How democratic is the UK?
Democracy is a difficult concept to define, but as a simplification and a conventional definition, it is the people's right to choose and the right to say how the country is run. Democracy falls into many categories and comes in various different forms. One form is when power is in the hands of the population as a whole and political decisions are made themselves, this is known as direct democracy. An example of a direct democracy currently present in the UK is a referendum. Another form is representative democracy; in this case citizens will vote for representatives to create decisions for them and the responsibility is handed over to the representative to make decisions for the country. The representatives are also accountable to the electorate.
The democratic elections are a crucial part of UK democracy. A core feature is free and fair elections. They are based on universal suffrage, which is when anybody eligible to vote has their own freedom of choice on which party to vote for without any influence. Your elected vote is also kept secret; this process is called the secret ballot. This prevents intimidation from other people and it prevents judgments made on your electoral choice. However there are four groups of people who are ‘unenfranchised’, these people are the homeless, imprisoned convicts, the mentally incapable and the lords. If you aren’t in any of those categories and you satisfy the requirements established by the law, you are then eligible to vote with the free rights of your own electoral choice.
Under First Past The Post (FPTP) voting takes place in single-member constituencies. Voters put a cross in a box next to their favored candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins. All other votes count for nothing. It’s clear and simple with clear choices and a simple outcome. It allows the voter to clearly express a view on which party they think should form the next government. However, FPTP can be questioned, as it’s not entirely democratic. Representatives can get elected on a small proportion of public support as it doesn’t matter by how much they win, only that they get more votes than the other candidates which in effect wastes huge numbers of votes, as votes cast in a constituency for losing candidates, or for the winning candidate above the level they need to win that seat, count for nothing. FPTP is also disproportionate and biased towards labour or conservatives. This means the votes are of unequal value. Labour votes are inflated and Liberal Democrats votes are deflated. This therefore means the smaller parties have a significantly depleted chance of winning the votes and it will therefore tend to produce a two-party system, which in turn tends to produce single-party governments. Encouraging two party-party politics can be good, but in a multi-party culture, third parties with significant support can be greatly disadvantages, which means that it goes against the democracy of the UK. Consensus politics is when two major political parties, for example, the Conservative Party and Labour Party, are in agreement, or consensus, over certain basic government policies. The two parties still have small variations but they aren’t significant. They do this to gain voters from the middle ground. It reduces electoral choice because both parties share similar ideologies; it makes everything too similar without distinct variation.
UK citizens have shown an obvious enthusiasm to vote for third parties and to clinch a form of political pluralism, which runs directly against the way FPTP operates. FPTP tends to produce a two-party system, which in turn tends to produce single-party governments. However, in a multi-party culture, third parties with significant support can be greatly disadvantaged. This is why FPTP doesn’t work as well as it used to have done. As the UK is changing in terms of politics, more parties are getting involved however these...
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