Democracy and Participation


Representative democracy

Representative democracy is where we elect people to represent us and our views. This occurs during the general election. These representatives then go to parliament, and represent us. This is called indirect democracy, as the people do not directly get involved. As we give power to the represetative, it means we have limited power. Mediated means that we are linked to our government through parliament.  

Strenghts of representative democracy

  • Practical for large societies
  • Government by experts wo are well educated and experienced
  • Political stability because the population is distanced for impassioned decison-making
  • Division of labour - allows citizens to carry out their own duties

Weaknesses of representative democracy

  • Means people have to think about politics
  • Representatives are not truly accountable
  • Representatives lose touch with voters after being elected
  • Representative goverment to heavily influenced by parties
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Definition -> Democracy

Democracy is a political system, where a group of elected people, by the people, who then govern the people. A representation of the people, by the people, for the people. 


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Features of Liberalism and Democracy


  • Government is limited, usally by a constitution
  • The rule of law applies with all citizens equal under the law and government by legal constraints. This implies independent judicary.
  • There us normally some degreee of seperation of powers between branches of goverment with interal checks and balances - implying a strong, entrenched consitution
  • There are special arrangements, often a "Bill of rights", protecting the rights of individuals and minorities
  • There is free access to independent (from government) sources of political infomation. This implies freedom of expression and free media. 


  • It is characterised by free and fair elections
  • Government is accountable to the people
  • The transition of power from one goverment to the next is peaceful, i.e. the losing party accepts the authority of the winners
  • The existence of representative institutions (parliament, devolved bodies)
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Key Concepts

Democracy -> A system of goverment by the whole population, or all the elegible members of a state, typically through elected representatives 

Legitmacy -> Legitimate goverment is where the public see the goverment as having the power to make decisions and implement policy 

Representatation -> Where a candidate is selected to represent the views of the constituents and vote on polices in parliament 

Direct Democracy -> A vote in which all laws and polcies are voted on by the people

Representative Democracy -> Representative democracy is a type of democracy where people elect representatives to represent them in parliament 

Liberal Democracy - A political ideology and form of government in which represntative democracy operates under the principles of liberalism

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Describing Direct Democracy

People make decisions themselves; that is, there is continuous and unmediated participation. Representatives do not make decisions on behalf of citizens

  • Not the case in the UK. The goverment make policies and implements them, normally without input from the citizens.
  • Referendums may be used to allow people to vote on policies, but the goverment make the polcies and implements them, the citizens do not.

People themselves determine what decisions should be considered (known as initiatives) and a vote is taken on the issue by the people. In purely direct systems, the outcome is binding. 

In athens, a representative was used (All Males eligible to vote), who would then vote on policies. The people could not vote on policies as a whole, as there were made up of Women and immigrants + slaves who were not eligible to vote

Ancient Athens acts as an example from classical history, but more recent incarnations can be seen in the US states and referendums are common

New England has a system where initiatives are used. They have township meetings where referendums take place

People are directly consulted when goverment makes decisions (also called consultative democracy, and these take the form of peoples' pannels, or citizens' juries. "E-democracy" could also be included. 

  • Communical meetings held in Swiss counties
  • Referendums used in recent years to promote participation
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Classical Greek Democracy VS Modern Democracy

  • Scale -> Athens only contained 250,000 people, whereas modern Britain contains 64 Million. This means that there are a lot more people eligble to vote and more conflicting opinions
  • Levels Of Participation -> Athens policy was direct and in-your-face, wheras now people participate less, and are not forced.
  • Eligibility -> In the UK women can vote and as long as people are over 18, a UK citizen, and not a prisoner they are eligble to vote

< Apart from this old bag 

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Examples of UK Democracy

People make political decisions themselves or have direct influence upon them

For: Referendums

Against: Uncommon

In a democracy people have free access to information

For: Freedom of information act 

Against: Some information is hidden away

Goverment is elected and accountable to to the people

For: General election

Against: Peoples opinions do not get to government 

The rule of law applies

For: Prisoners can't vote

Against: People break law

There is a peaceful transfter of power from one goverment to the next

For: Goverment changes hands peacefully after General Election

Against: Conflict of policies if differnet party elected

Goverment is carried on in the interests of the people

For: Large ammounts of people vote for party to show there support

Against: Large numbers of people do not go out to vote

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Positive/Negative criticisms of direct democracy


