(Original post by srascal8)
I'm just the man. My teachers have predicted this for the last two times, and the head of politics is hedging his bets on it yet again. I got 23/25 on this, and you can argue either way, so don't get down at me on this one, I don't love politics, I just do what I do to cover the mark scheme.
To what extent is the UK a liberal democratic system? 
Liberal Democracy balances the principle of limited government against the idea of popular consent. Its ‘liberal’ features reflect a belief in limited government as well as a network of internal and external checks upon government which are designed to guarantee liberty and afford citizens protection against the state. Its ‘democratic’ character is based on a system of regular and competitive elections, conducted on the basis of universal suffrage and political equality. Whilst the UK has made great strides to having a more liberal democratic system, it is not correct to say it is one.
Some will argue that the UK system of politics is indeed liberal. Under Blair’s leadership following the 1997 general election victory, Labour brought in a series of reforms to fragment and spread power across the country. They did this with constitutional reforms; they devolved power in 1998 to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, and in 1999 to the Northern Ireland Assembly under the Good Friday Agreement. This showed a buck in tradition where power always resided with Westminster. The further devolution of power is highlighted with the election of a London Mayor and the London Assembly. The devolution of power to sub-national bodies have taken power away from central government and given more power to the people. The introduction of the Freedom of Information Act in 2005 allowed for greater transparency within the public sector; giving the public a ‘right of access’. Furthermore the Judiciary has become more independent of the other branches of government with the introduction of a new Supreme Court in 2009. This was important because it symbolizes the complete separation of the Judiciary from Parliament and together with the introduction of the Human Rights Act 2000; the rights of citizens have been enhanced. Measures introduced since 1997 has taken power away from the state and have given its citizens more rights, this matches up to liberal views, therefore the UK system could be considered liberal.
The UK system could also be considered ‘democratic’. With the introduction of new sub-national bodies (Wales, N.I, Scotland, London), who operate under fairer, more proportional electoral systems, it has allowed for more proportional representation; fewer wasted votes and more representation for smaller parties. It has also not only allowed for more power to local people but has allowed for greater representation of society; the Welsh Assembly is now the only democratically elected body in the world that that an equal representation of both men and women. In parliament, Blair appointed the first ever black cabinet minister; Paul Boateng, and Cameron the first ever Muslim cabinet minister, Baroness Warsi. Furthermore, there are now greater numbers of openly gay ministers. A Labour manifesto pledge in 1997 was the greater use of referenda, and these were used to decide whether power should be devolved to Wales, N.I, Scotland and London. More recent referendums include, under the Conservative-led coalition, the referendum on the Alternative Voting which took place in May, 2011. The greater use of referendum could be used to argue that the UK is democratic, and as a form of direct democracy, has certainly enhanced the electorate’s power to influence decisions; this has also taken power away from parliament. Increasingly, there has been a move towards greater political pluralism. Through social media and communications, there has been a huge increase in pressure group activity and this has enabled citizens to air their views more frequently, for example NUS protests in London against the rise in tuition fees in 2010 and 2011. The coalitions’ introduction of fixed term parliaments has also made the UK more democratic; no longer can governments decide to call ‘snap elections’ when opinion polls are more favourable, the next general election will be in May 2015, or if parliament loses confidence, but ultimately, the ability of government to choose when to hold them has been taken away.
However, whilst the current system shows signs of liberal democracy, it clearly does not conform to liberal democratic ideals. There is still no written constitution, one of their key objectives. The House of Lords remain unelected and despite Labour carrying out reform in 1999 to remove all but 92 hereditary peers, in October 2011 there were still 88. Peers are appointed by government and this sums up the undemocratic nature of the UK. Blair was very presidential in style, relying more on ‘spads’ like Alistair Campbell than elected politicians. This is backed up as cabinet meetings usually lasted as little as 45 minutes. His style illustrates an undemocratic style, whilst popular, he should be listening to fellow elected members of his cabinet. Additionally, First Past The Post remains distinctively undemocratic of the true wishes of voters and whilst there is greater representation of smaller parties in Europe, where sovereignty lies in the UK, in parliament, smaller parties are grossly underrepresented/ Conservatives and Labour overrepresented. As the previous explained, pressure groups form part of political pluralism, but in parliamentary terms, there is by no means a range of political representation, and it could be argued that for true democracy to exist, tolerance of rival parties and beliefs need to exist, especially in the legislature to ensure all groups are represented. Pressure Groups are not even listened to, millions marched through London in the ‘Stop the War’ coalition, but these protests were largely ignored. The status of the pressure group in question is also important, not all are listened to. The CBI can exert great power with any government due to their importance in business and their insider status; however the ‘Occupy’ movement are ignored. The media is controlled by a relatively small number of proprietors such as Rupert Murdoch who owns the Sun, Times and Sunday Times. It is not correct to call yourself a democracy if one person or organisation can have so much power over what people believe and a break up of this monopoly would enhance democracy. This greatly influences the public and restricts their ability to obtain a range of information with which to make judgements. One could argue however that we do not have much power over our affairs anyway. Global markets dictate economic policy and America dictates British foreign policy, it could be argued that the days of liberal democracy are numbered, and as seen in the eurozone debt crisis, countries need to act quickly without having the legitimacy from their people to make quick and contentious agreements on fiscal policy.
In conclusion, the UK is not a liberal democratic system. Whilst it has key features of a liberal democracy, the current system does not conform enough to liberal democratic ideals for it to be considered one. The steps introduced by Labour such as devolution, improving information and the greater use of referenda certainly gave more power to the people and reduced the power of central government; noticeably very liberal. However, the fact that the House of Lords is still unelected and contains 88 hereditary peers highlights the undemocratic nature of the UK system. We still have no written constitution or Bill of Rights, HRA 2000 simply brought the UK into line with the European Convention on Human Rights. The continued use of First Past the Post emphasises how the UK is undemocratic, and whilst one could argue that the rejection of AV in May 2011 legitimises AV, it is most likely that the electorate want a fairer system than AV; AV would not have been as proportionate as say, STV. Reforms of the weaknesses noted above would make the UK a liberal democratic system, however in its current form it is not one.
What do you guys think?