Democracy and participation

  • Created by: rasim28
  • Created on: 20-05-18 11:18

Direct and representative democracy

Direct Democracy: People themselves make political decisions

Representative democracy: People elect reprrsentatives to make political decisions

Advantages of Direct Democracy:

  • Rule by majority
  • Purest form of democracy- gives legitimacy
  • 'Wisdom of crowds' means people will reach measured decisions
  • People should respect decisions to which they consented

Advantages of Representative Democracy:

  • Can protect minorities against rule by majority
  • Reps may have more knowledge and judgement than people
  • People may not understand complex issues, reps' undrstanding is more reflective
  • Reps can be sensitive to changing situations
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Overall assessment of UK democracy


  • Free elections: Everyone over 18 can vote, there is little electoral fraud and strong legal safeguards.
  • Fair elections: Proportional systems in Scotland, Wales and NI, also for EU parliament
  • Widespread participation: Extensive Presssure Group membership and e-democracy
  • Freedom of expression: Press and media free of Govt interference, free access to internet
  • Freedom of association: UK tolerates diverse groups, no restrictions on legal organisations
  • The rule of law: Upheld strictly by the judiciary- independent and neutral


  • The HoL is unelected
  • FPTP leading to disproportionate results and wasted votes
  • Both voter turnout and party activism remain low compared to the past
  • Much ownership of the press is in the hands of a few large companies- News International
  • Some associations are banned due to pro-terrorsim or racial hatred
  • HRA is threatened by the Brexit
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Participation crisis and pressure groups

Measures to tackle:

  • Copulsory voting, more political education- in order to increase turnout
  • Increased used of referendums- to get rid of political apathy
  • Electoral reform making more parties electable, reduce party membership- to tackle falling party membership
  • Change in electoral system- to decrase disillusionment with politicians 

The nature of pressure groups:

  • Promotional groups: Altruistic and serves the whole community, tends to put pressure on govt by mobilising public opinion, they often use direct action (demonstrations, protests), they seek widespread support.
  • Sectional groups: Largely self-interested and serve own members' interests, tend to seek direct links with decision makes (insider status), they often take the parliamentary route to influence, formal memebrship.
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Pressure groups methods and their influence on dem


  • Lobbying, public campaigning, donations to political parties, media campaigns, civil disobedience, social media and e-petitions, legal actions.

Pressure groups enhance democracy:

  • Educate people about important issues, e.g. Cruel Sports educated people about fox hunting.
  • They promote and give a voice to minority groups, e.g. SHELTER represent homeless
  • Allows for wider participation outside elections, e.g. Greenpeace members are able to directly participate and influence environmental policy
  • They help to call govt to account by publisicising the effects of policy

Pressure groups threatens democracy:

  • May not lead to a better informed electorate as campaigns only  provide one sided view.
  • Some PGs are internally undemocratic, some PGs don't elect their leaders
  • Prevent a democratically elected govt from carrying out its role with disobedience
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Protections of rights

Strengths of UK protection of rights:

  • There is a strong common law tradition, which give ‘precedential weight’ to common law for consistent principles
  • UK is subject to ECHR, protection of rights like fair trial, prohibition of torture and discrimination will remain secure
  • The judiciary is known for its independence and upholding the rule of law even against the expressed views of govt and parliament
  • The principle of equal rights is clearly established.

Weaknesses of UK protection of rights: 

  • Common law can be vague and disputed. It can also be set aside by parliamentary statutes.
  • Parliament remains sovereign, so can ignore ECHR and even repeal HRA
  • Increasing pressure on govt due to international terrorism, to curtail rights. Rights of privacy, association, expression and eve freedom of prison without trial are threatened.
  • There are constant conflicts between individual and collective rights: E.g. The right to privacy vs security services listening to phones for protection.
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