Democracy in the UK

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  • Democracy in the UK
    • Main problems
      • Half of Parliament isn't elected - the House of Lords.
      • General elections produce unrepresentative outcomes due to the FPTP. Governments never achieve a majority of total votes.
        • Conservative government elected in 2015 won less than 38 per cent of the national vote.
      • Some smaller parties, like Lib Dems and Green, are underrepresented due to FPTP. Others, like Labour and Conservativesare overrepresented.
      • MPs are subject to strong party discipline, so aren't independent when voting and expressing their views.
      • Governments are democratically accountable at elections but aren't accountable between elections.
    • Manifesto and mandate doctrine
      • Manifesto is the political proposals put forward by each party at an election. Used as the basis for the judgement of voters in choosing between parties.
      • Mandate is the authority given to an elected government when it wins an election. Mandate is based on its election manifesto. The government has authority to carry out its manifesto proposals.
      • Problems
        • Most of the electorate don't read manifestos and have only a generalised knowledge of what they contain.
        • Doctrine assumes the majority of electorate approves of all manifesto proposals - this is unlikely.
        • Governments are elected on a minority of the popular vote, so most of the electorate vote against the manifesto.
        • If no single party wins a majority, as in 2010, the resulting coalition has no clear mandate.
        • Unforeseen events may prevent the government carrying out its manifesto.
    • Participation crisis
      • Yes
        • Turnout at elections has been very low in recent years, despite a small recovery in 2010-7. Very variable in referenda.
        • Membership of parties has declined significantly over the last 30 years.
        • A lot of disillusion and apathy, especially among the young who have become disengaged from party politics.
        • Support for the main two parties is in decline.
      • No
        • Several e-petitions have had very high response rates.
          • E.g. for revoking article 50 in 2019: 6 million signatures, and against a road pricing scheme in 2007: 1.8 million.
        • Membership of Labour, Lib Dem, Green and SNP parties grew in 2015-7.
        • Young people are increasingly involved in pressure groups, social movements and online campaigns.
        • UKIP attracted many new, 1st time voters but its membership fell again after 2017.
    • Disillusion and apathy
      • A modern development suggesting that a high proportion of the electorate are disillusioned with the performance of governments and the parties. This leads to apathy, demonstrated in notably low turnouts at elections.


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