Liberal Democracy

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  • Created on: 10-01-16 11:52


The government is accountable to the people to ensure that it is acting in their interests.

Pro: Parliament forces government to be accountable. It requires ministers to explain and justify their actions and where necessary accept criticism.

Con: Parliament does not always have the time, expertise, or technical back-up to undertake this task effectively.

Example: Expenses scandal, select committees, Prime Minister's Questions

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Free and fair elections

Elections are free from rigging and allow everyone to take part.

Pro: Elections are mostly free from corruption and there is an independent Electoral Commission that ensures they are honestly conducted. All citizens have the right to vote unless disqualified for a justified reason.

Con: There are concerns over postal voting and votes are wasted due to FPTP and is unfair to all but the two main parties.

Example: Prof. David Denver, an election expert, estimated that 80% of votes are wasted due to FPTP.

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Legitimacy and transfer of power

Losing parties accept the democratic legitimacy of winning parties.

Pro: There is a high degree of acceptance of the results of elections and all mainstream parties accept full legitimacy of the government. There is little or no violence associated with the main political process.

Con: Occassional minor violence following a general election. Sometimes legitimacy is called into question due to voting system.

Example: 2010 General Election saw a smooth handover of power into coalition government.

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Information should be freely available to citizens.

Pro: UK has free press and broadcasting with little or no evidence of government attempts to control the media. British media are renowned for their investigative work and political activism.

Con: Governments have censored and manipulated news in regards to warfare and national security and news blackouts concerning the Royal Family are not rare.

Example: Press subject to some restrictions following the Leveson Inquiry.

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Rights and liberties

Rights and liberties of citizens are taken into account and protected.

Pro: Citizens' rights and liberties are part of the ECHR and the Social Chapter of the EU.

Con: Parliament retains sovereignty so can set aside EU conventions if it wishes. In most other liberal democracies, rights are entrenched in the constitution.

Example: Human Rights Act 1998

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Limited government

Powers of government are controlled and limited either by law or by elected institutions, or both.

Pro: Parliament has a good record of restraining governments when they have attempted to exceed their traditional powers.

Con: Uncodified constitution means there is no safeguarded set of laws that limit the power of government. The government can do whatever it wishes as long as Parliament gives it sanction. The prerogative powers of the PM in areas of defence, security, and governmental procedures are rarely challenged by Parliament.

Example: In 2005, the House of Commons prevented the government from giving itself the power to imprison terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without trial.

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A variety of beliefs, opinions, cultures, and lifestyles are tolerated provided they do not threaten the security and peace of the state.

Pro: The UK is admired abroad for its tolerant politics and culture. Groups have been allowed to flourish, spread their beliefs and philosophies, as long as they do not challenge the legitimacy of the government, the laws, or security of state.

Con: Recent terrorist threats, immigration, and the refugee crisis have placed tolerance under considerable strain.

Example: Britain First

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