Representative democracy in the UK fulfils the basic requirements of such a system but is by no means perfect. There has been an increasing level of support for both constitutional reform and a change in the election system in the UK over the last few years. Perhaps the main modern concern about democracy in the UK stems from evidence of growing political apathy. Some have seen this as nothing less than a "participation crisis. " A representative democracy can not be healthy if increasing numbers of citizens are uninterested or unwilling to engage in political life. This is more evident in the declining voter turn out at general elections.
Until 1992 voter turn out was usually around 75%, with a record of 84% being achieved in 1950, and even by 1997 with the election of Blair on a landslide labour victory 71% of people turned up to voice their opinion. However this started to change with the 2001 election attracting barely 59% of the public, the lowest since 1918. The same is also true of membership of political parties. Now only 1% of the populations is a member of a political party compared to 7% 50 years before. Labour party membership has fallen from 800,000 to 200,000 and conservative membership from 2.
5million to 250,000! A representative democracy works on the notion of the public electing representatives to represent them. If this is not happening that the current political system is not representative of the public and so its democratic legitimacy is questionable. Another issue to consider is that of the growing dislike and distrust in politicians by the general public. This not only may be the reason behind dwindling voter turnout but also the rise in the importance and popularity of pressure groups and extreme fringe and single issue parties.
Scandals such as the "expenses scandal", "cash for honours" and "cash for questions" all helped to reduce public trust in parliament, and thus the representative system as people feel those in power do not truly represent them. It is a similar case for the actual representativeness of candidates, which also questionable. There are still a distinct lack of women and ethnic minority MP's in the House of Commons. Others feel their vote is worthless and effectively wasted as smaller parties stand very little chance of winning any seats, partially due to the FPTP system.
For example Labour and the Liberal democrats may get a similar percentage of the vote and yet Labour could take 50% more seats than the Lib-Dems. A final distinct problem with out current representative democracy is that not all of it is elected and thus by default not representative. The house of Lords is the best example of this. Despite numerous reforms the second chamber still contains some 92 hereditary peers! A similar case can also be made for the current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. As Blair stepped down half way through a term, Gordon Brown became prime minister without anyone technically voting for him.
As a result his legitimacy in such a position is often questioned. In conclusion we can see that our representative democracy does indeed have its issues, but it must be remembered that it also has many plus points. We have universal suffrage, a system where anyone can stand for election, many checks and balances on the executive, a fairly accountable government, and an increasingly multi party system especially after the surge in support of the Liberal Democrats after the televised Leaders debates in the build up to the 2010 general election.
Also voter turnout rose in 2005 to 61% and is on track to rise again in the 2010 election. The number of Women and ethnic minority MP's is also increasing, as was evident with "Blaires Babes" and "Camerons A-team". The introduction of the TV leader's debates in April 2010 was also a step in the right direction for representative democracy in the UK as the public reacted well to the Leaders of the 3 main parties having to answer questions directly from then. In essence representative democracy in the UK, while having its problems is still overwhelmingly legitimate and by the looks of things is set to improve over the years.