Democracy in the UK

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  • Democracy in the UK
    • History
      • The Magna Carter
        • No man should be punished without a trial before his peers
        • Ancient liberties should be preserved
      • The Glorious Revolution
        • Limited royal power
        • Limited government's ability to detain subjects
    • Features of the UK's Democratic System
      • Core Features
        • Democratic Elections
          • Free and Fair
            • Secret ballot in 1872
              • Ended intimidation at election time
            • 'One person, one vote' in 1948
              • Abolition of plural voting for business ratepayers and graduates of Oxford and Cambridge
            • Proportional representation in 1997
            • Electoral Commission in 2000
              • Ensure the integrity of the UK's democratic processes
            • Fixed-term Parliaments in 2011
              • Prevent governments from calling general elections at times that favour their win
            • Flaws
              • Non-Elected Bodies
                • Some key political posts are not filled through elections
                  • Monarcy
                  • House of Lords
              • The Westminster Voting System
                • First-past-the-post distorts electoral preferences
                • Plurality rule
              • Electoral Malpractice
                • Postal ballots and local elections have been accused of electoral malpractice
          • Universal Suffrage
            • Universal adult suffrage in 1928
            • Flaws
              • Unenfranchised
                • Homeless
                • Convicts
                • Mentally incapable
              • Non-Voting
                • Doesn't ensure universal participation
                • Impacts quality of democracy
                • The poor and disadvantaged
          • Competitive and Provide Electoral Choice
            • No choice or little choice means that electors have to vote for what is available
            • Competition between candidates and parties
            • Flaws
              • Two-Party System
                • Labour
                • Conservative
              • Consensus Politics
                • Little to choose between the policies of the major parties
        • Parliament
          • Only popularly elected institution
          • Heart of democratic process
          • Links government to the people
            • Representative and responsible government
              • The House of Commons is elected
                • MPs represent constituencies
                • Debating chamber of the nation
          • Deliberative democracy
            • Public interest is decided through debate, discussion and argument
          • Oversees and scrutinises the actions of government
          • Flaws
            • The House of Lords
              • Unelected
                • Weakens representative role of Parliament
            • The Party System
              • Party discipline prevents MPs from using their own judgement when representing their constituents
                • Restricts freedom of debate and voting
            • Executive Control
              • Parliament's ability to scrutinise the executive is weak because the government of the day has majority control of the House of Commons
        • Pressure Groups
          • Give a political voice to minorities
          • Provide a way in which citizens can exert influence between elections
          • Flaws
            • Concentrated Power
              • Pressure groups may concentrate political power rather than distribute it
              • Fiancially powerful groups can buy influence
                • Fund political parties
            • Undermining of Parliament
              • Bypass Parliament
                • Weakens role of MPs
            • Unaccountable Power
              • Pressure group leaders are not elected
      • Supplementary Features
        • Referendums
          • For
            • Direct Democracy
              • Give the general public direct and unmediated control over government decision-making
              • Public's views and interests are articulated
                • Not distorted by representatives
            • Political Education
              • Creates a better informed, more educated and more engaged electorate
            • Responsive Government
              • Forces government to listen to public opinion
              • Government sees opinion on particular issue
            • Reduced Government Power
              • Provide a check on government power
                • Government has less control on outcome
            • Constitutional Changes
              • Constitutional changes should be made by referendum as they affect the way the country is governed
              • Any newly created body has democratic legitimacy
          • Against
            • Ill-Informed Decisions
              • The public is ill-informed, poorly educated and lacks political experience
              • Public's interests are safeguarded by government by polticians
            • Weakens Parliament
              • Substitutes direct democracy for parliamentary democracy
              • Undermines parliamentary sovereignty
              • Decisions are not made through deliberation and debate
            • Irresponsible Government
              • Governments can absolve themselves of responsibility by handing decisions over to the people
              • Governments are elected to govern
                • Make policy decisions
                  • Be accountable for decisions
            • Strengthens Government
              • Governments decide where, when and over what issue to call referendums
              • Frame referendum questions
              • Dominate the publicity campaign
            • Unreliable Views
              • Snapshot of opinion in one point of time
              • Inappropriate for make constitutional decisions as these have long-term implications
          • Why Referendums?
