Notes for: When did Britain really become a democracy

Topics: Democracy, Elections, Election Pages: 17 (5969 words) Published: June 4, 2014
American and British democracy

   On the surface both Great Britain and America fulfil all the basic requirements of democracy, they have universal suffrage, and both governments are regularly held accountable to the people. However, when it comes to judging which is the most democratic, you have to look at how each system works. When looking at the governmental systems up close it is easy to see them both as being less than full democratic.             In both the UK and USA any citizen, be they male or female, black or white, has the right to vote in elections, as long as they are over eighteen years old. This universal suffrage is something that is desperately needed if a country is going to be democratic, for if some citizens are excluded from the right to vote then a government is obviously not democratic because not everyone who lives in that country is getting a chance to say how they want it to be run.             Similarly, the fact that both governments are regularly held accountable to the people makes them democratic, however, looking more closely at the details means that, in this instance, America is slightly more democratic. In the US the date of elections are fixed for every two, four or six years, the candidates are elected in November and inaugurated in January, and those dates cannot be changed. But in the UK, the Prime Minister can set the date of the election himself, as long as it does not exceed a five year gap between elections. This means that the election can be set to coincide with good publicity for the PM and their Party, or to avoid bad news. This facet of elections means that America is slightly more democratic because their politicians are more accountable, they cannot be shielded from their fate, and have to stand before the electorate, no matter what.            

America’s democratic claims are also reinforced by the strict separation of powers that is stipulated in the Constitution. The Executive has no direct influence in Congress, Congress has no power over the Executive, and theJudiciary has no power over either, and cannot be influenced by either. Because of this there is no chance for a President to form a dictatorship because, theoretically at least, the system of checks and balances protect democracy. However, in the  UK the executive is inextricably linked with the legislative as the Prime Minister is a Member of Parliament, as are all the other Ministers. This means that the Executive has the potential to dominate Parliament, regardless of other viewpoints. This means that America is more democratic in this respect the legislative body cannot be overtly controlled (though it may be subtly manipulated) by the Executive.             Also, both the Prime Minister and the President have impressive powers of appointment. They can both select senior judges, ambassadors and many other senior figures, but the difference is that the President’s nominations have to be ratified by the Senate, while there is little to stop the Prime Minister nominating whoever he wants for a particular position. In this way America is more democratic because the President cannot arbitrarily appoint someone to a particular post. Such was the case of Harriet Miers, Bush nominated her for the Supreme Court when she had no experience as a Judge and had worked with him for years. Although she withdrew her application, the Senate probably would not have ratified her appointment, thus proving America’s democracy.  

           Added to this is the larger number of elected positions in America officials like town Sheriffs are elected, while far more in the UK are simply appointed. Although the Conservative leader David Cameron has said he will introduce elections for offices like Police Commissioners if he is elected. In this way  America is more democratic because the people have a greater say in who runs their country at all levels.             Contrasting this though, is the fact that the British Executive...
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