Is Britain a democracy?

(27 Posts)
sorbetandcream1 Mon 12-Sep-16 10:20:16

Just that. If we are, what makes us one? If you don't think we are a democracy, what countries do you consider a democracy?

Notthiswankagain Mon 12-Sep-16 10:25:38

As someone who lives in NI, I would say no. The rest of the U.K. might be; here not so much!

MephistophelesApprentice Mon 12-Sep-16 10:27:49

Depends on the definition you're using. In terms of the demos electing it's leaders, yes.

In terms of powerful oligarchs purchasing well trained public speakers to direct public discourse away from the public good and towards the public interest in order to cover their functional rulership (as Plato would have defined it) also yes.

I doubt there's anywhere on Earth labelled a democracy where real power resides with the electorate.

Allibear Mon 12-Sep-16 10:30:27

The fact that labour can block 300,000 of their members from voting and they all happen to be Corbyn supporters makes me think no! I don't know if I even support Corbyn but it scares me that they can just disregard democracy like that, they can just rig elections if they want to angry

claig Mon 12-Sep-16 10:34:54

'what countries do you consider a democracy?'

Switzerland seems to be the best democracy.

Allibear - 300,000 members? What are you talking about? The number is just over 3000 and for perfectly valid reasons - vile abuse, being members of another party etc.

BungoWomble Mon 12-Sep-16 22:12:58

Iceland seems pretty democratic. Iceland is I think the only country that allowed their banks to fail after the credit crunch and refused to bail them out.

Britain is not. For a start, as I heard an MP on the radio once pointing out, we are not a democracy, we are a representative democracy. We vote for candidates once every 5 years and they make decisions the rest of the time. I found it fairly chilling that an MP would want to make that statement, would want to tell most people that their views weren't wanted thanks.

There are then questions around who 'we' that vote candidates in are, and who those candidates are. In both cases the answers are not good. The Electoral Reform Society www.electoral-reform.org.uk/ has got information somewhere about how few voting people actually influence elections, and also some information about how the candidates we have available are increasingly drawn from narrower backgrounds. Caroline Lucas has written on this too, her book 'honourable friends' is interesting. Our MPs fairly recently voted against laws that would allow us to recall them if we didn't like the way they behaved too. The FPTP system is a problem too as vote percentages v seat percentages demonstrate in every election. Knowing all this really makes me question whether Britain can be called a democracy of any kind now. I have a good MP locally though - at least we seem to agree on many points so I like them!

cdtaylornats Mon 12-Sep-16 23:16:51

* I found it fairly chilling that an MP would want to make that statement*

Why? It's simply the truth and it's the way most democracies work (except America, I've no idea how that works). The only way to have anything else is to have continual referenda on every issue.

Living in Scotland the list system of PR is incredibly bad here because you cannot be sure of getting rid of a bad politician. Even if Sturgeon got zero votes in her constituency because she is top of the SNPs list in that region she might well get in that way.

ReadTheWholeFred Mon 12-Sep-16 23:20:59

More than a third of our government ministers are in the House of Lords.

The Lords can block legislation. People always say it can only delay it most legislation could be blocked by the Lords unless it fulfills very specific criteria.

So no we aren't a democracy.

Your MP can change Party and you won't get a vote about it until the next national election.

And the first past the post system means most votes make no difference whatsoever.

So even without the Lords we would be a flawed democracy.

GiddyOnZackHunt Mon 12-Sep-16 23:23:21

We're a poor attempt at a democracy but we're doing a sight better than most countries.

quencher Tue 13-Sep-16 00:00:26

We have them monarchy and the queen is not elected. She may not have a say in what the government does but her approval is sometimes considered. She is silent head of state.

The House of Lords is not elected but have a say on how the country is run. The can block bills they disapprove off.
The people who end up in the House of Lords and how they get there is sometimes questionable.

The way the prime minister is elected in this country is not democratically accurate.
It would be interesting if the MPs votes didn't dictate which prime minsters ended up in parliament.

The governing party usually do not follow through with their manifesto. It's there to get them through the election. voters don't really get what they voted for. That is not democracy.

SwedishEdith Tue 13-Sep-16 00:07:36

Not read the details but Denmark, Finland and Belgium have best democracies, experts say GB close to the bottom of this list.

Allibear Tue 13-Sep-16 01:12:10

Seahorse I meant 30,000 and that includes those automatically blocked for no reason? I'm trying not to believe everything I read but it does seem most of the people blocked are JC supporters and they seem to be being blocked for petty reasons !
http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/uk_579fbe4fe4b0459aae5e182d

CousinCharlotte Tue 13-Sep-16 01:15:07

We're led to believe we do, but I think otherwise.

cdtaylornats Tue 13-Sep-16 08:26:53

That would be the Belgium that went 589 days without a government in 2010-11 when it was run by an ex-Prime Minister?