            • Referendums increased because of the issue of consitutional reform
            • Major changes should be made by the public
              • In the future a new constitutional convention should be created that major constitutional changes should always be made by referendum
            • Liberal Democrats as part of the coalition meant there would be interest in consitutional reform
              • Liberal Democrats are committed to the use of referendums in the promotion of democracy
          • Examples of Proposed Referendums from the Coalition
            • Introduction of the alternative vote
              • May 2011
            • Further transfer of power to Brussels
              • No treaties were introduced
            • Further Welsh devolution
              • Giving the Welsh Assembly primary legislative powers
                • March 2011
            • Local referendums on any local issue
              • Localism Act 2011
        • Devolution
          • Scottish Parliament
          • Welsh Assembly
          • Northern Ireland Assembly
          • Strengths
            • Gave the constituent nation their own political voice
              • Representation of Scotland, Wales and Ireland was always inadequate as English MPs dominate
            • Refined representative democracy
              • Allowed constituent nations to express views about national issues and UK issues
            • Widned opportunities for political participation
              • Strengthened civic engagement and political education
          • Weaknesses
            • Limited powers
              • Major economic and foreign policy decisions are still made at Westminster and in Whitehall
            • The English Question
              • Devolution has not advanced representative democracy in England
        • The European Parliament
          • European Parliament elections
            • Proportional electoral system gives better representation for the Green Party and UKIP
          • The Effectiveness of European Parliament Elections in the Promotion Democracy
            • Democratic Deficit
              • The European Parliament is the weakest of the EU institutions
                • Little policy-making influence
                • Limited control over the European Commission
            • Rule From Brussels
              • Growing EU influence over UK politics is seen as a threat to the sovereign power of Parliament and the capacity of the UK to function as an independent democratic state
    • What Kind of Democracy?
      • The UK is a majoritarian democracy
        • Consequence of the UK's Westminster model
          • Power is concentrated in ministers who are accountable to Parliament
        • When a government has majority control it interprets the public interests
      • Majoritarian Democracy Flaws
        • Less effective at protecting minorities and individual freedom
        • Anti-terror laws
          • Threatened the interests of Muslims and violated civil liberties
    • A Participation Crisis?
      • Growing political apathy
        • Rise of anti-politics
      • Trends in Voter Turnout
        • Between 1945 and 1992 average turnout was 75%
        • In 2001 turnout was 59%
          • Lowest since 1918
        • In 2005 turnout was 61%
          • Widespread use of postal voting
        • In 2015 turnout was 61%
      • Trends in Membership
        • Labour party had 1 million members in the 1950s but in 2015 it had 190,000
        • Conservative party had 2.8 million members in the 1950s but in 2015 it had 150,000
        • By 2015 less than 1% of electorates belonged to a major political party
        • Membership of small parties rose
          • UKIP
          • SNP
          • Green
        • Declining party membership is mirrored by decline in voters
          • Partisan dealignment
      • Upsurge of interest in pressure-group politics and protest movements
      • Explaining Declining Participation
        • Blame the Public
          • Social capital has declined
            • The levels of trust and sense of social connectedness that promotes stability, cohesion and prosperity
          • Growth of individualism and materialism
            • Consumerist society
          • People are concerned about themselves and their family rather than the larger society
        • Blame the Media
          • Climate of cynicism amongst the public
            • Disenchantment with politics
          • Lack of trust in governments and politicians
          • Media must make political coverage attention-grabbing
          • Debate and policy analysis receive less attention
          • Media focuses on scandals and allegations
        • Blame the Politicians
          • Lack of Vision
            • Believe in nothing except getting elected
            • Being a politician is just another career
            • Lack vision, sense of moral purpose and direction
            • Catch-all parties
          • Age of Spin
            • Politicians are over-concerned with communication and news management
            • Modern politics is about presentation
              • How things appear, not how they are
          • Lack of Choice
            • Consensus poltics
            • Labour and Conservative parties have distanced from traditional ideology
            • Catch-all politics
        • Electoral Strategies
          • Target key voters and key seats in an election

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