Component 1 key issues


What are the advantages of direct democracy?

1) Purest form of democracy.

2) Decisions made directly from the people will have more authority - more difficult to change decisions/ be cancelled by future governments.

3) Can help educate the people about political issues.

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What are the advantages of respresentative democra

1) Elected representatives may have better judgement than the mass of the people - may be more rational and not swayed by emotion.

2) Representatives can protect the interests of minorities,

3) Elected representatives may be better informed than the general public.

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Strengths and weaknesses of the doctrine of the ma


  • Grants clear authority to an incoming govt; srengthens its legitimacy.
  • Allows Parl and voters to judge the performance of govt effectively.
  • Demostrates clearly when a govt oversteps its elective authority.


  • Parties today in the UK are now usually elected with less than 50% popular vote (no majority) - mandate can be questioned. Lack of legitimacy; easy for Parl to overrule decisions.
  • Those who vote for the governing party don't necessarily support all its manifesto commitments - doctrine of mandate assumes otherwise.
  • It's not clear whether the govt has a mandate to carry out policies not contained in its last election manifesto.
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Do pressure groups enhance or threaten democracy?

How they enhance democracy:

  • Help to disperse power and influence more widely
  • Educate the public about important political issues
  • Give more opportunities to people for political participation
  • Promote and protect interests and rights of minorities
  • Help call govt to account by publicising the effects of policy

How they threaten democracy:

  • Some pressure groups are elitist and concentrate power in only a few hands
  • Influential pressure groups may distort information in their own interests
  • Pressure groups that are internally undemocratic may not accurately represent the views of their members and supporters
  • Finance is key factor in political influence - groups that are wealthy may have a disproportionate amount of influence
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Strengths and weaknesses of rights in the UK


There is a strong common law tradition

UK subject to ECHR

Indepedent judiciary and upholds rule of law even against wishes of govt and Parl.

Principle of equal rights clearly established.


Common law can be vague and disputed and set aside by parliamentary statutes.

Parl remains sovereign and so can ignore ECHR or even repeal the HRA 1998.

Increasing pressure on govt to infringe upon rights in the interests of national security eg. Snoopers' charter. Threatened rights - privacy, association and expression, freedom from imprisonment without trial. 

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Should UK parties receive state funding? FOR


End opportunities for corrupt use of donations

End possibilites of 'hidden' forms of influence

Reduce the huge financial advantage the large parties enjoy and give smaller parties the opportunity to make progress,

Improve democracy by ensuring wider participation from groups that have no ready source of funds,

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Should UK parties receive state funding? AGAINST


Taxpayers may object to funding what can be considered as 'private' organisations

Difficult to know how to distribute funding - on basis of past performance (in that case large parties retain their advantages) or on basis on future aspirations (vague)?

Parties may lose some of their independence and will see themselves as organs of the state.

May lead to excessive state regulation of parties.

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How well do parties enhance respresentative democr

  • Produce manifestos and political programmes in order to ensure the government is accountable.
  • Vital in the selection of candidates for office - otherwise candidates would campaign as individuals and therefore difficult for voters to make more rational choices.
  • Aggregation - they mobilise support for political programmes, not just individual policies. Without aggregation, politics would become incoherent. 
  • Parl itself relies on party organisatoins to operate in an effective way. Parties organise debates and ensure ministers are called to account. Organise staffing of parliamentary committees.


  • Parties can distort representation. Governing party always elected w/o overall maj. of national vote yet it claims to have the mandate of the people. 
  • 'Winner takes all' nature of party politics can result in governing which is too partisan and doesn't seek a consensus of support for policies. eg. Coalition govt 2010-15 rare example of parties cooperating w each other.
  • Parties tend to reduce issues to binary decision making - either wholly wrong or wholly right, when in reality this is rarely the case. Created by adversarial party politics. 
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The role of parties in the UK's respresentative de

Positive aspects:

  • Provide open opportunities for people to become active in politics - inclusive, few demands on members.
  • Make political issues coherent and help to make govt. accountable
  • Help to make elections and the operation of Parl effective and understandable to the public.
  • Identify, recruit and 'train' people for political office and leadership.

Negative aspects:

  • Adversarial party politics denies the creation of consensus and reduces issues to false and simplistic choices.
  • Parties claim legitimacy through their electoral mandate even when they are elected to power with a minority of the popular vote.
  • Parties sometimes become over-elitist - small leadership groups can dominate policy makign to the detriment of internal democracy.
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MP-constituency bond

Accountability of the MP is clear to the electors

Helps prevent small parties breaking into the system - good for preventing extremists.

2011 AV referendum decisively resulted in no electoral reform

Easy to understand; clear result produced in each constituency

FPTP has stood the test of time - different system may have many unintended consequences

Gives voters the opportunity to choose a candidate based on their individual attitude to complex issues instead of just according to their party allegiance

System is meant to produce a clear winner in general elections - single party with a parliamentary majority, to promote a strong, stable, decisive government.