That sounds democratic.

ReadTheWholeFred Tue 13-Sep-16 08:50:29

The lack of accountability over manifesto promises is a travesty in my opinion. I don't support lots of referendums but if we are only going to vote once every four or five years we should at least have a meaningful set of policy promises to hold the governing Party to.

cdtaylornats Tue 13-Sep-16 09:33:10

The trouble with manifesto promises is that circumstances change. Just possibly the opposition puts up a good argument to change a policy.

ReadTheWholeFred Tue 13-Sep-16 09:46:56

That's fine CD, but the Gov should pit its manifesto commitments to parliament and of the Oppostion persuade them to make a U-turn, or hey are defeated on a vote, then that would be democracy in action. If promises are made and never even put to parliament for a debate or vote then that's just reneging on commitments. Maybe in a few rare cases the Gov would change it's mind ahead of actually drafting legislation but in that case they should explain their change of mind in a public statement that can also be debated in parliament.

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Tue 13-Sep-16 09:57:42

AllThePrettySeahorses you've got that very wrong there. I have many friends who joined the Labour Party to vote Corbyn and have been prevented from doing so because of new length of membership restrictions.

They certainly are not the authors of 'vile abuse' as you say, neither are they members of another political party.

BungoWomble Tue 13-Sep-16 11:21:33

"Why? It's simply the truth and it's the way most democracies work (except America, I've no idea how that works). The only way to have anything else is to have continual referenda on every issue."

Because MPs are supposed to represent us. The idea of representation is that they take our views and demonstrated impacts of policy ideas back to Parliament and discuss with those representing other views/ impacts and find the best solution that will fit all, or as many as possible. Which should be the aim in a democracy. I don't see how you can have a democracy that doesn't want equality, or at least a decent try at it. MPs telling people to shut up, that they don't want to know how their ideas and theories are in practice affecting people, is exactly what the problem is in Britain. They don't know how their high fancy ideas and theories are affecting ordinary people, and far too many of them don't bloody give a damn either. The growing attitude is that basically it's your own fault for being an ordinary person, which the vast majority of us cannot help, and that is the complete antithesis of democracy. That is rule by an elite of some kind - aristocracy, oligarchy or even dictatorship (with the restriction of candidates for parliament oligarchy becomes more likely), and one which does not care about the fate of its citizens.

Someone in power stating that openly and not being challenged at all worried me. It should worry anyone who isn't part of their nice little club.

Other countries do not work in the same way. Switzerland does rely on referenda extensively: Iceland has a working parliament. The high British population works against us, Denmark and Belgium are both much smaller countries. This is why we need decent local government as exists in Germany, for instance. Unfortunately, despite the Tory rhetoric about supporting communities, the main vehicle for community activities, the local council, has been under attack for the last 40 years, and is now on the point of destruction.

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel - your friends don't come under the 3000 banned then, do they? They fell foul of Corbyn not staying to vote on the membership freeze and McCluskey's amendment to reduce it to 4 weeks, didn't they?

sorbetandcream1 Tue 20-Sep-16 08:05:58

I cannot see how any country could be a 'perfect democracy'. It just doesn't make sense to put all major decisions to a vote. Getting the views of so many people is such a lengthy process. There wouldn't be time for anything else. It takes long enough for the MPs themselves to make decisions.
I guess the existence of the House of Lords does move us away from being democratic (given that they aren't elected).

PacificOcean Tue 20-Sep-16 08:11:00

I agree that there is no such thing as a perfect democracy. I think we're pretty good although it may not always feel like it.

Did you know that, according to Amnesty, there are over 120 countries without freedom of speech?

sorbetandcream1 Tue 20-Sep-16 08:25:45

That's awful. Yes- the fact that we have a right to express our views on whatever we want and systems to do so by is a step towards us being a democracy.

Here's a different way of looking at it. What would a (close to perfect) democracy look like in an imaginary nation?

0phelia Tue 20-Sep-16 12:43:55

People in power like to hold onto it, and you only get power by having either lots and lots of money or getting lots and lots of people together to make themselves heared.

We used to be more democratic when we had a functioning left wing trade unionist movement but over time since the 70's - 80's this has been stamped out.

An ideal democratic parliament asks what people think.

What we have here is that you are told what to think, and if you disagree you are banned from voting or brainwashed into thinking something else or simply abused and scared off.

We are not a democracy. The Tories illegally overspent on the last election campaign but somehow get away with it since being in power. They behave illegally, as did Blair but power means power and you can get away with it. We do not want this do we but you get stuck with it.

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