The United Kingdom is governed by a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The head of state is the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) while the head of government is the Prime Minister (currently David Cameron, head of the Conservative Party).
A constitutional monarch means that the queen does not rule the country, but appoints the government which the people have chosen in democratic elections. The decisions on government policies are made by Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Unlike many other countries, the British Constitution is not written down. Rather than being based on a singular document, the constitution is based on legislation and precedent, as well as European Union laws.
The system of the government in the UK is a parliamentary democracy. The law requires new elections to Parliament to be held at least every five years. Legislation is passed in the UK Parliament at Westminster, in London. The business of Parliament takes place in two “houses”: the elected House of Commons, where the actual sovereign resides, and the House of Lords, whose members are mostly appointed. The most powerful office in the government is that of the Prime Minister, who is created as the head of government by being the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister creates a cabinet from Members of Parliament, and generally must maintain their support in order to fully exercise power. The majority party in Parliament supports the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
As well as the central UK government, there are three ‘devolved administrations’ for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are responsible for many domestic issues such as health, culture, the environment and transport.