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August 4, 2013 / C H Thompson

Democractic process

The United Kingdom is an electoral democracy. Each of the members of the House of Commons, the dominant lower chamber of the bicameral Parliament, is elected in a single-member district. This procedure multiplies the power of the two largest parties—the Labour Party and the Conservative Party—at the expense of smaller parties.

The Liberal Democrats, the third-largest party, are the most disadvantaged; although they won 23% of the vote in the 2010 elections, they received only 8.8% of the seats in the House of Commons. The parliamentary opposition holds ministers accountable in debates that are widely covered in the press. Parliamentary elections must be held at least every five years.

How democratic is this process, the following video explains.

The House of Lords, Parliament’s upper chamber, can delay legislation initiated in the Commons. If it defeats a measure passed by the Commons, the Commons must reconsider, but it can ultimately overrule the Lords. The Lords membership, currently more than 700, was reformed under former prime minister Tony Blair, and all but 92 hereditary peers (nobles) were removed. The rest are “life peers,” chosen by governments to serve for life; Law Lords, who until 2009 served as the country’s highest court; and a small number of bishops and archbishops of the Church of England. The monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, plays a largely ceremonial role as head of state.

In addition to the Labour and Conservative parties and the left-leaning Liberal Democrats, other parties include the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party. In Northern Ireland, the main Catholic and republican parties are Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party, while the leading Protestant and unionist parties are the Ulster Unionist Party and the DUP.

After a period of centralization under Conservative governments from 1979 to 1997, the Labour Party delivered a far-reaching devolution of power to Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The first elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly were held in 1999. The Scottish body has more power, including some tax-raising authority, than its Welsh counterpart. Welsh nationalism is primarily cultural. The Northern Ireland Assembly was restored in 2007.

 
It’s useful to realise that not all country’s are democratic and the extent of democracy varies from one country to another.
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