Flashcards in Democray and Political Participation: Democracy in the UK Deck (19):
What two types of democracy is UK's political system based on?
Representative and direct democracy
When are referendums used in the UK? (4)
1. When gov are split on an issue - resolves issue without destroying the gov itself: EU referendum = Out, AV referendum 2011
2. If an important constitutional change is being proposed which will affect the way people are governed: 1998 adopt elected mayor London
3. When it is necessary to entrench an important constitutional change: 1997 - introduce devolved gov in Scotland (Y), an assembly in Wales (Y)
4. When there is a special need to secure popular consent: 1998- N Ireland approve Belfast agreement designed to introduced devolved gov and end inter-com conflict (Y)
How democratic is the UK - positives (7)
1. There are regular free elections w/ many independent sources of political information
2. There are democratic institutions - local councils, devolved assemblies, Parliament and gov
3. Freedom to vote/ stand for office, form political parties/associations
4. Referendums held occasionally when important constitutional issues are to be resolved
5. Parliament makes gov accountable for its actions
6. Variety of parties and political associations such as pressure groups allowed to flourish
7. There is an independent judiciary that safeguards the rule of law
How democratic is the UK - negatives (8)
1. Unelected institutions persist - monarchy and HOL
2. Elections not fair? FPTP system
3. Government are elected on a minority of the national vote
4. PM enjoys arbitrary, prerogative powers
5. No entrenched constitution so the distribution of political power is often uncertain
6. Parliamentary sovereignty means individual rights and liberties are inadequately protected
7. A great deal of power had been transferred to the EU, which has weaker democratic institutions
8. Growing political disengagement - decline in political participation
Why is judicial independence important?
Most constitutional theories require that the judiciary is separate from and independent of the government, in order to ensure the rule of law - that is, to ensure that the law is enforced impartially and consistently no matter who is in power, and without undue influence from any other source.
What are the 6 ways in which UK's Democracy could be improved?
1. Replacing the monarch with an elected head of state
2. Introducing a second elected chamber
3. Reforming the electoral system
4. Increased use of referendums
5. Introducing a codified constitution
6. Decentralising the political system
What are the 4 arguments for replacing a monarch with an elected head of state?
1. Would increase democratic legitimacy of the head of state
2. Would make the head of state democratically accountable
3. An elected head of state would be able to settle political deadlock
4. Could increase popular political engagement
What are the 3 arguments against replacing a monarch with an elected head of state?
1. A political head of state may destabilise politics?
2. Such a Head of state may give too much power to the governing party
3. The UK would lose an important historical institution
What are the 2 arguments for introducing an elected second chamber?
1. Would increase the legitimacy of the second chamber
2. A democratic second chamber would be an effective check on government power
What are the 3 arguments against introducing an elected second chamber?
1. An elected second chamber might be less independent
2. It might check government excessively
3. It might challenge the authority of the HOC
What are the 4 arguments for reforming the electoral system?
1. Alternative systems would be fairer and give the electorate more real choices, reducing the numbers of wasted votes
2. HOC would be more politically representative
3. Would increase the democratic legitimacy of the MP and government
4. The outcome would probably reflect the pluralistic mature of politics more accurately
What are the 4 arguments against reforming the electoral system?
1. PR would remove the important MP - constituency link
2. Multiparty government might ensue and be less stable - more difficult to form a government if not party won an overall majority
3. There would be unpredictable consequences
4. Voters might find it difficult to accept a new system
What are the arguments for increased use of referendums?
1. Would increase political awareness
2. A purer form of democracy
3. Improve political 'education'
4. Increase political participation...hmmm
What are the arguments against increased use of referendums?
1. Too many referendums might result in 'voter fatigue' and low turnouts
2. Issues may be too complex for electorate to understand and so make an informed vote
3. Could lead to 'tyranny of majority' = oppression of minorities (Swiss 2009)
4. Voters could be influenced by emotions
5. voters may lose respect for representative institutions and for political processes in general
What are the arguments for introducing a codified constitution?
1. A written constitution might stop the drift towards excessive power of government and the PM
2. It would make citizens more aware of how the political system works
3. Would create more public engagement with the political system
4. Rights and freedoms would be better protected
What are the arguments against introducing a codifies constitution?
1. The political system would lose flexibility
2. Would destroy many political traditions and so reduce public attachment to politics
3. It might put too much power into the hands of unelected, unaccountable judges who have to interpret a constitution
What are the arguments for decentralising the political system?
1. Local and regional government are smaller scale and seen as more democratic
2. Government would be less 'remote' so closer to the people
3. There might be less tight party control over politics
4. Would strengthen local communities
5. The growing power of central government would be curbed (restrain)
What are the arguments against decentralising the political system?
1. More powerful local and regional government would mean more variable state provision
2. Citizens might take local regional government less seriously, resulting in, eg, low turnouts
3. Tension between central and decentralised government might increase