Essay critiqueWatch this thread
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Question - 'Would it be a failure of UK democracy if a majority of UK adults supported restoration of the death penalty, but the UK Parliament consistently voted to maintain its abolition? Discuss.'
I believe that if this situation occurred it would demonstrate a failure in the United Kingdom’s democratic process, as it would show the incompetence, ignorance and unwillingness of Parliament to listen to the British public. I will approach this question as if the ‘majority of adults’ is from a majority vote from a public referendum.
An argument stating that it would not be a failure for the United Kingdom’s democratic process is that it could be for the ‘greater good’ if the vote was repealed by Parliament. If the public voted in support of waging war, would it be the morally correct choice to accept the democratic vote, or to question and reconsider said vote if it could cause great damage to the country?
A rejection by Parliament for a referendum issue as deeply intertwined with morals as the death penalty should cause voters to confront and rethink their previous stance, and it would give the public time to question their vote after noticing the unforeseen, unpleasant and unwanted consequences, which could cause public opinion to sway drastically to agree with Parliament’s upholding of the abolition of the legislation.
A common example of a sway in public opinion is the current process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, commonly known as Brexit. This vote has caused many to question their previous stance of leaving after noticing after the vote the economic, political and cultural damage that Brexit is bringing to the country. The current polling for the Brexit vote shows that the tables have turned from majority support for leave to majority support for remain. Perhaps this poses the question; are the public easily mislead during referendums and if so is it the fault of those misleading the public or the public themselves being close-minded on controversial issues?
However, it is ignorant to dismiss the British public as misinformed. It can accept that the public are biased, but it is human nature to have a preference when given a choice. It is also disingenuous to generalise the majority of a nation as being misinformed on issues. Controversial issues, such as the death penalty have many intricate details and nuances, such as what quantifies someone to obtain the death penalty?
It can also easily be argued that the public can simply vote out those who refuse to accept the result of a referendum. If this issue was so crucial and important to the public, alla Brexit, the public would vote primarily based on said issue if the candidate was willing (or unwilling) to accept the result brought with the referendum. In essence, this could be a ‘people’s vote’ as it would prove if there still is majority support for such legislation after the consequences have been noted. Also, in regards to Brexit, the sway in public opinion has not been dramatic. It has remained as divided as the result of the referendum itself.
To conclude, I still reinstate my belief that it would be a failure in the United Kingdom’s democratic process to refuse to accept the result of a public referendum, however I believe this question is not pointed at the right target. In such a vote; surely it is not a failure in the United Kingdom’s democracy, but more a failure in the United Kingdom’s education system, as it is a failure in teaching the democratic political process?
More broadly, I'd say you've also missed the key point of what 'democracy in the UK' means, or should be taken to mean. We have a Parliamentary system (with one elected house and one unelected house), and it is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. Is the responsibility, or duty, of an MP in a representative democracy simply to validate the opinion of the majority of their consituents? Or is their responsibility to exercise their judgement of what is in the national interest, even if that conflicts with the opinion of the majority of their constituents?
I think a big part of it, which you have kinda skipped over, is what "democracy" and most significantly what "UK democracy" means. Does our system have any normative values, as to fundamental rights and liberties? Would a 90%-elected government in Lagos, which kills 10% of the electorate, be considered "democratic"? Would it be considered "democratic" from a UK perspective? Bearing in mind the make-up of our political system, which is a representative democracy de facto. The Commons are king. De jure, however, the Lords (some of whom are elected hereditary peers) has corollary powers, in fact is supposed to be the senior chamber, and the Queen is the source of all laws. In UK democracy, there are multiple layers between votes and statutory enactments.
As the question is about what democracy means, you cannot assume that the reader agrees with your definition. You must at least present it as an axiom of your argument.