to one’s bail) отпущенном под залог)
to release smb on bail (to освободить под залог
bail smb out)
the bar барьер, отделяющий судей; суд в
prisoner at the bar подсудимый
to be behind the bars быть в тюрьме, за решеткой
the Bar адвокатура, коллегия адвокатов
to be at the Bar быть адвокатом (барристером)
to go (to be called) to the быть принятым в адвокатское
Bar сословие, стать адвокатом
to be called for the Bar быть назначенным королевским
to read for the Bar готовиться к адвокатуре
to take silk стать королевским адвокатом
solicitor судебный поверенный,
готовящий дело к рассмотрению в
case судебное дело
to examine/hear/decide/ расследовать/слушать/решать/
close a case прекращать дело
on a charge of по обвинению
to withdraw a charge снять обвинение
(разг.to drop the
to charge smb with обвинять, предъявлять обвинение
code кодекс, свод законов
criminal code уголовный кодекс
civil code гражданский кодекс
conviction обвинительный приговор
to convict smb признать виновным
‘convict осужденный, заключенный
to acquit smb оправдать кого-либо, признать
acquittal оправдательный приговор
court суд, состав суда, заседание суда
court of appeal апелляционный суд
High Court of Justice Высокий суд (суд первой инстанции
по гражданским делам с
юрисдикцией на территории всей
county court суд графства
Crown court суд Короны (уголовное отделение
Magistrates’ court магистратский суд
The Justice of the Peace (JP) мировой судья
The Supreme Court Верховный суд
Old Bailey то же, что Central Criminal Court (по
названию улицы, где он находится)
to defend защищать в суде
the defense защита, сторона защиты на судебном
defense counsel, defense защитник, адвокат
defendant подсудимый, ответчик
the dock скамья подсудимых
to be in the dock находиться на скамье подсудимых
evidence доказательства, улики,
to give evidence давать показания в суде
circumstantial evidence косвенные улики
guilty виновный (прилаг.)
to find smb guilty/not признавать/не признавать кого-либо
to plead guilty/not признавать/не признавать себя
judgment приговор, решение суда
to pass judgement on выносить приговор кому-либо
jury присяжные, суд присяжных
to serve/sit on a jury быть членом суда присяжных
foreman of the jury старшина присяжных
law закон, право, юриспруденция
the common law общее право
prosecution судебное преследование
the prosecution обвинение; сторона, предъявляющая
to prosecute smb привлечь к судебной
plaintiff / claimant истец
respondent (the respondent ответчик
remand возвращение арестованного под
a person on remand подследственный, находящийся в
sentence мера наказания, приговор
to pass sentence on smb вынести приговор
trial судебный процесс, судебное
to be/to go on trial предстать перед судом
to put smb on trial отдать под суд
to hold a trial проводить судебный процесс
try smb for smth судить за что-либо
to declare a mistrial объявить судебное разбирательство
verdict приговор, решение присяжных
to return/bring in/reach a вынести решение, приговор
a verdict of Guilty/Not обвинительный/оправдательный
witness свидетель, давать показания в суде
witness for the свидетель обвинения/защиты
to call a witness вызывать свидетелей
to cross-examine a подвергать свидетеля подробному
witness или перекрестному допросу
3.1 Read the text, do the task (3.2) given below the text.
THE LEGAL PROFESSION
There are two distinct kinds of lawyers in Britain. One of these is a
solicitor. Everybody who needs a lawyer has to go to one of these. They
handle most legal matters for their clients, including the drawing up of
documents (such as wills, divorce papers and contracts), communicating
with other parties, and presenting their clients’ cases in magistrates’
courts. However, only since 1994 have solicitors been allowed to present
cases in higher courts. If the trial is to be heard in one of these, the
solicitor normally hires the services of the other kind of lawyer – a
barrister. The main function of barristers is to present cases in court.
They also offer expert legal opinions when asked.
The training of the two kinds of lawyer is very different. All
solicitors have to pass the Law Society exam. They study for this exam
while ‘articled’ to established firms of solicitors where they do much of
the everyday junior work until they are qualified. After their exams, new
solicitors have to secure a two-year training contract with a firm of
solicitors to complete their qualification.
Barristers have to attend one of the four Inns of Court in London.
These ancient institutions are modeled somewhat on Oxbridge colleges.
For example, although there are some lectures, the only attendance
requirement is to eat dinner there on a certain number of evenings each
term. After four years, the trainee barristers then sit exams. If they pass,
they are ‘called to the bar’ and are recognized as barristers. However,
they are still not allowed to present a case in a crown court. They can
only do this after several more years of association with a senior
barrister, after which the most able of them apply to ‘take silk’. Those
whose applications are accepted can put the letter QC (Queen’s Counsel)
after their names.
Neither kind of lawyer needs a university qualification. The vast
majority of barristers and most solicitors do in fact go to university, but
they do not necessarily study law there. This arrangement is typically
The different styles of training reflect the different worlds that the
two kinds of lawyer live in, and also the different skills that they
develop. Solicitors have to deal with the realities of the everyday world
and its problems. Most of their work is done away from the courts. They
often become experts in the details of particular areas of the law.
Barristers, on the other hand, live a more rarefied existence. For one
thing, they tend to come from the upper strata of society. Furthermore,
their protection from everyday realities is increased by certain legal
rules. For, example, they are not supposed to talk to any of their clients,
or to their client’s witnesses, except in the presence of the solicitor who
has hired them. They are experts on general principles of the law rather
than on details, and they acquire the special skill of eloquence in public
speaking. When they present a case in court, they, like judges, put on the
archaic gown and wig which, it is supposed, emphasize the impersonal
majesty of the law.
It is exclusively from the ranks of barristers that judges are
appointed. Once they have been appointed, it is almost impossible for
them to be dismissed. The only way that this can be done is by a
resolution of both Houses of Parliament, and this is something that has
never happened. Moreover, their retiring age is later than in most other
occupations. They also get very high salaries. These things are
considered necessary in order to ensure their independence from
interference, by the state or any other party.
Although judges are well paid their current earnings are less than
those which successful barristers can make. An established barrister may
accept appointment as a full-time judge, even at some sacrifice of
current income, for any of a combination of reasons: higher status, easier
life, the prospect of a pension when he retires.
However, the result of their background and their absolute security
in their jobs is that, although they are often people of great learning and
intelligence, some judges appear to have difficulty understanding the
problems and circumstances of ordinary people, and to be out of step
with general public opinion. The judgements and opinions that they give
in court sometimes make the headlines because they are so spectacularly
out of date. (The inability of some of them to comprehend the meaning
of racial equality is one example. A senior Old Bailey judge in the 1980s
once referred to black people as ‘nig-nogs’4 and to some Asians
involved in a case as ‘murderous Sikhs’.)
1. The difference in training that the two kinds of lawyer (barristers and
solicitors) get. What do these different styles of training reflect?
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a judge's office?
nig-nog - B.E., taboo, a black person (considered extremelyoffensive)
Section 1. Read and study
1.1 Look through these questions before reading text 1.
1. What is the historical background of the system of Parliamentary
Elections in Great Britain?
2. How many constituencies is Great Britain divided into? What does
the number of constituencies depend on?
3. Who is eligible to vote in a general election in Great Britain?
4. Who is not entitled to vote in parliamentary elections.
5. Who is disqualified from standing for election to Parliament?
6. Is it necessary to belong to a political party to be a candidate?
7. How often do general elections take place? Who takes the decision
on when to hold a general election?
8. Why is the majority system of voting adopted in Great Britain
called the "First-Past-the-Post" system?
9. State the advantages and disadvantages of the current voting
system as its opponents and proponents see them?
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTORAL SYSTEM IN BRITAIN
The System. Unlike in any other country in the world, the system
of political representation that is used in Britain evolved before national
issues became more important to people than local ones. In theory, the
House of Commons is simply a gathering of people who each represent
a particular place in the kingdom. Originally, it was not the concern of
anybody in government as to how each representative was chosen. That
was a matter for each town or country to decide for itself. Not until the
nineteenth century were laws passed about how election were to be
This system was in place before the development of modern
political parties. These days, of course, nearly everybody votes for a
candidate because he or she belongs to a particular party. But the
tradition remains that an MP is first and foremost a representative of a
particular locality. The result of this tradition is that the electoral system
is remarkably simple. It works like this. The country is divided into a
number of geographical areas of roughly equal population (about 90
000) known as constituencies. Britain is divided into about 650
parliamentary constituencies, the voter living within the area select one
person to serve as a member of the House of Commons. Constituency
boundaries are approved by Parliament following reviews by the four
Parliamentary Boundary Commissions.
At the 2010 election, there were 659 constituencies and 659 MPs
were elected. It was called a general election, and of course control of
the government depended on it, but in formal terms it was just 659
separate elections going on at the same time.
Voters. British citizens may vote provided they are aged 18 or
over and are not legally barred from voting. Subject to the same
conditions, citizens of other Commonwealth countries and the Irish
Republic who are resident in Britain may also vote at parliamentary
election. All voters must be on the electoral register. This is compiled
every year for each constituency separately. People who have moved
house and have not had time to get their names on the electoral register
of their new constituency can arrange to vote by post. Nobody, however,
is obliged to vote. Voting is by secret ballot. It is also voluntary. On
average about 75 per cent of the electorate votes.
