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Summary:  A democratic political system originating in England

Date:  The concept of the Westminster system began when the Magna Carta was signed on 15th July 1215

Location:  England, Europe (now is used by many countries around the world


- Summary -

    The Westminster system is a form of democracy which is utilised by many different countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  It originated in England and evolved from the Magna Carta which was an important document signed on 15th July 1215 by King John I of England.  The Magna Carta attempted to limit the arbitrary (random) power of the monarch to reduce chances of corruption.

The Westminster System

    The Westminster system varies from country to country, however there are some essential features that must be followed to make the system work, for example:


  • The civil government needs to be chosen by a democratically elected Lower House who represent the people

  • There must be a majority of government supporters in the Lower House for that party to remain in 'power'

  • The Prime Minister is the head of the government and leads the Caninet which is then responsible to the Lower House

  • A 'loyal' opposition is required which is made up of the second largest party in the Lower House

  • If a constitutional monarch exists she/he is 'above politics' and acts on advice from the Prime Minister

  • There is to be an independent Judiciary system

  • Those who serve in the public service are to do it impartially

  • The armed forces are to be 'outside politics'

    The Magna Carta contains not only the foundational values used in the Westminster system but is critical to democracy as a whole.  The following principles are basic components in democracy and are found in he Magna Carta:


  1. A man (or woman) can only be punished if it was proved in court that he had breached a law — this means that the national leader cannot punish people at random (arbitrarily)

  2. No man (or woman) is above the law, everyone is equal before it — this means that the law applies to everyone in the same way

  3. The Constitution (the law) is the result of previous Judicial decisions determining the rights of a person — this means that the Constitution is not the source of the law, but the consequence of inherent rights.  We don't take our rights from the Constitution, the Constitution is the result of our rights

Researched and Written By

Cody B. Mitchell 

Watch "Explained: The Westminster System and the Magna Carta"


The Westminster political system was, perhaps, one of the earliest forms of democracy as we know it.  It has impacted many countries around the world and to this day is used to protect human freedoms.
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