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To what extent have constitutional reforms introduced since 1997 made the UK more democratic?

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Introduction

´╗┐To what extent have constitutional reforms introduced since 1997 made the UK more democratic? The word ?Democracy?, when broken down to its Greek nature, means ?the rue of the people?, this would give the thought that any country that says it is ruled under a democracy, does everything it can for the people, and where possible, by the people. When it comes down to it, what makes a country democratic? The most common answers would be things along the lines of accountability, decentralisation, protected rights, & the political participation of the people. Before 1997, the UK was steamrolling away from this ideal view of a democratic nation, and slowly becoming more like a dictatorship in the public eye, until Tony Blair?s labour government were elected into parliament and made many drastic changes that have changed the way UK citizens live to this day. The question is however, were these changes for the better? Are we, as a country, heading back to the greener pastures? Or are we simply diverting down a different road, under the guise of democratic rule. 1997 will always be remembered in British political history because of the landslide victory of the freshly dubbed ?new? labour, who leaned a bit away from the extreme left that they were known for before, but not too much to the right, so they would get confused with the Tories. This more centrist campaign proved to be a good idea as labour collected many ex-conservative voters who were still suffering from severe umbrage towards the historically weak John Major. ...read more.

Middle

plane to enter the UK, when they were arrested however, they argued that they were trying to escape to freedom, and the human rights laws of the UK should allow them to seek refuge there. This lead to tremendous backlash from the media, not to mention the opposing parties, and even led to Tony Blair himself doubting the system publicly. So while on the surface the human rights act should do nothing other than make the country more democratic, it?s done more in the way of causing our politicians to debate over it, causing turmoil in Parliament. Regardless, how much does the human rights act really safeguard us? With Parliamentary sovereignty, it can be removed as quickly as it was included, and with the recent troubles around the world with terrorism and countries trying to come down on them harder and harder, things like human rights are becoming an afterthought in the process. Prior to 1997, there was a staggering 759 hereditary peers who sat in the House of Lords, these peers didn?t gain their seats through elections, or even hard work, because they were all passed down to them through their parents. Not only did this mean that they had no accountability to the public, but it completely goes against the whole idea of democracy, surely Blair?s movement to remove all but 92 peers makes Britain all the more democratic? I would hope so, however, as with almost everything in politics, all is not what it seems. ...read more.

Conclusion

on that very topic, so sooner than we expect there may be a period where we have no rights, my verdict would be that with rights protection, we are kind of in the same space we were before 1997. My final point is based on political participation, which, with the introduction of more referendums, and the ?celebrity? Prime Minister of Tony Blair should surely have improved right? Unfortunately turnout has dipped to an all-time low since 1997, which had a fairly average turnout of 71.4% the next election however suffered a tremendous drop all the way down to 59.4%, just over half the country, and in the most recent election (2010), turnout was 65.1%, a slight increase. It should be obvious that high turnout is very important to how democratic a country is, as what?s democracy if the people aren?t bothered to vote? There are many factors as to why turnout is low, but the bottom line is that since 1997, political participation is far worse. Taking everything into consideration I would have to say that the extent to which constitutional reforms have made the UK more democratic since 1997, is close to zero. We are in more or less the same position we were then, except that today the government have many carefully placed schemes that provide us with the hazy illusion of all the factors above that make a country more democratic, but in reality, as Lord Hailsham said, we are living in more of an elective dictatorship than a democracy. ...read more.

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