The following people are not entitled to vote in parliamentary
peers, and peeresses in their own right, who are members of the
House of Lords;
foreign nationals, other than the citizens of the Irish Republic resident
people kept in hospital under mental health legislation;
people convicted within the previous five years of corrupt or illegal
Candidates. Any person aged 21 or over who is a British citizen,
or citizen of another Commonwealth country or the Irish Republic, may
stand for election to parliament, providing they are not disqualified.
Those disqualified include:
people who are bankrupt;
people sentenced to more than one year of imprisonment;
clergy of the Church of England, Church of Scotland and the Roman
A range of public servants, specified by law. They include judges,
civil servants, some local government officers, full-time members of
the armed forces and police officers.
Candidates do not have to live in the constituencies for which they
stand. However candidates who are on the electoral register in the
constituencies for which they are standing may vote in their own
Candidates must be nominated on official nomination papers,
giving full name and home address. The nomination paper must be
signed by ten electors.
After the date of an election has been fixed, people who want to be
candidates in a constituency have to deposit £500 with the Returning
Officer (the person responsible for the conduct of the election in each
constituency). They get this money back if they get 5% of the voters or
more. The local associations of the major parties will have already
chosen their candidates and will pay the deposits for them. However, it
is not necessary to belong to a party to be a candidate. Until 2001, there
was no law which regulated political parties. There was just a law which
allowed candidates to give a “political description” of themselves on the
ballot paper. However, this was open to abuse. (For example, one
candidate in a previous election had described himself a “Literal
Democrat” and it is thought that some people voted for him in the belief
that he was the Liberal Democrat candidate.) So part of the job of the
Electoral Commission, which was created in 2001, is to register party
However, parties can call themselves anything at all as long as it
does not cause confusion. Among the 115 parties contesting the 2005
election were Rock ‘N’ Roll Loony Party; Death Dungeons & Taxes;
Glasnost; Church of the Militant Elvis Party; Personality AND Rational
Thinking? Yes! Party; Telepathic Partnership.
General election. General elections, for all seats in the House of
Commons, take place at least every five years. In practice, elections are
usually held before the end of the five-year term. In exceptional
circumstances, such as during the two world wars (1914-1918 and 1939-
1945), the life of a Parliament has been extended beyond the five-year
The decision on when to hold a general election is made by the
Prime Minister. The procedure involves the Queen, acting on the prime
Minister’s advice, dissolving Parliament and calling a new Parliament.
Formal Writs of Election are normally issued on the same day. The
Prime Minister usually announces the dissolution of parliament and
explains the reasons for holding the election. Voting takes place within
17 days of dissolution of parliament and explains the reasons for holding
the election. Voting takes place within 17 days of dissolution, not
including Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays: therefore, election
campaigns last for three to four weeks.
The System of Voting. The simple majority system of voting is
used in parliamentary elections in Britain. This means that the candidate
with the largest number of votes in each constituency is elected,
although he or she may not necessarily have received more than half the
votes cast. There is no preferential voting (if a voter chooses more than
one candidate, that ballot paper is ‘spoiled’ and is not counted); there is
no counting of the proportion of votes for each party (all votes cast for
losing candidates are simply ignored).
In the first place it has been increasingly questioned whether the
electoral system provides an accurate reflection of political preferences.
The system penalises at a national level those parties whose vote is
inefficiently distributed across the country. Since smaller parties have
never enjoyed such efficiently distributed support as the Conservative
and Labour parties have, they seldom matter. In fact, the system is
known as the "first-past-the-post" system (an allusion to horse-racing).
The existing electoral system has attracted so much criticism that all the
major parties have proposed some form of electoral reform. Labour has
proposed a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote (AV) system
for elections to the Commons.
Under the AV system, voters rank candidates in order of
preference. The winning candidate must have 50% of the votes so the
votes for lower-placed candidates are distributed in succession until one
candidate has more than 50%. The AV system, as well as the First-Past-
the-Post voting system, is a majoritarian one. The table illustrating how
AV works is given below.
Alternative Vote (AV)
Voters fill in a ballot paper by marking their ballot paper 1, 2, 3 etc
against their most preferred individual candidates in a single member
seat. Winning candidates must get more than 50% of the votes as the
second and later preferences of the least successful candidates are
counted in turn.
Three parties stand for election – Party A, Party B and Party C. At
the polling booth, voters list each party in order of preference. On
election day, 120 people turn out to cast their vote. The votes are
counted and tallied as follows (third preferences have been omitted for
the sake of simplicity):
42 voters 17 voters 10 voters 51 voters
1 preference Party B Party A Party A Party C
2nd preference Party A Party B Party C Party A
The first preferences are counted and the results are:
Party A = 27, Party B = 42, Party C = 51
No candidate has the 61 votes needed to win an outright majority.
Party A has the fewest votes, so is eliminated. The votes of those who
put Party A as their first preference are then redistributed to their second
preference nominations. In this example, 17 votes are transferred to
Party B and 10 votes are transferred to Party C. After this process, the
new result is:
Party B = 59, Party C = 61
Winning candidates have to get more than 50% of the votes under
the AV system. So the Party C candidate is returned to Parliament.
The proposal to introduce AV was rejected by the electorate in
the nationwide alternative vote referendum held on 5 May 2011.
However, the Alternative Vote is used to elect the majority of chairs
of select committees in the House of Commons. The AV is also used
for the election of the Lord Speaker and by-elections for hereditary
FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
Arguments used in support of First-Past-the-Post
It's simple to understand and thus doesn't cost much to administer.
It doesn't take very long to count all the votes and work out who's won,
meaning results can be declared a handful of hours after polls close.
The voter can clearly express a view on which party they think should form
the next government.
It tends to produce a two-party system, which in turn tends to produce
single-party governments, which don't have to rely on support from other
parties to pass legislation.
People are often fearful of change and slow to adapt.
Arguments used against FPTP
Representatives can get elected on tiny amounts of public support. In 2005,
for example, George Galloway polled the votes of only 18.4 per cent of his
constituents, yet ended up in the House of Commons. Only three MPs
elected in 2005 secured the votes of more than 40 per cent of their
FPTP in effect wastes huge numbers of votes, as votes cast in a constituency
for losing candidates, or for the winning candidate above the level they need
to win that seat, count for nothing. In 2005, 70 per cent of votes were wasted
in this way – that's over 19 million ballots.
1.2 Give the English equivalents to the following words and word
1. объявить себя кандидатом на выборы в одном из избирательных
2. быть не допущенными до голосования
3. быть включенным (состоять в) список избирателей
4. избираться от какого-либо округа
5. устанавливать дату выборов
6. проводить всеобщие выборы
7. предложить проведение референдума по…
8. быть избранным в Парламент
Look through these questions before reading text 2.
1. Who is responsible for the administration of elections?
2. What are the functions of election agents?
3. Do British elections differ from what they have in the U.S.?
4. What is canvassing?
5. What are the main events of the polling day?
6. Why is the period after voting called a television extravaganza?
7. Why do by-elections appear to be so important in party politics?
8. What inspired considerable public interest in the 2010 campaign?
Administration of elections. In each constituency a returning
officer, usually a senior local government officer, administer the
election. He or she arranges for notices of election to appear in public
places and for all electors to receive a poll card giving details of the
voting arrangements. Returning officers also make the necessary
arrangements for voting on polling day, including setting up polling
stations and providing staff to run them.
Election agents. Each parliamentary candidate must appoint an
election agent. Although candidates may serve as their own agents, this
is not usual. Agents are responsible for running the campaign, for
controlling expenses in line with the legal restrictions on election
campaign expenditure. If they are paid for their services, this must be
included within the amount allowed for campaign purposes. Some
agents are full-time salaried officials who act as party organizers in one
or more constituencies in the period between elections.
British elections are comparatively quiet affairs. There is no
tradition of large rallies or parades as there is in the USA. However,
because of the intense coverage by the media, it would be very difficult
to be in Britain at the time of a campaign and not realize that an election
was about to take place. The 2010 campaign was the first to feature
direct head-to-head televised debates between the leaders of the three
largest UK parties. These debates changed the nature of the campaign
and inspired considerable public interest in the campaign.
Local newspapers give coverage to the candidates; the candidates
themselves hold meetings; party supporters stick up posters in their
windows; local party workers spend their time canvassing.
Canvassing. Canvassers go from door to door, calling on as many
houses as possible and asking people how they intend to vote. They
rarely make any attempt to change people’s minds, but if voters are
identified as ‘undecided’, the party candidate might later attempt to pay
If it looks as if these people are not going to bother to vote, party
workers might call on them to remind them to do so. Canvassing is an
awful lot of work for very little benefit. It is a kind of election ritual.
The amount of money that candidates are allowed to spend on their
campaigns is strictly limited. They have to submit detailed accounts of
their expenses for inspection.
But the reality is that all these activities and regulations do not
usually make much difference. Nearly everybody votes for a candidate
on the basis of the party which he or she represents, not because of his or
her individual qualities or political opinions. Few people attend
candidates’ meetings; most people do not read local newspapers. In any
case, the size of constituencies means that candidates cannot meet most
voters, however energetically they go from door to door.
It is at a national level that the real campaign takes place. The
parties spend millions of pounds advertising on hoardings and in
newspapers. By agreement, they do not buy time on television as they do
in the USA. Instead, they are each given a number of strictly timed
‘party political broadcasts’. Each party also holds a daily televised news
conference. All of this puts the emphasis on the national party
personalities rather than on local candidates. Only in the ‘marginals’ 5 –
might the qualities of an individual candidate, affect the outcome.
