Representative Democracy


What is Representative Democracy?

Representative democracy is:

  • a political system where most decisions are made by elected representatives rather than the people themselves.
  • It is a form indirect democracy. 
  • It is typically expressed through a system of regular and democratic elections which enable politicians to be removed and made publicly accountable.
  • Regular elections are allowed under the Fixed term Parliament Act 2011.
  • Popular participation in a representative democracy is therefore indirect and irregular, and linked to the idea of govt for the people.
  • Representative democracy expressed by Abraham Lincoln.
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Features of representative democracy

The features of representative democracy includes:

  • It involves electing individuals to govern, on behalf of citizens and making them publicly accountable. 
  • The regular, competitive, free and fair electoral system in the UK facilitates representative democracy because of this and is based on a universal franchise and political equality.
  • Representation in the UK operates through the doctrine pf the mandate in which the winning party in a GE claims popular authority for carrying out its manifesto promises.
  • The doctrine of the mandate gives the people legitmacy to rule.
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Representative democracy ideas

Different interpretations of representative democracy during the 19th Century includes:

  • Parliamentary representation combines Burke's idea that representatives should be independent-minded  with the development of united political parties in the 19th Century. 
  • Representatives were expected to strike a balance between their own judgement, the stated policies of their party and the interests of their parliamentary constituents.
  • The mid 19th Century has been described as the 'golden age of the British MP' because representatives retained their independence within the party structure, therefore they were able to retain a real influence over govt policy.
  • There are occasions when the party whips are called off and MPs are allowed to vote free of their discipline. This is where MPs may revert to the Burkean principle, using their own judgement or will consult and follow the view of their constituent. 
    • E.g, Free votes took place on the parliamentary votes of hunting dogs, abortion laws and public smoking bans. 
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Representative democracy ideas Part 2

Different interpretations of representative democracy during the 20th Century includes:

  • During the 20th Century, party delegation evolved where MPs have become more discipplined and controlled by their leadership.
  • Parliamentary whips became the agents of this discipline, ending the golden age of the independent MPs. 
  • MPs are toed to their party line, meaning that they have become delegates of their party. 
  • Such discipline, can be justified because the voters typically base their decision on the merits of each party's election manifesto, not the personal qualities of the candidates. 
  • As a result, MPs have a moral duty to support the party's manifesto.
  • MPs who want to resist their party's line, must consult their local party members and their constituent. 
    • For example, since 2010, more MPs have resisted the party whips, especially where there are disagreements within the coalition. 
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Representative democracy in the UK

There is a wide variety of ways in which British citizens are represented:

  • Each MP represents a constituency so they are expected to represent their constituent's interests as a whole and as individual. Although there are occasions when there is conflict with their party's policy, MPs can often protect their constituencies and take up their grievances with the govt and other public bodies. 
    • This is a key part of the democratic system because each individual feels that there is an elected representative who will listen to them. 
      • However, not every representative listens to their constituent and follows the party whip. 
  • It is argued that the media, such as newspapers, represents the general public and their typical views of their readership. Political leaders pay more attention to the press and their opinion of them, because negative representation of MPs can change the public's opinions and turn them against them. 
    • In 2011, the Leveson Inquiry was set up to examine the relationship between politics and the media. 
      • However, there are certain newspapers that are aligned with the Conservative Party, such as the Times, so their representation of MPs such as Jeremy Corbyn are going to be negative as they are bias. 
      • Also, newspapers could introduce bias views, instead of 'straight' facts about politicians. 
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Representative democracy in the UK Part 2

  • HOC and HOL are representative, to an extent, because they are a cross section of soceity as a whole. HOC are elected and, although the HOL are unelected, there are people peers who have been allocated in the HOl for their work and careers (lawyers and doctors etc). HOL checks the power of the Executive, and express their opinions believed to be of the interests of various sections of community. HOL Act 1999 abolished hereditary peers-only 92 left. 
    • E.g, HOL rejected the Tax Credit Bill, showing they don't just support the rich, as they are NOT TOED to a party line or whip. 
      • However, HOC are not truly representative in regards to women as there are only 22% female MPs; 
      • Also, the HOC represents the majorty as the majority in the HOC is the govt, thus their proposals are more than likely to get passed. ]
      • Ethnic minorities are also not represented in the HOC as there are only 4% in the HOC. 
      • The working class is not entireley represented because the majorty of MPs (90%) have been university educated and from wealthy backgrounds, therefore MPs could be more bias towards professional professions and not skilled. 
      • HOL are unelected and are therefore unaccountable to the people. 
      • Most of HOL are rich. 
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Representative democracy in the UK Part 3

  • All mainstream parties in the UK claim that they represent the whole nation, on the basis that there has been a drop in the alliance of social class. This is because representation is now based on party allegiance rather than social class, exercised through the priinciple of mandate and manifesto, which represents 'national interest.'
    • Conservative Party is now more centre, as in their recent mandate, it showed support for the welfare state, than before. 
      • However, this is only to an extent, because the Conservative Party is still in favour of the wealthy and business people.
  • PGs have increasingly represented the people, as there has been a decline in faith in political parties. This is because people feel that parties are not able to represent all the interests of all the people at the same time, whereas PGS can do this accurately. PGs do this by pursuing the interests of a particular section of society (sectional PGS), or by promoting a particular cause (Promotional PGS). PGs also check on the Govt. 
    • However, PGs are representative to an extent because, despite the minority are represented by PGs, the majority is not represented by PGs.
    • Also, PGs can only raise issues to the Govt and try to get them to pass or change the law, and they are in the HOC, so they can't directly introduce or amend legislation.  
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