The UK political system has aspects that are both democratic and at the same time undemocratic. Democracy means ‘rule by the power/people power.’ It has been argued that the UK perfectly fits the definition of a pluralist democracy where free and fair competition is encouraged between common interests. The features of the UK democracy that will be considered are elections and the first-past-the-post system, parties, the multilevel government, low voter turnout, the absence of a properly drafted bill of rights incorporated within a codified and entrenched constitution and the concept of an elective dictatorship. These aspects are few of many features that collaborate to make the UK democracy what it is. Some changes have also been proposed to make the UK more democratic, such as e-democracy, greater use of citizens’ juries and assemblies and the increase use of referendums.
In the UK, a system of free and fair elections are embraced, incorporating a wide franchise and operating under a secret ballot. The major electoral system in the UK is the first-past-the-post system where an elector casts a single vote by placing a cross on the ballot paper next to their preferred candidate and a candidate requires a plurality of votes where he/she has one more vote than the next placed candidate. This is democratic as it secures the most favoured party by the plurality. However at the same time this in undemocratic because, taking the results of the Hampstead and Kilburn general election in 2010 as an example, Glenda Jackson, Labour, got 32.8% of the votes with Chris Philp, Conservative, 32.7% so it can be thought to be unfair that here Jackson is elected as it a plurality by such a small number of votes. It can also be thought to be undemocratic because it discriminates against third parties and small parties so is not a fair electoral, democratic system.
Another feature of UK democracy is the multilevel government where policies can, in theory at least, be developed and implemented by those best places to understand the needs of the people, which is classified as subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the principle that decisions should be taken at the lowest tier of government possible. This is thought to be democratic because it takes into account the needs and desires of the electorate, who in return, in essence, ‘get what they want.’ Devolution is responsible for this and is the transfer of power from Westminster to regional bodies, such as the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly where devolved assemblies legislate in areas specified by the Westminster Parliament, such as health and education. However, in a unitary state such as the UK, sovereignty is retained at the centre, Westminster, even when a devolved assembly is created. Westminster can close down a devolved assembly at any time. Westminster also retains the right to decide on policy issues affecting the whole of the UK, such as foreign and defence policies.
Furthermore, there is an existence of a wide range of political parties and pressure groups, providing numerous avenues for political participation and representation. The parties are all held to both convention and law when running for power, for example, parties have a restriction on the amount of funding they have and the amount of money they can use. This makes it fairer and more democratic as it means that all the parties are, in a sense, on a ‘level playing field,’ where no single party should have an advantage over another. However, when introducing pressure groups into the picture, it can be made less fair as larger pressure groups may focus on a certain party, such as the extreme British National Party, where as other parties, such as Labour or Conservatives, will have far less pressure groups and they would be pressure groups of a fair smaller and less influential size; this makes the political ‘battle’ slightly unfair and undemocratic as well.
In advance, low voter turnouts make the UK political...
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