Party money. There is no law which regulates political parties, so
Most of Britain's constituencies are called "safe seats". This means that one or the other of the
main parties has traditionally enjoyed overwhelming support in elections for the seat
there is no legal limit to the amount of money that national parties can
spend on election campaigns. Nor is any money given to the parties by
the state for their campaigns. (These are two more ways in which the
British system differs from that in most other western countries.)
Furthermore, there is no law which obliges parties to say where
they get their money too. This last point is a matter of heated debate
among the parties. The Conservatives get a lot of their money from large
single donations by individuals, sometimes from people outside Britain.
The other parties would like to pass a law which forced parties to reveal
the sources of large donations and which forbade donations from
Polling day. On polling day (the day of the election), voters go to
polling stations and are each given a single piece of paper (the ballot
paper) with the names of the candidates for that constituency (only) on
it. Each voter then puts a cross next to the name of one candidate. After
the polls have closed, the ballot papers are counted. The candidate with
the largest number of crosses next to his or her name is the winner and
becomes the MP for the constituency.
General elections always take place on a Thursday. They are not
public holidays. People have to work in the normal way, so polling
stations are open from seven in the morning till ten at night to give
everybody the opportunity to vote. The only people who get a holiday
are schoolchildren whose schools are being used as polling stations.
Voting takes place in booths which are screened to maintain
After the polls close, the marked ballot papers are taken to a
central place in the constituency and counted. The Returning Officer
then makes a public announcement of the votes cast for each candidate
and declares the winner to be the MP for the constituency. This
declaration is one of the few occasions during the election process when
shouting and cheering may be heard.
Election night. The period after The swingometer
voting has become a television This is a device used by
extravaganza. Both BBC and ITV start television presenters on
their programs as soon as voting finishes. election night. It indicates
With millions watching, they continue the percentage change of
right through the night. Certain features support from one party to
of these ‘election special’, such as the another party since the
previous election – the
‘swingometer’ have entered popular
The first excitement of the night is
the race to declare. It is a matter of local
can be placed at certain points
pride for some constituencies to be first along the swingometer to
to announce their result. Doing so will show how much swing is
guarantee that the cameras will be there necessary to change the party
to witness the event. If the count has affiliation of their MPs. The
gone smoothly, this usually occurs at swingometer was first made
just after 11.00 p.m., experts (with the popular by professor Robert
help of computers) will be making McKenzie on the BBC’s
coverage of the 1964 election.
predictions about the composition of the Over the years, it has become
newly elected House of Commons. more colourful and more
Psephology (the study of voting habits) complicated. Most people
has become very sophisticated in Britain enjoy it but say they are
so that, although the experts never get it confused by it!
exactly right, they can get pretty close.
By two in the morning at least half of the constituencies will have
to declared their results and, unless the election is a very close one (as,
for example, in 1974 and 1992), the experts on the television will now
be able to predict with confidence which party will have a majority in
the House of Commons, and therefore which party leader is going to be
the Prime Minister.
Some constituencies, however, are not able to declare their results
until well into Friday afternoon. This is either because they are very
rural, and so it takes a long time to bring all the ballot papers together, of
because the race has been so close that one or more ‘recounts’ have been
necessary. The phenomenon of recounts is a clear demonstration of the
ironies of the British system. In most constituencies it would not make
any difference to the result if several thousand ballot papers were lost.
But in a few, the result depends on a handful of votes. In these cases,
candidates are entitled to demand as many recounts as they want until
the result is beyond doubt. The record number of recounts is seven (and
the record margin of victory is just one vote!).
By-elections. Whenever a sitting MP can no longer fulfil his or her
duties, there has to be a special new election in the constituency which
he or she represents. (There is no system of ready substitutes.) There are
called by-elections and can take place at any time.
A by-election provides the parties with an opportunity to find a
seat in Parliament for one of their important people. If a sitting MP dies,
the opportunity presents itself; if not, an MP of the same party must be
persuaded to resign.
The way an MP resigns offers a fascinating example of the
importance attached to tradition. It is considered wrong for an MP
simply to resign; MPs represent their constituents and have no right to
deprive them of this representation. So the MP who wishes to resign
applies for the post of ‘Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds’. This is a job
with no duties and no salary. Technically, however, it is ‘an office of
profit under the Crown’ (i.e. a job given by the monarch with rewards
attached to it). According to ancient practice, a person cannot be both an
MP and hold a post of this nature at the same time because Parliament
must be independent of the monarch. (This is why high ranking civil
servants and army officers are not allowed to be MPs.) As a result, the
holder of this ancient post is automatically disqualified from the House
of Commons and the by-election can go ahead.
2.2 Give the English equivalents to the following Russian words and
1. руководить проведением выборов;
2. организовывать (открывать) избирательные участки;
3. следить, чтобы расходы на кампанию не выходили за рамки,
4. широкое освещение (выборов) в печати (СМИ);
5. предоставлять подробные отчеты о расходах (на кампанию);
6. день выборов;
7. закрытые кабины для тайного голосования;
8. сделать объявление о количестве голосов, отданных на каждого
9. объявить победителя, ставшего членом Палаты Общин от
10. почти равное распределение голосов на выборах;
11. телефеерия во время выборов;
12. быть показателем популярности (непопулярности)
правительства на настоящий момент
Use the above-given texts and the glossary (3.1) to speak about the
British Electoral System. Now that you have acquainted
yourselves with the present-day system of voting in Great
Britain answer and discuss the following questions.
1. In what ways is political campaigning in your country different from
that in Britain?
2. What is the level of public interest in learning about election results in
your country? Does it reflect the general level of enthusiasm about,
and interest in politics?
ballot paper бюллетень для голосования
secret ballot тайное голосование
borough город, приравненный к
canvassing предвыборная агитация на дому у
избирателей; сбор голосов перед
constituency избирательный округ
safe constituency избирательный округ, большинство
избирателей, в котором традиционно
отдают свои голоса за кандидатов
одной из двух основных партий
marginal constituency избирательный округ, в котором нет
поддержки одной из двух главных
партий, и поэтому результаты
выборов обычно непредсказуемы
count подсчет голосов избирателей
recount пересчет голосов
election (to) выборы (в)
general election всеобщие выборы
by-election дополнительные выборы
election agent организатор избирательной кампании
to win/lose an election победить/проиграть на выборах
election campaign избирательная кампания
to fight the election вести борьбу на выборах
to fix an election организовать выборы
elect (v) smb to избирать кого-либо в
elect smb Prime-minister избирать кого-либо
electoral address обращение к избирателям
election address обращение к избирателям
electoral issue проблема, решение которой
предлагается кандидатами или
партиями в ходя избирательной
electoral law закон о выборах, избирательный закон
electoral register список избирателей
electorate контингент избирателей,
кандидата, определенную политику
election agent организатор предвыборной кампании
to be eligible to vote иметь право участвовать в выборах
manifesto предвыборная платформа партии,
nominee (n) кандидат на выборах
nominate smb выставлять кандидатуру на выборах
(as a candidate)
nomination официальное выставление кандидата
opinion poll опрос общественного мнения
to take polls проводить опрос общественного
polling day день голосования
polling station место голосования, пункт голосования
to put up выставлять свою кандидатуру,
(one’s name for Parliament) вносить кандидатуру в списки для
to return smb to Parliament избирать кого-либо в Парламент
returning officer должностное лицо, ответственное за
election returns результаты выборов
to stand for участвовать в выборах, выставлять
parliamentary elections свою кандидатуру
to vote by proxy голосовать по доверенности
to vote by post голосовать по почте
put to the vote ставить на голосование
voting (n) 1. голосование
preferential voting система голосования, при которой
избиратель отмечает цифрами против
фамилий кандидатов, в каком порядке
он за них голосует
turnout явка избирателей на выборы
turnout of …%
FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
A GUIDE TO BRITISH POLITICAL PARTIES
History: developed from the group of MPs know as the Tories in
the early nineteenth century and still often known informally by
that name (especially in newspapers, because it takes up less
Traditional outlook: right of centre; stands for hierarchical
authority and minimal government interference in the economy;
likes to reduce income tax; gives high priority to national defense
and internal law and order.
Since 1979: aggressive reform of education, welfare, housing and
many public services designed to increase consumer-choice and/or
to introduce ‘market economics’ into their operation.
Organization: leader has relatively great degree of freedom to
Leader: David Cameron.
Voters: the richer sections of society, plus a large minority of the
Money: mostly donations from business people.
History: formed at the beginning of the twentieth century from an
alliance of trade unionists and intellectuals. First government in
Traditional outlook: left of centre; stands for equality, for the
weaker people in society and for more government involvement in
the economy; more concerned to provide full social services than
to keep income tax low.
Since 1979: opposition to Conservative reforms, although has
accepted many of these by now; recently, emphasis on community
ethics and looser links with trade unions
Organization: in theory, policies have to be approved by annual
conference; in practice, leader has more power than this implies.
Leader : Ed Miliband.
Voters: working class, plus a small middle-class intelligentsia.
Money: more than half form trade unions.
History: formed in the late 1980s from a union of the Liberals
(who developed from the Whigs of the early nineteenth century)
and the Social Democrats (a breakaway group of Labour
Policies: regarded as in the centre or slightly left of centre; has
always been strongly in favor of the EU; places more emphasis on
the environment than other parties; believes in giving greater
powers to local government and in reform of the electoral system.
Leader : Nick Clegg.
Voters: from all classes, but more from the middle class.
Money: private donations (much poorer than the big two)
Both Plaid Cymru (‘party of Wales’ in the Welsh
language) and the SNP (Scottish National Party) fight for
devolution of governmental powers. They won separate
parliaments for their countries and many of their
members, especially in the SNP, are willing to consider
total independence from the UK. Both parties have
usually had a few MPs in the second half of the twentieth
century, but well under half of the total number of MPs
from their respective countries.
