How democratic is the UK?

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  • How democratic is the UK?
    • Democratic
      • Universal suffrage
        • Qualifications
          • Aged 18 or over on the day of the poll.
          • a UK citizen, citizen of the Irish Republic, or a Common-wealth citizen
          • Not legally excluded from voting, eg because you’re in prison
        • Dis-qualifications
          • Under 18
          • Member of the House of Lords
          • Just EU citizen ie. not a UK, Irish Republic or Common-wealth citizen
          • in prison (apart from remand prisoners)
      • Devolution
        • Dispersal of power
        • Power being decentralised to more local levels
        • Federal: split of soverignty
          • We are quasi-federal because we don't have a federal or unitary system
        • Welsh, Northern Irish and Westminster Assemblies, but also the Scottish Parliament
      • Referendums
        • Any issue considered to be of constitutional significance
        • In the UK it is non-binding
          • Referendums are only supposed to guide government's decisions but if the governments didn't follow through, there would be uproar
        • Function is to enable government to gauge public opinion on an issue
          • Provides additional legitimacy for a particular decision and enables the public to express views between elections - addresses the democratic deficit.
    • Undemocratic
      • House of Lords
        • Over half of our UK legislature is unelected and therefore  unaccountable for.
        • It is considered undemocratic to have half of the people making and passing laws to be unelected as their decisions may not be backed by the public
        • The UK is the only government besides Canada to have an unelected second chamber which suggests that it isn’t a democratic feature as no other government has one
      • Problems in the voting system
        • First Past The Post
        • Parties can get elected even with a small amount of votes - its not the vote number that matters, it's the seats
        • MPs don't need a majority to win their seat - just one more vote could win it for them
          • In South Belfast, the SDLP candidate only got 24.5% of the votes and still won because they got a few more votes than other candidates
        • People don’t necessarily vote for the candidate, they vote for the party
      • The EU
        • UK Parliament is supposed to have soverignty
        • They have a lot of power but they are less accountable to the people than national governments
        • Most EU decisions are made or shaped by the EU Commission which is led by unelected Commissioners and run by an appointed bureaucracy
        • Turnout at European Parliament elections is so low that it is difficult to proclaim its legitimacy
      • Whipping system
        • Party whips make sure that MPs vote the way that the leader wants them to vote
          • This is undemocratic because if an MP’s constituents disagree with what the party leader wants, then the MP may just ignore their constituents vote to make sure that they don’t get into trouble with the party leader
          • If an MP doesn’t vote the way that their leader votes in order to please his constituents and retain their seat, then they may have no chance of gaining a promotion or going higher on the political ladder
          • If the MP doesn’t listen to his constituents, then the constituents basically have no say and the MP’s vote is basically the leader’s vote


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