  • It will prevent devious or dishonest politicians from taking control or manipulating people
  • Citizens will become more confident and assertive as a result
  • It will encourage people to get involved in politics, to participate
  • It will develop a sence of community about decisions once they have been made, because people will need to come together in some way to make decisions and will have to respect the views of others
  • It should enable everyone's view to be expressed, and hense decisions to be well informed


  • In practise, direct democracy will involve discrimination against minority groups, which will be shouted down by the majority
  • The people will be swayed in their decisions by the most persuasive speakers, and so effect direct democracy will actually become a form of representative democracy
  • Most citizens are not likely to be experts in politics so their views will not be worth hearing
  • It simply cannot work in the modern world, because of the size of the modern state
  • People will not be able to complain about decisions once they have been made, becuase they have played a part in the decision-making process
  • Most people are busy and like to leave politics to a few elected representatives
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Case studies of direct democracy

Initiatives in the US

Group of people can give support to create an initiative, to make laws

Advantage: Gives people power

Disadvantage: Cause disagreement

Democracy in Switzerland

Representative democracy which many opportunities for people to make change

Advantage: Can make their own consititional cases, stronger public services + economy 

Disadvantage: Long time to get a more different democracy ; Regular initiatives


E-petitions is an online 'initiative' style vote. People put their name to it, and if it gets 10,000 signatures, it gets a responce from parliament. If it gets 100,000 it is sent to parliament for conisderation for debate. I.e: All police to be equipped with tasers

Advantage: Allows people to voice their ideas/opinions; Allows under 18 to have a voice

Disadvantage: Hard to get enough votes; can have strange petitions; don't get noticed

Wider use of referendums

UKIP backing different democracy - more referendums

Advantage: More power to people; leads to trust of politcial system

Disadvantage: Takes a long time to set up; could lead to a bias

Citizens Juries

A citizens jury is a group of between 12-20 people chosen to represent their community

Advantage: More polticial involvement;better representation

Disadvantage:Might not have any knowlege of poltics; government could overrule them

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Parliamentary Democracy

Parliamentary democracy is a type of democracy in which a populaly elected deliberative assembley establishes a link between parliament and responsible government. Parliamentary democracy balances popular participation against elite rule. This means government is responsible to the publics elected representatives, not directly to the public. 






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Democracy in the UK (Timeline)

  • Early 19th century - only male property owners had vote (<5% of population)
  • 1832 - Great reform act = Rotten Boroughs (parliamentary constituencies)
  • 1867 - Vote extended to skilled manual workers
  • 1872 - Secret ballot
  • 1884 - Vote extended to all male households and tennants
  • 1885 - Similar sized constituencies
  • 1918 - All men over 21 could vote
  • 1928 - Universal sufferage over 21
  • 1948 - One person one vote
  • 1969 - Voting age reduced to 18
  • 1997 - PR for newly created political bodies
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Core features of UK democracy

Democratic elections

  • Free and fair
  • Based on universal suffrage
  • Provide electoral choice


  • House of Commons and House of Lords
  • The party system
  • Executive control

Pressure groups

  • Gives a voice to minorities
  • Political participation beyond voting
  • Lead to pluralist democracy

Supplementary features

  • Referendums
  • Devolution
  • European Parliament 
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Democratic Elections Overview

  • Democratic elections are free and fair, which makes them representative and uphold the principles of democracy
  • Based on universal sufferage (the right of almost all adults to vote in political elections)
  • Provide electoral choice (I.e: Different parties)
  • Basis for democratic elections were laied by politcal rights and freedoms, by the 18th century, forming the basics of civil liberties and freedom of speech


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2015 General election results

  • Conservatives - 331 seats
  • Labour - 232 seats
  • Liberal Democrats - 8 seats


  • Conservative = +24
  • Liberal Democrats = -49
  • Labour = -26
  • SNP = +50

Majority Win = 326

Conservatives = 11,334,576 votes = 36.9%

National turnout = 66.1%

Ed Milliband = Doncaster North

David Cameron = Witney

Brighton Pavillion = Caroline Lucas

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My constituency

MP = Steven Barclay (Conservative)