Parties in Northern Ireland
Parties here normally represent either the Protestant
or the Catholic communities. There is one large
comparatively moderate party on each side (the Protestant
Ulster Unionists and the Catholic Social Democratic and
Labour Party) and one or more other parties of more
extreme views on each side (for example, the Protestant
Democratic Unionists and the Catholic Sinn Fein). There
is one party which asks for support form both
communities – the Alliance party.
There are numerous very small parties, such as the
Green Party, which is supported by environmentalists.
There is a small party which was formerly the Communist
party, and a number of other left-wing parties, and also an
extreme right-wing party which is fairly openly racist (by
most definitions of that word). It was previously called the
National Front but since the 1980s has been called the
British National Party (BNP).
from "The Downing Street Years"
In my case, preparation for the election involved more than
politics. I also had to be dressed for the occasion. I had already
commissioned from Aquascutum6 suits, jackets and skirts –
"working clothes" for the campaign.
I took a close interest in clothes, as most women do: but it was also
extremely important that the impression I gave was right for the political
occasion. In Opposition I had worn clothes from various suppliers. And
if I had had any doubts about the importance of getting these matters
very carefully organised, they were dissipated by the arrival of an outfit
ordered for the Opening of Parliament in 1979. It was a beautiful
sapphire blue suit with a matching hat. I had no time for a fitting and as I
put it on with just a few minutes in hand I found to my horror that it
neither fitted nor suited me and had to rush away to change into
something else. It was a lesson not to order from a sketch, which can
disguise unwanted bulges that are too painfully obvious to the real
From the time of my arrival in Downing Street, Crawfie7 helped
me choose my wardrobe. Together we would discuss style, colour and
cloth. Everything had to do duty on many occasions so tailored suits
seemed right. (They also have the advantage of gently passing by the
waist). The most exciting outfits were perhaps those suits I had made –
in black or dark blue – for the Lord Mayor's Banquet. On foreign visits,
it was, of course, particularly important to be appropriately dressed. We
always paid attention to the colours of the national flag when deciding
on what I should wear. The biggest change, however, was the new style
I adopted when I visited the Soviet Union in the spring of 1987, for
which I wore a black coat with shoulder pads, that Crawfie had seen in
the Aquascutum window, and a marvellous fox fur hat. (Aquascutum
have provided me with most of my suits ever since).
Aquascutum [,ækw'skju:tm] - an expensive clothing shop in London
Crawfie – Mrs. Thatcher's private secretary
With the televising of the House of Commons after November
1989 new considerations arose. Stripes and checks looked attractive and
cheerful in the flesh but they could dazzle the television viewer. One day
when I had just not had enough time to change before going to the
House, I continued to wear a black and white check suit. Afterwards a
parliamentary colleague who had seen me on television told me, "what
you said was all right, but looked awful". I learned my lesson. People
watching television would also notice whether I had worn the same suit
on successive occasions and even wrote in about it. So from now on
Crawfie always kept a note of what I wore each week for Prime
Minister's Questions. Out of these notes a diary emerged and each outfit
received its own name, usually denoting the occasion it was first worn.
The pages read something like a travel diary: Paris Opera, Washington
Pink, Reagan Navy, Toronto Turquoise, Tokyo Blue, Kremlin Silver,
Peking Black and last but not least English Garden. But now my mind
was on the forthcoming campaign, it was time to lay out my navy and
white check suit, to be known as "Election'87".
Use the following questions and assignments in the discussion of the
1. Describe the way Mrs. Thatcher learned her lesson how she should
dress as a political leader.
2. Do you think that the manner of choosing and wearing clothes is an
important factor in building-up the public image of a political leader?
By Robert Harris
PRIME MINISTER: With your permission Mr Speaker, I wish to make a
statement to the House regarding certain incidents of a personal nature.
Some of these incidents have, in the past few days, entered the public
domain in a lurid and garbled form, and a number of my ministerial
colleagues have urged me to take the first available opportunity to set
the record straight. This, with the indulgence of the House, I now
propose to do.
Incident at the Greenford Park Service Station
At approximately five o'clock last Friday afternoon I left No. 10
Downing Street as usual to travel to the Prime Minister's official
country residence at Chequers for the weekend. The party consisted of
two cars. The advance car contained myself, a duty secretary from the
Downing Street staff, a driver, and a protection officer from the
Metropolitan Police. The back-up vehicle contained three additional
For several years it has been my practice to take advantage of
long car journeys as an opportunity to work. Among the documents
which had been prepared for my attention on this occasion was the
weekly digest of press coverage compiled for me by my Chief Press
I have arranged for a copy of this document, which carries no
security restriction, to be placed in the Library of the House.
Honourable Members who consult it will see that it conveys frankly,
and with detailed quotation, the whole spectrum of press comment
about myself as it had appeared in the previous week's newspapers.
The comment was, as usual, robust; some might say robust in the
extreme. However, I have always taken the view that a free press is an
essential element of a free society, and that, if you are in public life, you
must, as Kipling has it,
'. . . bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools …'
The route taken to Chequers is frequently varied for security reasons,
and it is not official policy to disclose it. Therefore I shall not do so now.
Suffice it to say that the traffic heading west out of London on this
particular evening was unusually heavy, even for a wet Friday evening
in the pre-Christmas period, and that, after an hour of travelling, we
had managed to proceed only as far along the A40 as the Greenford
Roundabout, a distance of some seven miles.
It was at this point – that is, at approximately 6 p.m. – that I
began to feel unwell. The principal symptom was one of acute nausea,
brought on, no doubt, by the effort of trying to read in a car which was
repeatedly stopping and starting. I needed fresh air. Unfortunately, for
security reasons, the windows of my official car are not designed to
open. I put aside the press digest and directed my protection officers to
pull in to the next available service station, informing them that I
needed to use the lavatory. This request was radioed to the back-up car
and a few moments later we turned off the A40 on to the forecourt of
what I now know to be the Greenford Park Service Station.
I must emphasize that the responsibility for what followed is
mine, and mine alone. No blame should be attached to my protection
officers, who behaved throughout in their usual exemplary and
professional manner. Having checked that the gentleman's lavatory was
unoccupied, and having secured the area immediately in front of it, it
was on my express orders that they remained outside whilst I went
inside, locking the door behind me. Nobody else was present.
Several newspapers have described what followed as a 'moment
of madness'. It would be more accurate, Mr Speaker, to describe it as a
series of small but logical steps, whose cumulative effect was to prove
fateful. On entering the cubicle I noticed that behind the lavatory basin
was a window. This window was slightly open. By standing on the
lavatory seat, I discovered that it was possible to open the window fully.
I was thus able to bring my face into contact with some much-needed
air. Only then did it occur to me that the aperture was, in fact, just large
enough for the insertion of my head and shoulders. As the air was
having a beneficial effect, this prospect seemed appealing.
Unfortunately I then made what was to prove a regrettable
miscalculation with regard to my centre of gravity. Questions have been
asked about the failure of my protection officers to hear the noise of my
exit via the window, but I can assure the House that the roar of the
nearby traffic on the wet road was more than sufficient to drown out
any sound I may have made.
I left the lavatory in a head-first position and it was this, rather
than any subsequent event – and contrary to reports in the media - that
produced the slight bruising and abrasions still visible on my face and
It may be that I was rendered temporarily unconscious by my
descent. I cannot recall. If I was, it was certainly only for a few
moments. Upon rising to my feet, I found myself in a small area,
enclosed by walls on three sides. To my left was a gap leading to an
automatic car-washing machine. Honourable members will understand
that, given the time of year, it was now quite dark. I had also lost a
contact lens. Finding the space in which I was standing claustrophobic,
and feeling slightly groggy from the effects of my fall, I ventured out
along the side of the car wash. As the various diagrams printed in the
press have shown, I was now invisible from the forecourt, and it was
this route which, as chance would have it, led me away from the garage
and out on to a neighbouring street.
I have learned subsequently that my protection officers waited
two or three minutes before first knocking on the lavatory door and
then, on receiving no reply, breaking it down. By then, however, I was
several hundred yards to the south. There was, I repeat, nothing they
could have done, and no blame attaches to them in this regard.
Telephone Call to No. 10
At this stage of the evening, as I am sure the House will appreciate, I
had no particular plan in mind. It may well be that I was slightly
concussed. At any event, I was content simply to follow my footsteps
where they led me, enjoying the refreshing sensation of the damp night
air. Ferrymead Gardens took me to Millet Road which gave on to
Beechwood Avenue and later Melrose Close - street names which,
more eloquently than I can hope to do, describe the peaceful English
suburb in which I found myself. I felt no sensation of danger; rather the
I am aware that my actions have since been described in the
media as 'a gross dereliction of duty' (Daily Telegraph) and 'an
unprecedented endangering of national security' (The Times). Yet, as
the noble lord, Lord Jenkins, has pointed out (in today's Evening
Standard), there is an historical precedent. On the night of 4 May 1915,
Herbert Asquith walked from Mansfield Street, near Oxford Circus, to
Downing Street, lost in thought about his feelings for Miss Venetia
Stanley, who had just disclosed to him her intention of marrying one of
his Cabinet colleagues. If one Prime Minister can walk the London
streets unprotected during wartime, why cannot another do the same in
peacetime? Does a Prime Minister not enjoy the same civil liberties as
any other citizen of the United Kingdom? These are questions which
the House may wish to ponder.