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Against FPTP

Overall outcome not proportional or fair

Many votes wasted since they have no impact on the outcome in safe seats.

Votes are of unequal value - votes in safe seats less valuable than votes in marginal seats.

Encourages some voters to vote tactically and so not vote for the party they truly support

Prevents new parties breaking into the system, so produces political inertia

Winning party often secures less tha half the popular vote.

Used to result in governments with parliamentary majorities but rarely does in recent times.

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For referendums

1) Referendums can solve conflicts within the political system, eg EU referendums 1975 and 2016

2) Purest form of democracy - pure will of the people

3) Electorate much more informed now than ever in the past - facilitated by internet and social media. Make decisions for themselves instead of relying on elected representatives

4) Can mend rifts in society, eg 1998 referendum on the Belfast Agreement

5) Useful when the expressed consent of the people is important, so that decision will be respected. (expressed rather than implied). Eg devolution in 1997

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Against referendums

1) People may not understnad the complexities of such issues eg leaving EU or adopting a new electoral system

2) Voters may be swayed by emotional rather than rational ideas, or also be influenced by false information

3) Tyrrany of the majority, eg Scotland voted strongly to remain in EU referendum 2016 so claim they are being tyrannised by the English majority

4) Can cause social rifts, eg 2014 Scotland and 2016 EU

5) Danger of excessive use of referendums could undermine the authority of representative democracy.

6) Some questions shouldn't be reduced to simple yes/no answer; potentially several options instead. 

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Do elections enhance democracy?


  • Allow electorate to hold govt to account.
  • Clear choice between govt and other parties
  • Create representative assemblies
  • Elections in UK are well regulated and the outcomes are genuine expressions of the will of the voters
  • FPTP elections usually produce strong stable govts with parl majorities.
  • Strong constituency representation  - voters have someone to represent their interests.


  • Wasted votes mean choice may not appear to be as wide
  • Referendums can cause social rifts
  • Excessive use of referendums can undermine authority of representative democracy
  • FPTP often produces govts which have less than half the popular vote - only a minority of the electorate
  • Elections to Westminster parl are not proportional (compared to devolved assemblies)
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Links between turnout and demographics

In 2005 and 2015, 18-44 age group especially had low turnout --> difficult for more radical parties eg Green to make an impact; slightly discriminates against Labour.

65+ age group high turnout in all elections --> large advantage to Conservaties and UKIP.

Turnout among AB higher than DE in recent elections --> large advantage to Conservatives and discriminates against Labour.

Overall turnout in last 3 elections shows upward trend across all age groups and social classes --> suggests that the 'participation crisis' may be coming to an end. 

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Should the publication of opinion polls be banned

For banning:

  • May influence the way people vote
  • Have been proved to be inaccurate so mislead the public
  • Politicians should nto be slabes to changing public opinion as expressed in the polls

Against banning:

  • Infringe on the principle of freedom of expression
  • If publication is banned, they will become available privately for organisations that can afford to pay for them
  • Give valuable informatoin about people's attitudes which can usefully guide politicians
  • Polls would still be published abroad and peeople could access them through the internet
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Factors that determine the size of parties' core v

Social class: AB mostly support Cons; DE Lab. --> Impact: strong by in decline as a factor.

Age: Older more likely Con/UKIP; young Lib Dems, Green, Lab. --> Impact: strong and consistent.

Region: South England solidly Con; Midlands mixed; North mostly Lab. --> Impact: strong.

Ethnicity: Black and Muslim strongly prefer Lab; other ethnic groups more mixed. --> Impact: significant but variable.

Gender: No significant difference. --> Impact: insignificant

Class dealignment:  Progressively fewer people attached to a particular social class. --> Impact: reduces impact of class on party choice.

Partisan dealignment: Progressively fewer people identify strongly with the aims of a particular party and more are becoming floating voters. --> Impact: the size of the main parties' core vote is shrinking gradually but not dramatically.


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Factors that affect how floating voters will vote

Valence: The image of parties and their leaders; beliefs about the competence. Impact: v strong

Economic voting: How voters believe the party will manage the economy. -->Impact: strong

Rational choice: Which party will most benefit whole community/themselves.-->Impact: moderate

Issue voting: Voters decide whichissues are most important; which parties have the best policies relating to such issues. --> Impact: moderate

Tactical voting: Voters opt for their second choice party if they think 1st choice is a wasted vote. --> Impact:  moderate

Party leaders: deciding who would make the best PM. --> Impact: weak

The press: Influence by newspaper campaigns and preferences. --> Impact: weak

Opinion polls: Voters may decide to change their mind as they don't want the outcome predicted in the polls.-->Impact: weak

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