Democracy and participation:
Democracy = a political system based on the idea that government should serve the interests of the people.
Legitimacy = the extent to which a government has the right to rule and exercise power.
Power vs. Authority:
* Power= the ability to make someone do something that they would not do of their own free will
* E.g - Coercion – the use of force to achieve ends – the military
* Authority = the right to exercise power (based on the consent of those being ruled)
* E.g - Legal/rational – HOC
* E.g – Traditional – HOL
Modern democracies have:
Peaceful transition of power
Free, fair and regular elections
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g - Tom Brake = MP for Carshalton and Wallington – fought on behalf of constituents to stop St.Helier being closed
* The houses of parliament represent the different views of society
* E.g - In recent debates on tuition fees, MPs have represented the views of students, universities and business leaders
* Mainstream parties represent the whole nation
* E.g - Labour claim to represent ‘the national interest’ rather than just the interest of one social class – “the one-nation party” – Ed Milliband
* Pressure groups represent different interests
* E.g - The Countryside Alliance represented the views of their members against Tony Blair’s Labour government
* Media represent their readers’ views
* E.g - The Daily Mail represents the anti-immigration views of its readers
* Criticisms of representative democracy in the UK:
* Elections to the UK parliament are unfair, with some parties being over-represented (Labour) and some being under-represented (Liberal Democrats)
* HOL has considerable power, but is not elected
* Some pressure groups are more powerful than others
* Reduces accountability of the government
* No clear link to MEPs
* Governments are not truly representative as they are always elected with the minority of the electorates vote.
(e.g – 2005-2010 Labour government was elected with only 35% of the popular vote)
* Normally incorporates a bill of rights to protect the interests of individuals and minorities
* Power is normally divided and separated – ‘separation of powers’ distributes power between different branches of government
* There is a system of ‘checks and balances’ that allows these branches to control each others powers
* Strong safeguards on freedoms
* Tolerant society
Is the UK a Liberal democracy?
Features that conform | Features that do not conform | Mixed conformity |
* There are free regular and fair elections | * No codified and entrenched constitution | * Elections by FPTP are seen as unfair |
* Government is accountable to the people and parliament | * House of Lords and Head of State is not elected | * Rights are protected by can be set aside my Parliament |
* Parties and pressure groups are tolerated | * PM has arbitrary powers | * No separation of powers between the legislature and executive (govt) |
* Representative democracy in the UK is often described as parliamentary democracy because parliament dominates the political system and representation traditionally occurs through parliament.
* Parliament is sovereign and has ultimate power
* Laws will only be enforced if legitimised by the UK parliament
* Government is drawn from parliament
* Parliament ensures the geographical and social representation of all parts of the UK
* Minority cultures and ideas are tolerated
* Power is widely dispersed