Of course, I was aware of the undoubted anxiety which I was by
now causing to those who were concerned for my welfare.
Accordingly, I took steps to reassure them. The duty log of the No. 10
switchboard records that at 6.27 p.m. a caller claiming to be the Prime
Minister attempted to make a reverse charge call to the Downing Street
Press Office from a public telephone box in Greenford. The same caller
tried again two minutes later. On this second occasion I was finally able
to convince the switchboard operator of my identity, and my call was put
through. The House will thus see that within approximately twenty
minutes of my alleged disappearance, my office was aware that I was
safe and well and acting of my own free will. So much for the so-called
'night of frantic worry' (Daily Mail) to which I am supposed to have
My Chief Press Secretary, with characteristic presence of mind,
took a careful note of our conversation, and I have arranged for a copy
of his record also to be placed in the Library of the House. According to
this note, I told him not to worry about me, and reassured him that in
due course I would return to Downing Street of my own volition. He
frankly disapproved of this plan. He believed my actions would quickly
become public and provoke damaging speculation in the media. He
urged me in strong terms to stay where I was, adding that he would
arrange for my protection officers to pick me up: they were, he informed
me, at that very moment patrolling the neighbourhood looking for me.
The duty log shows that I terminated this conversation at 7.01 p.m.
It was raining quite steadily by now, the streets were quiet, and
the realization was suddenly born upon me that unless I took swift and
decisive action to vacate the area, I was likely to face the embarrassing
situation of being apprehended by my own security officers. Irrational
as it may seem with hindsight, I was seized with a powerful desire to
postpone such an encounter, at least for a little while longer. But how
was it to be avoided? A taxi, if one could be procured, was the obvious
solution. But now I faced a further, and unanticipated, problem.
The House may be aware that the first thing a Prime Minister
loses on taking office is his passport, which is removed from him' by his
Private Office to ease his official travel arrangements. The second thing
to go is his ready money. Why, after all, does a Prime Minister need
cash? How would he spend it if he had it? Where would he obtain it if
he wanted it? The sudden realization that I had no money placed me in
It was then that I noticed that the telephone call box in which I
was sheltering stood adjacent to a small row of commercial premises.
Among them was a branch of my own bank. I had retained my personal
cheque card from my days as Leader of the Opposition, and it was the
work of but a few moments to hurry across the pavement and insert it
into the automatic telling machine (ATM). However, my relief quickly
evaporated when I realized I had only a vague recollection of my
personal identification number (PIN). On my third attempt to enter my
PIN, the ATM informed me that it had retained my card.
My reason for giving the House these apparently minor details is
to make it easier to comprehend the sequence of events which followed.
I was wearing only a light business suit. I was thoroughly wet. I was
cold. I was eager to be on my way. The only object on me, I realized,
which had any monetary value, was an inscribed wristwatch, given to
me during the last G8 summit by the President of the United States.
The sequence of events by which this wristwatch came to be in
the possession of a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl has also excited
considerable media speculation, most of it of an utterly fantastical
nature. The facts are more prosaic.
As luck would have it, no taxis were available to hire in that particular
part of Greenford at that time of the evening, either for cash or barter.
Venturing into the road, I therefore attempted to flag down a passing
motorist. Perhaps not surprisingly, the spectacle of a man bearing a
striking resemblance to the Prime Minister, bleeding slightly from a
grazed forehead, looming out of the darkness on a rainy Friday night
with his suit jacket held over his head, caused him to panic. Far from
slowing down, he accelerated away, a pattern of behaviour repeated by
several other motorists as I made my way up and down the centre of
Ferrymead Avenue in search of assistance.
It was at this point that I became aware of another pedestrian on
that stretch of road - a pedestrian bending, as it seemed to me, to unlock
the door of a parked car. This other person - a female person - who,
because of her age, cannot be named for legal reasons - is the person
who has since become known in the media as 'Miss B’.
I cannot, at this stage, remember precisely which of us initiated
the conversation that now took place. It may be that Miss B, as I shall
also call her, hailed me in a jocular spirit, or I may have approached her.
It is not, in any case, a relevant detail. I naturally assumed her to be the
owner of the vehicle beside which she was standing, or at any rate a
person authorized by the owner of the vehicle to drive that vehicle
away, or, at the very least, the holder of a current UK driver's licence. I
also accepted at face value her explanation that the vehicle was
mechanically defective, and therefore needed to be started by the
unorthodox procedure of opening the bonnet and connecting certain
cables in the ignition, a technique which, my right honourable friend
the Home Secretary informs me, is known as 'hot-wiring'.
Some will no doubt accuse me of naivety in this matter. That is
for the House and the country to judge. The essence of the situation is
that I asked a person whom I assumed to be a competent driver to give
me a lift, that she at first demurred, that I then offered her as payment
the wristwatch to which I made reference earlier, and that she then
agreed to drive me wherever I wished to go. The whole case is now in
the hands of the Crown Prosecution Service and I am advised that it
would be prejudicial for me to comment further on a situation where
legal action may be pending.
It was, I should estimate, approximately 7.20 p.m. when, with
Miss B at the wheel, we pulled out of Ferrymead Avenue at the start of
what was to prove an eventful journey. By this time, unknown to me,
British Telecom engineers had pin-pointed the precise location of the
telephone box from which I had contacted the Downing Street Press
Office, my Principal Private Secretary had been alerted, and the Head of
Special Branch and the Director-General of the Security Service, in
consultation with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had
issued orders for the area to be sealed off. The emergency services had
responded immediately with their usual superb professionalism. The
stations of Greenford, South Greenford, Drayton Green and Hanwell
had all been closed, and a rudimentary vehicle checkpoint (VCP) was
aleady in operation, blocking access from Oldfield Lane South to the
It was towards this VCP that Miss B now accelerated.
Journey into London
My precise recollection of what followed is hazy. According to Miss B,
as quoted in yesterday's News of the World, I shouted 'Go, go, go.' I
believe, in fact, that my actual words were 'No, no, no' and that, in the
heat of the moment, she misheard me. The truth may never be known.
What is not in dispute is that an offence was now committed under the
provisions of the 1972 Road Traffic Act, in that our vehicle failed to
stop when requested to do so by a police officer. I deeply regret this.
In her account of the night's events, as related in the News of the
World, Miss B asserts that she had no idea that I was the Prime
Minister. I believe this to be true. She certainly did not seem to me to be
the kind of young person who would follow political events at all
closely. When I told her who I was, and that the wristwatch which she
was now wearing had been given to me by the President of the United
States, she responded with an exclamation of frank disbelief.
I am aware that I have been widely criticized for failing to
recognize that she was of school age. It was, however, as I have pointed
out, dark; I may well have been suffering the effects of concussion; I
had lost a contact lens; and the photographs of Miss B reproduced in the
News of the World – even with her face masked to protect her identity –
show, as I am sure the House would agree, a person of unusually mature
Her driving skills were also those of a person many years in
advance of her true age. The noise of pursuit soon died away and we
found ourselves on the A40 heading east, back towards central London -
the very road along which I had been travelling to Chequers a bare
ninety minutes before.
Honourable Members may perhaps imagine the thoughts which
were running through my mind. I was beginning to see that my actions
could indeed be open to widespread misinterpretation, as my Chief
Press Officer had warned me they would be. It was now clear that a
considerable police operation was underway in the Greenford area. I had
obviously inconvenienced many people. Given the numbers involved,
there was little chance of what had happened not becoming public at
some stage. I needed to think quickly what I should do. Miss B took the
view, and expressed it forcibly, that continuing on our present course
along the A40 would foreshorten that thinking time considerably. I
concurred. Accordingly, we left the A40 at the Hanger Lane
interchange and joined the North Circular Road.
Perhaps I might now quote to the House from Miss B's account in
the News of the World:
'I said to him, "Are you really the Prime Minister?" He said he was. He seemed
like a nice bloke. He'd gone very quiet. He said he was worried he was going to get
me in to a lot of trouble. He said the papers were going to come after me. I said,
"No way. You're kidding me." He said, "You've no idea what they're like."
'He asked if I lived with someone who would look after me? Did I have a
husband? I said no way: my dad was inside and my mum had done a runner and I
lived with my gran. He said, "So how old are you then? Eighteen? Nineteen?" I
said, "Fifteen", and he kind of groaned and went very quiet again. I thought I'd
turn on the radio to cheer him up.'
Mr Speaker, it has been asked – and fairly asked – why, at this stage of
the evening, I did not simply direct Miss B to pull off the road, and
await the inevitable arrival of the police. With hindsight, of course, this
is what I should have done. I was in a vehicle clearly being driven by
someone not qualified to do so. But my situation at the time appeared to
me more complicated. Miss B has been kind enough to indicate, via the
News of the World, that I seemed like 'a nice bloke'. May I, across the
havoc of the past few days, return the compliment, and say that she
seemed a nice young woman?
