Britain Society and Politics

British cities are melting-pots for people not just from different parts of the country but also from overseas. Irish immigration has long ensured a flow of labor into the country, and since the 1950s hundreds of thousands have come from former colonies in Africa,Asia and the Caribbean, many of which are now members of the Commonwealth. Nearly five per cent of Britain’s 58 million inhabitants are from nonwhite ethnic groups – and about half of these were born in Britain. The result is a multi-cultural society that can boast a wide range of music, art, food and religions. However, prejudice does exist and in some inner-city areas where poorer members of different communities live, racial tensions can occasionally arise. Even though discrimination in housing and employment on the grounds of race is against the law, it does occur in places.

Britain’s class structure still intrigues and bewilders many visitors, based as it is on a subtle mixture of heredity and wealth. Even though many of the great inherited fortune no longer exist, some old families still live on their large estates, and many now open them to the public. Class divisions are further entrenched by the education system. While more than 90 per cent of children are educated free by the state, richer parents often opt for private schooling, and the products of these private schools are disproportionately represented in the higher echelons of government and business.

The monarchy’s position highlights the dilemma of a people seeking to preserve its most potent symbol of national unity in an age that is suspicious of inherited privilege. Without real political power, though till head of the Church of England, the Queen and her family are subject  increasing public scrutiny. Following a spate of personal scandals, some citizens advocate the abolition of the monarchy.

Democracy has deep foundations in Britain. Yet with the exception of the 17th-century Civil War, power has passed gradually from the Crown to the people’s elected representatives. A series of Reform Acts between 1832 and 1884 gave the vote to all male citizens, though women was not enfranchised on an equal basis until 1928. Margaret Thatcher – Britain’s first woman Prime Minister held office for 12 years from 1979. During the 20th century, the Labour (left wing) and Conservative (right wing) parties have during their periods in office, favored a mix of public and private ownership for industry and ample funding for the state health and welfare systems.

The position of Ireland has been an political issues since the 17th century. Part of the United Kingdom for 800 years, but divided in 7927, it has seen conflict between Catholics and Protestants for many years. But in 1994, a truce between the two warring factions was agreed and attempts are being made to negotiate a settlement has seen conflict between Catholics being made to negotiate a settlement.

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