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q: Evaluate the view that the UK is facing a ‘participation crisis’
The UK runs under a representative democracy hence participation and engagement in political issues within the UK are detrimental in enabling the views of the public to be reflected by the elected MPs/representatives. Since 1980s there has been a constant decrease in the voting turnout for local and national elections hence strengthening the view of a crisis, additionally membership for parties have also taken a toll. However, in truth there hasn't been a lack of engagement and participation by public, only the method through which they express their view has changed. In fact there’s been a rise of participation and increase of voting turnout especially from younger electorate/
It can be argued that the UK is facing a period of participation crisis due to its low recurring low turnouts for local and national elections especially in regards to the local ones. This is emphasised during the 2018 local elections that took place which only received 36% of votes from total electorate. This figure is alarming as it echoes the fact that public are displaying greats amount of political apathy, since parties and representatives are failing their role to represent the public’s views in parliament and implementing promised policies written under their manifesto. This is seen through the current tory government which has produced 3 prime ministers since their election. Hence clearly meaning that the voters have simply chosen not to vote as an act of rebelling and demonstrating their apathy towards government suggesting a crisis is clearly taking place
However, in reality general elections have seen an increase in participation and engagement since 2017, this may be due to parties upping their campaigns which has caused many of the younger electorate to participate in elections more often this was seen in 2017 when Jermy Corbyyn used twitter as its main platform for campaign, allowing it to reach out to the younger electorate massively, hence 60% of those aged 18-24 have voted for Labour, Additionally the 2019 GE had a total voting turnout of 67 this is a significantly high turnout as it is well over half hence electorate is still engaging despite there it only being to a small extent, it cannot be labelled as a crisis,
Another argument in support of the statement, is that parties have been seeing a lack of membership, hence there’s been a lack of engagement amongst the public to apply for party membership that essentially allows the parties to represent their views in Parliament. Hence a crisis is taking place. During the 1950s the conservative party’s membership was at 3 million, since then this value has been decreasing rapidly in tens of thousands, threatening the number for recruiting candidates locally. So fewer candidates means that there’s a lack of competition and interest from the public hence threatening their democracy since less views will be represented in Parliament. Hence lack of membership portrays that uk is facing a period of crisis as there’s lack of engagement from electorate to involve themselves. However, in reality it is wrong and inaccurate to generalise participation and engagement of public through the membership numbers. This is because membership only acted as one of the many vessels trough which public and electorate can actively participate in political matters. Since then, this vessel has become unpopularised, making public to leave the political party system to move to a new vessel such as the media. Social media has become one of, if not the most largest and biggest vessel through which public can actively participate in political issues, this is seen through the increase in numbers of government's e-petitions signed. In 2020 there was a total of 26,000 petitions listened and heard in parliament as well as responded by government. Hence it is wrong to suggest that engagement has been lacking due to low numbers in membership, so participation crisis is not occurring within UK since public has in fact become more engaging in political issues therefore pushing them into partaking in decisions more often.
However, it can be argued in favour of statement that there have been low voting turnout in regards to referendums. Having low engagement in referendums is detrimental to democracy and so, can cause a participation crisis as it is the one way for public to actively and directly make a decision on a political issue that will matter. This was seen in 2011 Electoral Referendum, which suggested the idea of switching the westminster electoral system to AV. It’s voting turnout was 42%; a shocking low score, hence public have not bothered to participate in a matter that could’ve helped increase their representation in Parliament hence, to ignore such an important issue could imply a participation crisis.
However, in reality referendums have been and seeing more participation from electorate, hence no crisis is occurring in regards to participation for referendums. This was recently seen in the last two referenda of 2016 Brexit and 2014 Scottish independence, which both had significant high turnouts of 72 and 85%. This implies, that having one low turnout on one referendum cannot indicate and arise a whole participation crisis as public clearly will vote on issues they regard as highly important and critical for themselves. Hence uk is not facing a participation crisis since clearly electorate is willing to vote on political issues as of recently proven in the high voting turnout of the tow previous referendums.
Overall, a it can be argued that the uk is facing a period of participation crisis since the electorate is not actively engaging in political matters as seen through the low membership parties currently obtain and through the low turnouts of both local, national elections as well as through the referenda. Despite this the low turnouts are not constant and so cannot be enough in determining a whole crisis as the UK recently has seen more participation and engagement from public than ever, especially by younger electorate. Hence there is not a participation crisis occurring within the UK.