And there was something more. In the drama of the preceding
minutes, a bond had sprung up between us – a purely platonic bond, I
hasten to add – but a bond nonetheless, which meant that I now felt
acutely responsible for the situation in which I had placed her. I knew
only too well what was likely to happen to her, a vulnerable schoolgirl,
if her part in the night's events became known to the media. Could
some means be found of extricating her from this sorry tangle? Our
best hope was surely to remove ourselves as far as possible from the
scene of police operations, and it was for this reason, as much as any
other, that we continued our journey across London, eventually leaving
the North Circular Road at the Brent Cross Shopping Centre, and
travelling south down North End Road towards the borough of
I have quoted Miss B as telling the News of the World that it was her
idea to switch on the car radio. I was frankly curious to know whether
any word of the night's dramas had yet reached the media. As it
happened, the owner of the vehicle – to whom I have since written a
letter of apology – had left the radio tuned to a news station, and
immediately I found myself listening to an interview regarding my
recent performance as Prime Minister. The House will perhaps
understand if I say that I felt a sudden sensation of dread. My political
life, if not exactly passing before my eyes, seemed at any rate to be
passing rapidly before my ears. However, as the broadcast continued, I
realized that the interview, which was part of a regular political
programme, had in fact been pre-recorded. The tone of the comments
being broadcast was one of characteristically lofty abuse and I
recognized at once the voice of the speaker: a columnist whom I knew
personally, and whose work appears regularly in a number of
publications, among them the Guardian and the Observer. His name
will be familiar to members on both sides of the House. For legal
reasons, I shall call him Mr A.
Honourable members who take the trouble to consult the weekly
press summary which I have had placed in the Library will see that it
contains several quotations from Mr A's recent journalism. By a curious
coincidence, I had been re-reading these quotations earlier in the
evening, at around the moment when I was stricken with nausea. In the
Guardian, for example, he had written:
‘The Prime Minister is, by common consent, a little man: "a pettyfogging political
pygmy", was how one of his Cabinet colleagues described him at a private meeting last
week. The gap between his personal qualities and the importance of the office he holds
grows daily ever more embarrassingly apparent.'
And in the Observer:
'It should surprise no one to learn that the Prime Minister is a liar. Lying, after all,
is the essence of the politician's craft. What should surprise us – and what alarms
his colleagues – is that he is such a bad liar. He is a true phoney: an authentic
fraud. As one senior Cabinet Minister recently remarked: "He's the sort of man
who, if he kept a brothel, would bring prostitution into disrepute."'
There is more in a similar vein, but perhaps the House will excuse me if
I confine myself to these two, fairly typical illustrations.
As I said at the outset of my statement, I have always believed
strongly in the tradition of robust press comment as an essential part of
our democratic system. I have nothing against journalists as such. Far
from it. I had seen Mr A socially on a number of occasions, both before
and after I became Prime Minister. I had been to his house. He had been
to mine. He had sent me his books when they were published. I had
presented his recent award at the annual What the Papers Say lunch
when he was made Columnist of the Year. I had always made efforts to
be friendly towards him. His position in the political spectrum was
roughly the same as mine. He should have been, if not a friend, then at
least an ally. Yet in print, for reasons I had never understood, he
adopted a stance of unwavering criticism. I return to the account given
by Miss B:
'This posh guy on the radio was really slagging him off, so I said something like,
"Sounds like this f***er really hates your guts." And he said, "Yes, but he's always very
nice to my face." So I said, "You mean to tell me you know the guy?" And he said, yes
he did, that he used to see him a bit. And I said, "Well, it's none of my business, but don't
you think he's due a sorting, the way he's going on?" And he looked out of the window
and he thought about it for a bit, and then he said that funnily enough the f***er lived
somewhere around here.'
Incident in Hampstead
In deciding to visit Mr A at his home I was aware that I was embarking
on a potentially hazardous course. On the other hand, I took the view
that I was by this stage
'. . . in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.'
By which I do not mean to imply that I consciously intended to do Mr A
any actual physical injury, but rather that I had by now concluded that
my recent actions would, regardless of what I did, become public
knowledge very soon. Once that happened, it did not require much effort
on my part to imagine what Mr A himself would have to say about my
conduct. The prospect of for once seizing the initiative – of, to use Miss
B's phrase, giving him 'a sorting', whatever that may mean – held a certain
As I have already told the House, our route from Greenford had
now carried us as far as Hampstead, the district in which Mr A has for
many years lived. I know the area well. As a backbench MP, I had lived
around the corner from Mr A in a basement flat. His own, substantial,
four-storey house was familiar to me, and I directed Miss B to the
appropriate street. For a moment, after we had parked outside, I
hesitated. Was this, on reflection, really a sensible course? But then I
resolved that I would continue. The media, after all, had frequently
turned up uninvited on my doorstep over the years. Why should I not do
the same to one of them? I left the car and rang the bell. Mr A himself
answered the door.
Mr Speaker, I cannot claim to have the events of the next few
minutes arranged with perfect forensic clarity in my mind. I recall that
Mr A greeted me with his usual civility, and that he was carrying a
bottle of champagne and a half-full glass. He did not seem particularly
pleased to see me. He was, he said, expecting dinner guests at any
moment, and made a general indication of regret that he was therefore
unable to invite me in. Perhaps, he suggested, my office could contact
his secretary and we could arrange a suitable date for an appointment
the following week.
It was at this point that Miss B left the car and joined me on the
doorstep. Her appearance on the scene seemed to affect Mr A's
composure. She began quoting back to him several of the points he had
been making earlier on the radio, and invited him to step over the
threshold and repeat them. He seemed both confused and alarmed by
her presence. I explained that she had recently come to work at No. 10
as part of a work experience scheme. This statement, which was part of
my continuing efforts to protect her identity, was misleading, and I
regret it. He finally agreed to admit us, and asked us to go upstairs and
wait for him in his study, while he made arrangements, he said, for one
of his domestic staff to greet his guests in his place.
The suggestion in various newspapers that, once in his study, I
'ransacked' his desk is absurd. The truth is that the room was relatively
small and it was almost impossible for me to avoid glancing at his
computer screen and seeing what was written there – namely, his
column for that Sunday's issue of the Observer. It included the
'Unable, it seems, to tolerate even the mildest criticism, the Prime Minister is said
by close colleagues to be exhibiting worrying signs of mental instability. "All
Prime Ministers go mad eventually," one of his senior Cabinet colleagues told me
privately last week. "The difference is that this one was mad from the start." '
I was still reading when Mr A entered the room.
I now proceeded to make a number of points, of which perhaps
four stand out in my memory: first, that it was a pity, given his obvious
genius for public administration, that he had never seen fit to offer
himself for election; secondly, that it was richly ironic for a journalist,
of all people, to accuse all politicians of habitually lying, as I had yet to
read any article in any newspaper on any subject of which I had any
knowledge that didn't contain at least one factual inaccuracy; thirdly,
that I considered it morally contemptible of him to quote anonymous
so-called 'senior colleagues' who, I was sure, had better things to do
than pass the time of day with him; and, fourthly, that if I was mad –
and I was beginning to suspect that I might be, for choosing to be a
Prime Minister when I could have been a newspaper columnist – then I
had surely been driven mad by him, and by people like him.
Mr A responded that he had, indeed, considered a political career
during his time at Oxford, but had concluded that real power no longer
resided in this House, which was full – I believe I am quoting him
correctly – of 'little people'; secondly, that he had no views as to the
respective merits of journalism and politics, except to observe that
nowadays the former offered better rewards, in every sense, and
therefore attracted individuals of greater talent; thirdly, that no journalist
ever reveals his sources; and finally that he had no particular animus
against me personally, but took the impartial view that all politicians
were mad and liars, and therefore that whoever was Prime Minister at
any given time was, by definition, likely to be the biggest and maddest
liar of the lot.
I am not sure precisely how long this conversation lasted. As the
House will recall, I no longer had a watch. Nor can I say for certain
when I first realized that Mr A was deliberately keeping me occupied.
But I should say that roughly twenty minutes had elapsed when Miss B,
who had taken up a position by the window, suddenly interrupted our
discussion to report that the street below was filling with policemen and
photographers. It was then that Mr A disclosed that he had misled us. He
had not, in fact, left us alone in order to speak to one of his staff, but
rather to alert the picture desk of a national newspaper.
The House will appreciate that, until the Crown Prosecution
Service has decided whether or not to initiate criminal proceedings, I am
not at liberty to describe as fully as I would wish to do exactly what
happened next. No party has yet been charged with a criminal offence,
and unless and until that happens, Mr A has a right to anonymity. Miss
B's published account is, frankly, incoherent. What is not in dispute is
that witnesses heard voices raised, and that at some point Mr A and
myself both fell, entwined, down the stairs, landing in the hall at
exactly the moment when, as luck would have it, the front door opened
to admit the first of Mr A's dinner guests, my right honourable friend the
Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Mr Speaker, I have tried to set out the facts as clearly and
unemotionally as possible. Someone – I think it may have been
Abraham Lincoln, or possibly it was Winston Churchill – once wrote
that a night in a police cell is good for any man, and I feel that I have
personally benefited from this experience. I have been treated as any
other citizen would have been under the circumstances, and that is all I
have ever sought.
To have been allowed to serve this country has been a great privilege.
Over the course of the next few hours, I shall be having further
discussions with my ministerial colleagues and others, and later this
evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen. After
that my own personal position will be clearer.
No doubt much more will be said on these matters in the days and
weeks to come. In the meantime, it only remains for me to thank you,
Mr Speaker, and through you the House, for the courtesy you have
shown in listening to my personal statement.
Use the following questions and assignments in the discussion of the
1. How can you explain the title of the story? What does the
abbreviation (PMQ) stand for?
2. Why does the Prime Minister give such a detailed account of the
3. The story is full of humour. How does the author achieve this effect?
Give a few examples. Are the actual events of the story as funny as
the style of the Premier’s presentation? Support your viewpoint.