Turnout = 62.4%


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  • Traditionally frowned upon in the UK as they are seen as 'not British' as they conflict with the polices of parliamentary democracy
  • Diminishes parliament and undermines parliament authority
  • Allows the publics voice to be heard
  • More widlely used since 1997
  • Happend because of consitutional reform. It was agreed that that important decisions on how the UK is governed should be influenced by the people, rather than just parliament
  • Most important referendum was the 1975 Referendum on Britain's membership of the EU


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Key Democracy 2

Parliamentary Democracy -> Democratic form of government in which the party with the greatest representation forms the goverment 

Political participation -> Political participation is any activities that shapes, effects or involves the polical sphere

Referendum -> A general vote by the electorate on a single political issue which has been referred to them for s single decision 

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Ways of improving democracy

5 ways of improving democracy

  • Widening direct participation (including citizens juries and conventions)
  • Compulsory voting
  • Digital democracy (including government e-petitions)
  • Lowering the voting age
  • Wider use of referendums 
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Creation of a 1998 Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and, as part of the Good Friday agreement, a Northen Ireland Assembly strenghed democracy in three main ways:

  • Gave the consituents of the UK their own voice for the first time
  • Refined Representative democracy by voters in Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland seperating to discouss national issues
  • Widens opportunities avalible for political participaion + encourages participation (
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Lying at the center of democratic process, it is the main link between government and the people. It upholds representatives and responsible government. The House of Commons represents their consituencies, and the House of Common, serves as the debating chamber for the nation. The virtues of parliament is to maintain deliberative government (Deliberative democracy strengthens citizen voices in governance by including people of all races, classes, ages and geographies in deliberations that directly affect public decisions. As a result, citizens influence--and can see the result of their influence on--the policy and resource decisions that impact their daily lives and their future.)

The House of Lords is the second chamber. It is unelected so weakens the authority of parliament. The party system stops peers from making their own judgements. 

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Basics of parliament

  • House of commns elected
  • House of Lords appointed
  • Mp's debate issues 
  • Parliament oversees the actions of government 
  • Party system restricts freedom of debate and voting
  • Legislature scrutenizes executive


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General Election - Pre-chewed

  • Low turnout can threaten legitimacy as it can be argued that if the government of the day does not large support, they do not have a popular mandate
  • Differencial turnout describes the varying turnout levels across the country For example, in 2015: 81.9% in Dum Barton East compared to 51.3 in Stoke-on-Trent Center
  • Old aged people four times more likely to vote than younger people
  • Regional seats (swing seat) is a consituency with a small majority. People are more likely to vote to secure the seat. 
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Are turnout levels in the General Election a probl

What signs point towards a participation crisis in the UK?

  • Low turnout
  • Low Party Membership
  • Large ammount say they have no support for party

Apathy may be contributing as people are they may not have an interest in politics. Apathy is not the problem. Concluded that over 40 years society has changed, but political system has not.


  • Not enough infomation
  • Not enough choise
  • Not enough options on how to vote

RSPB has more members than the Labour Party,Conservatives and the Lib-Dems combined and doubled. 

Other ways to participate

  • E-Peitions
  • Social Media
  • Contact the media
  • Attend political meeting
  • Donate to party
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Enhancing UK democracy

5 ways of improving democracy

  • Widening direct participation (including citizens juries and conventions)
  • Compulsory voting
  • Digital democracy (including government e-petitions)
  • Lowering the voting age
  • Wider use of referendums 
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European Parliament

The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European union. It operates the legislative function of the EU. 


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Is there a participation crisis in the UK Democrac

Turnout in General Election

  • 1950 - 84%
  • 1997 - 71%
  • 2001 - 59% (Lowest since 1918)
  • 2005 - 61% (Widespread use of postal votes)


  • Labour - Fallen from 800,000 in 1950 to 200,000 in 2007
  • Conservative - 2.8m in 1950's to 250,000 in 2007
  • 1950's 7% belong to a party
  • 2007 - 1% belong to party
  • partisan dealignment - Fewer people identify with or have loyallty to specific party
  • People show support by activies in pressure groups and protest movement

Social capital declined - More individulization

The media create a culture of cynicism and contempt, focussing on scandals rather than political debate

Blame politicians - Lack of vision, the age of the spin, lack of choise, electoral stratergies

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really helpful ! Few spelling  errors but nothing that hinders understanding! Amazing for recaping the topic in the weeks leading up to the exam



loads of spelling errors!!!!!

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