It can be argued that Britain is both democratic and undemocratic; this can be shown via a range of issues relating to British politics and the society in which we live. The generally accepted definition of a democracy is a form of government in which the major decisions of government and the direction of policy behind these decisions – rests directly or indirectly on the freely given consent of the freely given consent of the freely majority of the adults government.
There are two forms of democracy but the UK is run through an indirect or representative democracy as opposed to a direct democracy, which relies on referendums and would be difficult in a large, modern society. Furthermore, the UK is a parliamentary democracy, the government and representatives are intermingled meaning that the UK does not have separation of powers, meaning that the executive, legislative and judicial courts all work together unlike the American Presidential system which could create a lack in communication. In this essay, I propose to argue both for and against and eventually come to a conclusion whether the UK is democratic or not and give a comparison between the UK and the US in terms of democracy.
There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ democracy but certain aspects are needed to make a democracy. A democracy needs a political system for choosing and replacing the government through frequent, free and fair elections in which people choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office. Elections have to occur at regular intervals, as prescribed by law.
Those in power cannot extend their terms in office without asking for the consent of the people again in an election. For elections to be free and fair, they have to be administered by a neutral, fair, and professional body that treats all political parties and candidates equally. All parties and candidates must have the right to campaign freely, to present their proposals to the voters both directly and through the mass media. A democracy also needs the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life. To vote wisely, each citizen should listen to the views of the different parties and candidates, and then make his or her own decision on whom to support. Furthermore there should be protection of human rights of all citizens and a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens. Does the UK fulfill these four key elements? Yes, the UK does. Therefore we can say the UK governmental system.
Democracy by definition means the government by the people. That means that all the people should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives. As said previously, the UK is run through a representative democracy but there are problems with a representative democracy. Representative democracy would be fine if the representatives would really make all their decisions only after consulting their constituencies. In the least, after having a clear idea about the views of their constituents on a particular issue, and trying to accommodate these views as best as possible. However, a vast majority of countries that call themselves Representative Democracies are not true democracies according to the above definition.
Most of them are actually just Elected Dictatorships. People can vote usually only once every four or five years. They do not vote on any issues. They just elect their so called representatives who then until the next elections have no obligations by law and little incentives to base their decisions on individual issues on the wishes on their electorate. They hardly ever bother to consult them on their stands on various issues. Therefore, legislative bodies composed of such “representatives” can effectively act in a very dictatorial manner between the elections. So to meet the definition of democracy, a direct democracy must be in place, like in Switzerland.
The UK is divided up into constituencies. Within these constituencies, are MPs for each political party. The first past the post system means that the MP with most votes (first past the post) will win power for their party in that constituency. In the UK voting system, we do not vote who is our next Prime Minister. Our vote goes towards the MPs for our constituency. In this sense, the idea of UK as a representative democracy is flawed as we as people are not voting for one single figure but for an MP. The reason for voting for that party may be influenced by the leader of that party but you are not voting specifically for that person.
An element of Britain’s governmental system is that there is no written constitution. This means that, theoretically, the government is free to pass any legislation as long as they have the majority in parliament which could be easily achieved if the party has a large majority of seats. This means there is no safeguard for laws that can be altered or new ones that could be created. This is very undemocratic as the government therefore has too much power.
The government is also in possession of other powers such as the royal prerogative that allows the prime minister to go to war without consent from parliament. An example of where this was used was the Iraq war in 2005, which was heavily resented by a large majority of the public. Even though this aspect of Britain’s governmental system is undemocratic, parliament generally prevents government from taking to much power.