4. Do you think anything like this could happen in real life?
My Son the Fanatic
By Hanif Kureishi
Surreptitiously, the father began going into his son's bedroom. He
would sit there for hours, rousing himself only to seek clues. What
bewildered him was that Ali was getting tidier. The room, which was
usually a tangle of clothes, books, cricket bats and video games, was
becoming neat and ordered; spaces began appearing where before there
had been only mess.
Initially, Parvez had been pleased: his son was outgrowing his teenage
attitudes. But one day, beside the dustbin, Parvez found a torn shopping
bag that contained not only old toys but computer disks, videotapes,
new books, and fashionable clothes the boy had bought a few months
before. Also without explanation, Ali had parted from the English
girlfriend who used to come around to the house. His old friends stopped
For reasons he didn't himself understand, Parvez was unable to bring
up the subject of Ali's unusual behaviour. He was aware that he had
become slightly afraid of his son, who, between his silences, was
developing a sharp tongue. One remark Parvez did make - 'You don't
play your guitar anymore' - elicited the mysterious but conclusive reply,
'There are more important things to be done.'
Yet Parvez felt his son's eccentricity as an injustice. He had always
been aware of the pitfalls that other men's sons had stumbled into in
England. It was for Ali that Parvez worked long hours; he spent a lot of
money paying for Ali's education as an accountant. He had bought Ali
good suits, all the books he required, and a computer. And now the boy
was throwing his possessions out! The TV, video-player and stereo
system followed the guitar. Soon the room was practically bare. Even the
unhappy walls bore pale marks where Ali's pictures had been removed.
Parvez couldn't sleep; he went more often to the whisky bottle, even
when he was at work. He realised it was imperative to discuss the matter
with someone sympathetic.
Parvez had been a taxi-driver for twenty years. Half that time he'd
worked for the same firm. Like him, most of the other drivers were
Punjabis. They preferred to work at night, when the roads were clearer,
and the money better. They slept during the day, avoiding their wives.
They led almost a boy's life together in the cabbies' office, playing
cards and setting up practical jokes, exchanging lewd stories, eating
takeaways from local balti houses, and discussing politics and their
But Parvez had been unable to discuss the subject of Ali with his
friends. He was too ashamed. And he was afraid, too, that they would
blame him for the wrong turning his boy had taken, just as he had
blamed other fathers whose sons began running around with bad girls,
skipping school and joining gangs.
For years, Parvez had boasted to the other men about how Ali
excelled in cricket, swimming and football, and what an attentive
scholar he was, getting 'A's in most subjects. Was it asking too much
for Ali to get a good job, marry the right girl, and start a family? Once
this happened, Parvez would be happy. His dreams of doing well in
England would have come true. Where had he gone wrong?
One night, sitting in the taxi office on busted chairs with his two
closest friends, watching a Sylvester Stallone film, Parvez broke his
'I can't understand it!' he burst out. 'Everything is going from his
room. And I can't talk to him any more. We were not father and son -
we were brothers! Where has he gone? Why is he torturing me?' And
Parvez put his head in his hands.
Even as he poured out his account, the men shook their heads and
gave one another knowing glances.
'Tell me what is happening!' he demanded.
The reply was almost triumphant. They had guessed something was
going wrong. Now it was clear: Ali was taking drugs and selling his
possessions to pay for them. That was why his bedroom was being
'What must I do, then?'
Parvez's friends instructed him to watch Ali scrupulously and to be
severe with him, before the boy went mad, overdosed, or murdered
Parvez staggered out into the early-morning air, terrified that they
were right. His boy - the drug-addict killer!
To his relief, he found Bettina sitting in his car.
Usually the last customers of the night were local 'brasses', or
prostitutes. The taxi-drivers knew them well and often drove them to
liaisons. At the end of the girls' night, the men would ferry them home,
though sometimes they would join the cabbies for a drinking session in
Bettina had known Parvez for three years. She lived outside the town
and, on the long drives home, during which she sat not in the passenger
seat but beside him, Parvez had talked to her about his life and hopes,
just as she talked about hers. They saw each other most nights.
He could talk to her about things he'd never be able to discuss with
his own wife. Bettina, in turn, always reported on her night's activities.
He liked to know where she had been and with whom. Once, he had
rescued her from a violent client, and since then they had come to care
for each other.
Though Bettina had never met Ali, she heard about the boy con-
tinually. That night, when Parvez told Bettina that he suspected Ali was
on drugs, to Parvez's relief, she judged neither him nor the boy, but said,
'It's all in the eyes.' They might be bloodshot; the pupils might be
dilated; Ali might look tired. He could be liable to sweats, or sudden
mood changes. 'OK?'
Parvez began his vigil gratefully. Now that he knew what the problem
might be, he felt better. And surely, he figured, things couldn't have
gone too far?
He watched each mouthful the boy took. He sat beside him at every
opportunity and looked into his eyes. When he could, he took the boy's
hand, checked his temperature. If the boy wasn't at home, Parvez was
active, looking under the carpet, in Ali's drawers, and behind the empty
wardrobe - sniffing, inspecting, probing. He knew what to look for:
Bettina had drawn pictures of capsules, syringes, pills, powders, rocks.
Every night, she waited to hear news of what he'd witnessed. After a few
days of constant observation, Parvez was able to report that although
the boy had given up sports, he seemed healthy. His eyes were clear.
He didn't – as Parvez expected he might – flinc guiltily from his
father's gaze. In fact, the boy seemed more alert and steady than usual:
as well as being sullen, he was very watchful. He returned his father's
long looks with more than a hint of criticism, of reproach, even; so much
so that Parvez began to feel that it was he who was in the wrong, and not
'And there's nothing else physically different?’ Bettina asked.
'No!' Parvez thought for a moment. 'But he is growing a beard.'
One night, after sitting with Bettina in an all-night coffee shop, Parvez
came home particularly late. Reluctantly, he and Bettina had abandoned
the drug theory, for Parvez had found nothing resembling any drug in
Ali's room. Besides, AH wasn't selling his belongings. He threw them
out, gave them away, or donated them to charity shops.
Standing in the hall, Parvez heard the boy's alarm dock go off. Parvez
hurried into his bedroom, where his wife, still awake, was sewing in
bed. He ordered her to sit down and keep quiet, though she had neither
stood up nor said a word. As she watched him curiously, he observed his
son through the crack of the door.
The boy went into the bathroom to wash. When he returned to his
room, Parvez sprang across the hall and set his ear to Ali's door. A
muttering sound came from within. Parvez was puzzled but relieved.
Once this clue had been established, Parvez watched him at other
times. The boy was praying. Without fail, when he was at home, he
prayed five times a day.
Parvez had grown up in Lahore, where all young boys had been taught
the Koran. To stop Parvez from falling asleep while he studied, the
maulvi had attached a piece of string to the ceiling and tied it to Parvez's
hair, so if his head fell forward, he would instantly jerk awake. After this
indignity, Parvez had avoided all religions. Not that the other
taxidrivers had any more respect than he had. In fact, they made jokes
about the local mullahs walking around with their caps and beards,
thinking they could tell people how to live while their eyes roved over
the boys and girls in their care.
Parvez described to Bettina what he had discovered. He informed the
men in the taxi office. His friends, who had been so inquisitive before,
now became oddly silent. They could hardly condemn the boy for his
Parvez decided to take a night off and go out with the boy. They could
talk things over. He wanted to hear how things were going at college; he
wanted to tell him stories about their family in Pakistan. More than
anything, he yearned to understand how Ali had discovered the 'spiritual
dimension', as Bettina called it.
To Parvez's surprise, the boy refused to accompany him. He claimed
he had an appointment. Parvez had to insist that no appointment could
be more important than that of a son with his father.
The next day, Parvez went immediately to the street corner where
Bettina stood in the rain wearing high heels, a short skirt, and a long
mac, which she would open hopefully at passing cars.
'Get in, get in!' he said.
They drove out across the moors and parked at the spot where, on
better days, their view unimpeded for miles except by wild deer and
horses, they'd lie back, with their eyes half-closed, saying, 'This is the
life.' This time Parvez was trembling. Bettina put her arms around him.
'I've just had the worst experience of my life. '
As Bettina rubbed his head Parvez told her that the previous evening,
as he and his son had studied the menu, the waiter, whom Parvez knew,
brought him his usual whisky-and-water. Parvez was so nervous he had
even prepared a question. He was going to ask Ali if he was worried
about his imminent exams. But first he loosened his tie, crunched a
poppadum, and took a long drink.
Before Parvez could speak, Ali made a face.
'Don't you know it's wrong to drink alcohol? ' he had said.
'He spoke to me very harshly,' Parvez said to Bettina. 'I was about to
castigate the boy for being insolent, but I managed to control myself.'
Parvez had explained patiently that for years he had worked more
than ten hours a day, had few enjoyments or hobbies, and never gone
on holiday. Surely it wasn't a crime to have a drink when he wanted one?
'But it is forbidden,' the boy said.
Parvez shrugged. 'I know. '
'And so is gambling, isn't it?'
'Yes. But surely we are only human?'
Each time Parvez took a drink, the boy winced, or made some kind of
fastidious face. This made Parvez drink more quickly. The waiter,
wanting to please his friend, brought another glass of whisky. Parvez
knew he was getting drunk, but he couldn't stop himself. Ali had a
horrible look, full of disgust and censure. It was as if he hated his father.
Halfway through the meal, Parvez suddenly lost his temper and threw a
plate on the floor. He felt like ripping the cloth from the table, but the
waiters and other customers were staring at him. Yet he wouldn't stand
for his own son's telling him the difference between right and wrong.
