A “democratic deficit” is when an authority or in this case the government fail to represent their citizens needs. This could be due to many reasons such as a poor electoral system or low turnouts at elections.
The UK could suffer from a democratic deficit could be because of having an unelected second chamber such as the House of Lords. Many believe that the house of lords creates a democratic deficit due to the fact it is not elected, over 700 peers have been appointed by the primeinister or monarch and in many peoples eyes this causes a democratic deficit.
In addition, the UK voting system could also be criticised, it can be seen as undemocratic because the UK uses a voting system called ‘FPTP’ (First past the post) this results in unequal value of votes and the tyranny of the majority. FPTP creates safe seats which means that some constituencies are guaranteed to have a conservative or labour mp every election which created wasted votes and creates a democratic deficit as there is no point in people voting because it will make no difference.Tyranny of the majority occurs within the FPTP electoral system as it is a simple plurality system and not a majoritarian system. This means that within a constituency the MP only needs more votes than the second best instead of a majority (50%+) to win a seat. With this electoral system this enables representatives to gain power even when the majority didn’t agree with the policy that candidate represents. Another effect of the FPTP is that it can lead to un-proportional seats in the House of commons, this is shown where the liberal democrats won 23% of votes but only awarded with 9% of the seats.
Another major reason to suggest a democratic deficit could be because that there has been a fall in political participation in recent years. Election turnouts have decreased each year, for example in 1979 turnout was 76% but in 2010 turnout was only 65% this can also mean that a party cannot claim to represent a majority when in fact more people could have voted against or didn’t vote at all in that election. Some people may consider the value of their vote and think it is not worth voting because those living in safe seats may feel that there is little point in their vote because the result is obvious as there could of been no change in that constituency for the past 10 elections. Those in marginal seats may be more likely to turn out and vote as they feel there vote can make a real difference. Another reason for a lack of participation could be because of political apathy where voters believe that they have made little difference or no influence to political situations or that there vote wont be listened to anyway as its hard to facilitate any real change in modern day politics. Apathy also suggests that a proportion of those who do not vote, prefer not to because they are satisfied with the way they are being governed. The electoral commission in 2005 showed that 29% of people who didn’t vote felt happy with the way they were being governed which clearly shows that they are not satisfied with how the country was being governed but there vote just wouldn’t make any real difference.
Another reason why many people believe there is a democratic deficit could be because some pressure groups with a higher and more substantial status than others may have more direct influence than other pressure groups. An example of this is with insider groups who have regular contact with politicians and make decisions behind the scenes rather than engaging in publicity stunts for media attention to increase publicity like fathers for justice. Inside groups include sectional groups who have a narrow aim and interest and who are sometimes even funded by the government. Unlike outsider groups which have a disadvantage because they do not have special relationships with politicians and results to breaking the law by performing extreme stunts to publicise what they’re fighting for, once again fathers for justice are another example of a pressure group who have major drawbacks to their inability to exercise special relationships with politicians so result in continuing as an outsider group.
On the other hand, it is widely conceived that there is not a democratic deficit within the UK. One of the reasons being is that pressure group membership increasing. Recent years have seen the rise of less formally structured social movements and direct actions, an example of this is the increasing protests that are on going. Some pressure groups have over a million members and there’re still growing which indicates that the public is engaging and is getting more and more involved in politics within the UK. These groups allow opinions to be expressed and allow a wider range of opinions to be expressed which can be referred to as a positive democratic system. Without pressure groups peoples views may not be represented by their constituency MP, so having pressure groups avoids the UK having a democratic deficit.
In addition to this, many people think there is not a democratic deficit due to devolution. This is an example of the UK having democratic status, for example distribution of power has given Scotland, Northern Ireland and wales more power at a local level. This decision for devolution was done through a referendum, the referendum allowed people to answer a political question with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, this also would be seen as improving democracy as it allows the public to voice an opinion in a political matter through a direct democracy instead of the usual indirect democracy. The referendum allowed the government to see what the public preferred and was a brilliant example of a democratic country. The transfer of centralised power in Westminster to elected local governments has allowed new legislations from these local assemblies, they can make laws that sorely affect their constituents without major MPs from Westminster having influence and not even having a vote. This means that only elected MPs of the constituency it affects can have their say in the law making and passing of the bill.
Another reason as to why people believe there is not a democratic deficit in the uk is the increasing use of direct democracy which shows they’re leaving the decision down to the public. Whilst referendums are not law binding they are usually listened to such as the Brexit referendum in 2016 where only a tiny majority wanted to leave the EU because there was a majority the government listened to the citizens of the UK and is now in talks of leaving the EU. Another example of this was the Scottish referendum in 2014 of whether they should become independent to which the public voted for No so once again the government stuck to that decision.
The other reason as to why citizens of the UK believe there is not a democratic deficit is the ability to start your own political party or vote for any party that exists not a select two. In America citizens can only vote democrats or republicans and fortunately the citizens of the Uk can vote for over 100 different parties or if they don’t agree with any policy offered by existing parties could even start their own. This shows how democratic the UK is as you don’t need a degree or a lot of money or special contacts to start a party its just down to you. This means that people can always have their say.
In conclusion it is widely believed that the UK is not in a democratic deficit due to the many reforms that have already taken place and are still ongoing such as the reform of the house of lords and the increased ways in which anyone can participate in politics. Politics has matured as time has gone on and advanced with technology with the ability to sign e petitions online making direct democracy available to anyone even if they’re disabled and cannot leave the house along as they can access a computer then can participate in politics. For these reasons it is widely considered that the UK is not in a democratic deficit.