.. ey act will effect whether they get voted into power again. And it is possible for an individual to have their voice heard as specific interests can go into parliament through lobbying through an MP. A parties policies are very clearly laid out before an election, you know what values you are voting for when you hand over your power. And most importantly, because of a representative democracy, representatives have a close attachment with their constituency.
They will be there frequently, holding surgeries and be expected to answer mail from their constituents. Linking back to the liberal democracy, in Britain, the way that it works is through the parliamentary system, so it is known as parliamentary democracy. This in the UK means that the government is formed from whichever party can command a majority in the House of Commons. Criticism for the system comes from the left and the right sides. Marxists believe that democratic parliaments are a front that can be used to exploit the majority of the population.
They feel that the competition is between political lites; there is no real choice as fundamentally they all represent the interests of the ruling classes. There is no change in power just the alternating of it. Parliamentary democracy is seen to be concealing the location of real power, which is based on wealth and capital, not on the backing of the people. The growth of capitalist institutions outside the state, such as the International Monetary Fund and the EU, further expose the limitations of parliamentary democracy. Criticism also comes from the right. Some Conservative ministers have suggested that parliamentary democracy can lead to ‘elective dictatorship’, that representative institutions do not necessarily guarantee freedom, but can do the opposite and prevent it, becoming the “engines of tyranny”.
“They can be manipulated by minorities, taken over by extremists, motivated by the self-interest of organised millions.” Democracy means that the power is ultimately in the hands of the whole population, and that no smaller group should rule. But some people are apprehensive at the thought that this can happen in a parliamentary democracy. There is a fear that elected governments have few checks, other than from the opposition, who are generally from the same lites class. It is interesting to note as a criticism, that the House of Commons is the only democratic element of Parliament. A close opposite to the representative democracy is the direct democracy.
This type of democracy was first used in ancient Athens. Every citizen had the right to speak and vote at the Assembly. So every citizen had the chance to directly determine what the laws should be. Direct democracy is the direct and continuous participation of citizens in the tasks of government. Direct democracy requires time and commitment, and is not practical with the large numbers of people there now are in Britain, and other democratic countries.
It is also important to note, that the Athenian democracy excluded the majority of people from political participation, only male citizens born in Athens over twenty could vote. This reduced the amount of people that could take part in the Assembly, who counted as a citizen, so all women, slaves and foreign residents were excluded. But it has been suggested that with the rapid rise of communication technology, it may be possible in the future to at least consider it. At the moment, our only form of direct democracy is at referendums, and in Britain’s history, there have only even been five. A model that has been developed to explain who holds power in democratic Britain is the pluralist model. According to the pluralist model, power is exercised by the mass of the population, rather than by a small elitist group.
They argue that if a majority of people do not like what their representatives are doing, they can vote them out of office at the next election. They also argue that people should take a more active role, between elections, for they can join interest groups, for amongst other thing, political parties, trade unions and pressure groups. They argue that group activities such as these are vital for a successful functioning political system. Pluralists are not interested in whether power is even or uneven, but weather or not it is widely dispersed. According to this model, as the state acts impartially, responding equally to the demands of different pressure groups, so single group can dominate in society.
This ensures that people can exert influence over decision makers, to ensure that the power is dispersed and not concentrated, at the same time allowing minority voices to be heard. This is all in favour of Britain being a democracy as it is a way of letting the masses, the many, rule, or at least have more influence over the ruling. We, living in a liberal government, have a representative democracy, a direct democracy, a parliamentary democracy and a responsible democracy. We have regular elections conducted on the basis of political equality and the idea of ‘one person, one vote, one value’. These elections are free and the electorate has the ability to vote independently, in a secret ballot, aimed to prevent intimidation or corruption.
We also have civil liberties, such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement. Although this may be true in theory, there is also the argument that despite this, power is always held by a small group who have the ability to use it to their own end. Groups who have privileged backgrounds can join the city, the judiciary, the diplomatic service, the civil servants, banks and big businesses, to dominate Britain over the twentieth century. There is the argument that not all groups have equal access or are accepted to allow a pluralist society, this is what litists believe. Consensus can be only skin deep, while there is actually a ruling class. There is also the view that power really lies in the economic infrastructure and the capitalist system, where a countries wealth is owned by individuals.
The system is not neutral, but manipulates people’s views. When problems occur in the economy or there is a national crisis, the government will turn to the use of force to enforce policies, so the ability to use force is the real basis for government and not consensus. This is a strong Marxists idea. Pluralists acknowledge a ‘political elite’, which acts within the powerful constraints of regular elections and public opinions, but the litists and Marxists believe there is a further element of secrecy in democracy. So although Britain has a democracy, it is not strong enough to be able do defend itself against all criticism and opposition.