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Direct Democracy in the Uk


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Assess the arguments in favor of the greater use of direct democracy in the UK

Direct democracy, or also know as pure democracy allows people to decide and vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to representative democracy where people vote for representatives who then decide the policy’s, where they peoples interest’s are meant to be at heart. Direct democracy derived from ancient Greece when people had a vote in what decisions were made, however women, foreigners and slaves were excluded from voting. Now days many countries with representative democracies allow forms of direct democracy through referendums, initiative and recall. There are many benefits to direct democracy, including promoting a democratic and well-cooperated society. People have power and a say, and this opinion needs to be listened to by the government in order to please the citizens. It also provides a responsibility of the government to the people, all people have this power of a vote, and the government needs to listen to peoples concerns, as the politicians and the government will be held responsible for the well being of the people. Referendums are a form of direct democracy, and have been used in the UK many times, with the most recent being the Scottish referendum, allowing the people of Scotland to decide if they wanted to remain a part of the UK. One argument against the use of more referendums would be that the general public are not always as educated in the decision as a representative may be, this could lead to people making irrational decisions, as they are not informed enough on the topic. This issue tends to lead to the media (especially tabloids) over simplifying the issue, which many argue gives these owners and editors of these newspapers far too much influence in the potential outcome of the referendum. Therefore many would argue that these matters should be left to informed, elected representatives under guidance of experts. However a clear benefit of a referendum is that if people vote and they are happy with the outcome, they are more likely to accept the decision, and less likely to rebel against it. An example of where this was important was in 1998 in Northern Ireland, where the Good Friday agreement would only be successful if it had widespread support; crucially the ‘yes’ vote received 70%. However you could argue that the minority who did not get what they wanted may be more likely to rebel against the decision made. As referendums are expensive to run campaigns many think that the side who has the most recourses at their disposal will prevail over the other side. This creates an unfair advantage, however there are limitations in place in order to prevent sides from spending excessive amount of money in order to create a fairer referendum. Referendums can also be beneficial to a government as it stops them from making a bad decision, and they could argue that they are not to blame if something goes wrong during the aftermath of a referendum. This could help the government at the time to potentially have a greater chance of being re-elected in the future. However the biggest problem by far of referendums is the fact that while the majority will get what they want, there will be a minority who will be completely ignored, this is called the tyranny of the minority. The minorities in referendums are completely ignored, where as a representative may take into account their interests, and modern day democracies are expected to look after the minority, however these referendums leave the minority completely defenseless. Many argue that for this reason there can never be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote, and that representatives need to modify decisions to try and maximize the benefits to all people. In conclusion, direct democracy has many benefits, but also many problems. However I believe that the UK should use direct democracy more, as I believe that people feel more involved, and it will make the current government more eager to please the people in order to gain support with the aim of successfully becoming re-elected in the future.

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