Democracy in the UK

Democracy in the UK

Fundamentals of UK Democracy

  • The United Kingdom operates as a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy.
  • Sovereignty lies with the Monarch, who is the Head of State, and the Parliament, which is the supreme legislative body.
  • The Prime Minister, appointed by the monarch, is usually the leader of the party with majority seats in the House of Commons.

Democratic Principles

  • The Rule of Law is a foundation of UK democracy, demanding all individuals and authorities within the state, including the government, are subject to law.
  • Political Equality provides all adult citizens with the right to vote (universal suffrage), and the right to stand for public office.
  • Pluralism, diversity of opinions, parties and interests, is a key feature of UK democracy.

Democratic Institutions

  • The Monarch, although mainly symbolic and ceremonial, retains certain powers (‘royal prerogative’), like giving royal assent to laws.
  • The Parliament, consisting of the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Sovereign, is the legislative body. The House of Commons is directly elected and holds real governmental power.
  • Political Parties play a key role in elections, policy-making, and functioning of the government and opposition.

Electoral Process

  • A First-Past-The-Post electoral system is used in General Elections to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons.
  • Regular free and fair elections are conducted, ensuring democratic legitimacy.
  • Referendums are occasionally used for significant constitutional decisions, such as devolution of powers and EU membership.

Accountability and Checks and Balances

  • Regular Elections and Question Times in Parliament ensure political accountability.
  • An independent judiciary upholds the Rule of Law and can administratively review government action.
  • Devolved Assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offer a check on the powers of the central government.

By understanding these aspects, one can comprehend the functioning of democracy in the UK.