He knew he wasn't a bad man. He had a conscience. There were a few
things of which he was ashamed, but on the whole he had lived a decent
'When have I had time to be wicked?' he asked Ali.
In a low, monotonous voice, the boy explained that Parvez had not, in
fact, lived a good life. He had broken countless rules of the Koran.
'For instance?' Parvez demanded.
Ali didn't need to think. As if he had been waiting for this moment, he
asked his father if he didn't relish pork pies?
'Well.' Parvez couldn't deny that he loved crispy bacon smothered
with mushrooms and mustard and sandwiched between slices of fried
bread. In fact, he ate this for breakfast every morning.
Ali then reminded Parvez that he had ordered his wife to cook pork
sausages, saying to her, 'You're not in the village now. This is England.
We have to fit in.'
Parvez was so annoyed and perplexed by this attack that he called
for more drink.
The problem is this,' the boy said. He leaned across the table. For
the first time that night, his eyes were alive. 'You are too implicated in
Parvez burped; he thought he was going to choke. 'Implicated!' he
said. 'But we live here!'
'The Western materialists hate us,' Ali said. 'Papa, how can you love
something which hates you?'
'What is the answer, then,' Parvez said miserably, 'according to you?'
Ali didn't need to think. He addressed his father fluently, as if Parvez
were a rowdy crowd which had to be quelled or convinced.
The law of Islam would rule the world; the skin of the infidel would
burn off again and again; the Jews and Christers would be routed. The
West was a sink of hypocrites, adulterers, homosexuals, drug users and
While Ali talked, Parvez looked out the window as if to check that
they were still in London.
'My people have taken enough. If the persecution doesn't stop, there
will be jihad. I, and millions of others, will gladly give our lives for
'But why, why?' Parvez said.
'For us, the reward will be in Paradise.'
Finally, as Parvez's eyes filled with tears, the boy urged him to mend
'But how would that be possible?' Parvez asked.
'Pray,' urged Ali. 'Pray beside me. '
Parvez paid the bill and ushered his boy out of there as soon as he
was able. He couldn't take any more.
Ali sounded as if he'd swallowed someone else's voice.
On the way home, the boy sat in the back of the taxi, as if he were a
customer. 'What has made you like this?' Parvez asked him, afraid that
somehow he was to blame for all this. 'Is there a particular event which
has influenced you?'
'Living in this country.'
'But I love England,' Parvez said, watching his boy in the rear view
mirror. 'They let you do almost anything here.'
That is the problem,' Ali replied.
For the first time in years, Parvez couldn't see straight. He knocked
the side of the car against a lorry, ripping off the wing mirror. They were
lucky not to have been stopped by the police: Parvez would have lost his
licence and his job.
Back at the house, as he got out of the car, Parvez stumbled and fell in
the road, scraping his hands and ripping his trousers. He managed to haul
himself up. The boy didn't even offer him his hand.
Parvez told Bettina he was willing to pray, if that was what the boy
wanted - if it would dislodge the pitiless look from his eyes. 'But what
I object to,' he said, 'is being told by my own son that I am going to Hell!'
What had finished Parvez off was the boy's saying he was giving up
his studies in accounting. When Parvez had asked why, Ali said
sarcastically that it was obvious. 'Western education cultivates an anti-
And in the world of accountants it was usual to meet women, drink
alcohol, and practise usury.
'But it's well-paid work,' Parvez argued. 'For years you've been
Ali said he was going to begin to work in prisons, with poor Muslims
who were struggling to maintain their purity in the face of corruption.
Finally, at the end of the evening, as Ali went up to bed, he had asked his
father why he didn't have a beard, or at least a moustache.
'I feel as if I've lost my son, ' Parvez told Bettina. 'I can't bear to be
looked at as if I'm a criminal. I've decided what to do.'
'What is it? '
'I'm going to tell him to pick up his prayer mat and get out of my
house. It will be the hardest thing I've ever done, but tonight I'm going
to do it.'
'But you mustn't give up on him,' said Bettina. 'Many young people
fall into cults and superstitious groups. It doesn't mean they'll always
feel the same way.' She said Parvez had to stick by his boy.
Parvez was persuaded that she was right, even though he didn't feel
like giving his son more love when he had hardly been thanked for all he
had already given.
For the next two weeks, Parvez tried to endure his son's looks and
reproaches. He attempted to make conversation about Ali's beliefs. But if
Parvez ventured any criticism, Ali always had a brusque reply. On one
occasion, Ali accused Parvez of 'grovelling' to the whites; in contrast, he
explained, he himself was not 'inferior'; there was more to the world
than the West, though the West always thought it was best.
'How is it you know that?' Parvez said. 'Seeing as you've never left
Ali replied with a look of contempt.
One night, having ensured there was no alcohol on his breath, Parvez
sat down at the kitchen table with Ali. He hoped Ali would compliment
him on the beard he was growing, but Ali didn't appear to notice it.
The previous day, Parvez had been telling Bettina that he thought
people in the West sometimes felt inwardly empty and that people
needed a philosophy to live by.
'Yes,' Bettina had said. 'That's the answer. You must tell him what
your philosophy of life is. Then he will understand that there are other
After some fatiguing consideration, Parvez was ready to begin. The
boy watched him as if he expected nothing. Haltingly, Parvez said that
people had to treat one another with respect, particularly children their
parents. This did seem, for a moment, to affect the boy. Heartened,
Parvez continued. In his view, this life was all there was, and when you
died, you rotted in the earth. 'Grass and flowers will grow out of my
grave, but something of me will live on.'
'In other people. For instance, I will continue - in you.'
At this the boy appeared a little distressed.
'And in your grandchildren,' Parvez added for good measure. 'But
while I am here on earth I want to make the best of it. And I want you
to, as well!'
'What d'you mean by "make the best of it"?' asked the boy.
'Well,' said Parvez. 'For a start. . . you should enjoy yourself. Yes.
Enjoy yourself without hurting others.'
Ali said enjoyment was 'a bottomless pit'.
'But I don't mean enjoyment like that,' said Parvez. 'I mean the beauty
'All over the world our people are oppressed,' was the boy's reply.
'I know,' Parvez answered, not entirely sure who 'our people' were.
'But still - life is for living!'
Ali said, 'Real morality has existed for hundreds of years. Around
the world millions and millions of people share my beliefs. Are you
saying you are right and they are all wrong?' And Ali looked at his
father with such aggressive confidence that Parvez would say no more.
A few evenings later, Bettina was riding in Parvez's car after visiting a
client when they passed a boy on the street.
'That's my son,' Parvez said, his face set hard. They were on the other
side of town, in a poor district, where there were two mosques.
Bettina turned to see. 'Slow down, then, slow down! '
She said, 'He's good-looking. Reminds me of you. But with a more
determined face. Please, can't we stop?'
'I'd like to talk to him.'
Parvez turned the cab round and pulled up beside the boy.
'Coming home?' Parvez asked. 'It's quite a way.'
The boy shrugged and got into the back seat. Bettina sat in the front.
Parvez became aware of Bettina's short skirt, her gaudy rings and ice-
blue eyeshadow. He became conscious that the smell of her perfume,
which he loved, filled the cab. He opened the window.
While Parvez drove as fast as he could, Bettina said gently to Ali,
'Where have you been?'
'The mosque,' he said.
'And how are you getting on at college? Are you working hard? '
'Who are you to ask me these questions? ' Ali said, looking out of the
window. Then they hit bad traffic, and the car came to a standstill.
By now, Bettina had inadvertently laid her hand on Parvez's shoulder.
She said, 'Your father, who is a good man, is very worried about you.
You know he loves you more than his own life.'
'You say he loves me,' the boy said.
'Yes!' said Bettina.
'Then why is he letting a woman like you touch him like that?'
If Bettina looked at the boy in anger, he looked back at her with cold
She said, 'What kind of woman am I that I should deserve to be
spoken to like that?'
'You know what kind,' he said. Then he turned to his father. 'Now let
'Never,' Parvez replied.
'Don't worry, I'm getting out,' Bettina said.
'No, don't!' said Parvez. But even as the car moved forward, she
opened the door and threw herself out - she had done this before - and
ran away across the road. Parvez stopped and shouted after her several
times, but she had gone.
Parvez took Ali back to the house, saying nothing more to him. Ali
went straight to his room. Parvez was unable to read the paper, watch
television, or even sit down. He kept pouring himself drinks.
At last, he went upstairs and paced up and down outside Ali's room.
When, finally, he opened the door, Ali was praying. The boy didn't even
glance his way.
Parvez kicked him over. Then he dragged the boy up by the front of his
shirt and hit him. The boy fell back. Parvez hit him again. The boy's face
was bloody. Parvez was panting; he knew the boy was unreachable, but
he struck him none the less. The boy neither covered himself nor
retaliated; there was no fear in his eyes. He only said, through his split
lip, 'So who's the fanatic now?'
Use the following questions and assignments in the discussion of the
1. Give your definition of the word fanatic.
2. What pitfalls can younger immigrants stumble into when moving to
3. How did Parvez see his son’s future? What did he do to make it come
4. What began to bewilder Parvez about his son’s behaviour? Why did
his son’s new life style and attitude turn into a source of constant worry
for Parvez? What did he think this change could be indicative of? What
frantic attempts did he make to find out the truth? Was the truth any
better than Parvez’s initial apprehensions?
5. What was Ali’s new philosophy of life? How much did the boy’s new
understanding of life differ from that of his father’s? How did Ali try to
convert his father into his new beliefs?
6. Now, having read the story, which of the two do you think is the