Representative democracy is the idea that the voting public of a nation vote for or appoint a leader to make key political decisions on their behalf, in the trust that the leader will make the decisions based on the publics interests. One of the main features of representative democracy is that it represents Burkean Representation; an idea where the leader that gets elected is making decisions on behalf of the nation, while ignoring the 'tyranny of the majority' which features in direct democracy.
It encourages politicians to withstand popular and political party pressure, and a recent example would be Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-2007). Party delegation is another main feature of representative democracy. It's the idea that MPs did not disagree with the views and the manifestos of their parties, and are 'delegated' to them as such, voting for their policies in Parliament and supporting the party leader. Party delegation is often done through 'whips' – loyal party followers who make sure MPs keep in with party proceedings.
Another main feature of representative democracy is parliamentary representation, where the House of Commons have MPs who represent their respective constituency and for their individual party. This allows the MPs to have a great deal of independence, while keeping true to the values and the mandate of their party. The 650 constituencies at present represent the popularity of the three main parties, Labour, Lib dems and the conservatives. In what ways has political participation declined in the UK in recent years?
(10) One way in which political participation in the UK has declined in recent years is Public turnout in participation at a local and European level, such as in the local by-elections,elections for MEPS and referendum votes . These elections are not as well publicized to the public as not as much money is spent on the campaign as it is in the General Election, which is to now occur every 5 years due to the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2010, yet this has not stopped the decline in participation since the 1970's.
In terms of by-elections, decline has been prominently noted: the Leeds Central by-election achieved a turnout of just over 20% – the lowest recorded turnout for a by-election since the Second World War. The top three constituencies in terms of participation at by-elections are Winchester: 68. 7%, Crewe & Nantwich: 58. 2%, and Romsey and Uxbridge: 55. 5%. These figures are fair, and this could be down to the middle-upper class society which live in this area, therefore leading to a possible collation between the 2.
This could also be proved by the bottom three, which are Leeds Central: 19. 6%, Wigan: 25% and Tottenham: 25. 4%. These figures are extremely low, and also represent a lower class, foreign population within these areas, which could again show the collation between voting and your class. It also represents the distinct decline in political participation in the 'less glamorous' side of British Politics, as it has no major impact at national level.
The turnout of the public at General Elections is probably the most significant way in which political participation has declined in the UK in recent years. A decrease in the turnout of one of the easiest methods of direct participation such as this is a concern to the government and indicates that there is a steady decline in enthusiasm with British politics, which has been happening for many years, that may have been due to the general public feeling that politicians weren't representing their views or opinions in their campaign meaning the public have felt that it is a waste of time to vote.
The statistics from recent General Election turnouts show this decrease in the voting, as we can see that the last five general elections have been considerably less than in previous years. In 1992, voter turnout was 77. 7%, but dropped to an all-time low in 2001, with less than 60% of the population turning out to vote (59. 4%).
Although there has been a rise in recent years to 65. 1%, a statistic drawn from the 2010 General Election, it is nowhere near the 77.7% turnout mark seen in 1997; many people will say that a drop in the level of political confidence in recent years being the cause of this, which shows paralells with the current economic climate, showing a lack of consumer confidence, it is the same in politics, with Britain going through a turbulent few years due to the tax scandal as well as minister scandals such as the saga with Liam Fox, all of which shows the confidence is low which is reflected in the voting.
The final way in which political participation has declined in recent years is through the decline in political party membership since the 1980s. The lack of active participation through this method means that parties are now recruiting leaders for constituencies from a smaller group of people, who are not necessarily the best candidate for the job. This means that British politics could potentially be damaged in the in the long-run as they are losing what could be key members of parliament as people to not want to get involved In politics.
1980 saw the level of party membership in any political party equate to approximately 1. 7 million, however in 1989, this had dropped by 600,000, to 1. 1 million. In 2006, it had dropped to a low of 0. 6 million, showing the ever declining decrease in political participation and has stayed at this level ever since. Just over 1% of the UK population are affiliated with any such political party at present – with only 333,000 being associated with the 'big three'.
This helps to the point that political parties have a smaller, base to which they can elect MPs or party leaders which is a prospect, which could lead to the decline of UK politics and the future of the UK economy. Evaluate the effectiveness of the various ways in which participation and democracy could be strengthened in the UK. (25 marks) There are many ways in which participation and democracy can be strengthened in the UK, some of which are stronger than others. One way in which participation could possibly be strengthened in the UK is by changing the voting system used for the General Election.
As First past the post means that you only need a majority to win a seat, therefore so called 'safe seats' have been established, with surbuban areas such as harpenden and radlett becoming well known 'Conservative safe seats' and urban parts of cities such as Liverpool have become well known 'Labour Safe Seats. ' Therefore in these areas, it is pointless for a labour voter to cast his vote in Harpenden or a Conservative voter to cast his vote, as it would not count for anything and therefore would be a waste of time as we would know who the winner would be In these seat.
An example of this would be Radlett which only had a 64. 7% turn out in 2010, and Liverpool Riverside, which only had a 52. 1% turnout, with 60% of its voters voting labour. This means that voting in these constituencies is considerably lower than it should be as it is not competitive, there is only going to be one winner. As a majority of the seats available are 'safe seats', this means a considerable amount of the populations vote is wasted in these areas, meaning only about 160 constituencies and the peoples within these vote count as these are the ones which change hands like a pendulum each general election.
To try and change this, the coalition; made up conservatives and lib dems, tried to change the voting system from first past the post to AV, creating a referendum on it called Electoral Reform, which was made into a referendum in 2011. This was the first time a conservative party used a referendum, as it was under pressure from the lib dems to do so. Unfortunately, the public did not like the idea of AV, and voted overwhelmingly against it, with 67. 9% of the 42. 2% of the population who voting saying no.