The word ‘democracy’ (derived from the Greek meaning ‘rule by the people’) established itself within British culture as a system of government, not by the people, but rather, for the people by representatives chosen by the people through elections held every four to five years. Using the ‘Westminster model’ of majority democracy, Britain is acknowledged as the birthplace of a bicameral system with a single party forming a government until the next election. This system has been replicated and altered to fit individual circumstances around the globe. The belief that England originated majority parliamentary democracy has in part defined the British concept of politics and aided the notion of a people united in democracy. Central to the British concept of democracy is a respect for constitutionalism and the role of parliament. The belief that the constitution, albeit uncodified, will constrain the actions of parliamentarians and thus protect the interests of the people is clearly linked to the notion of respect for the legality of the British democratic system. The system is deemed to operate both above the state and above the individual and, while not perfect, is essentially incorruptible.
   Supporting this belief in the legality of the system is the idea that each individual can contribute to the system simply by virtue of being part of society. The freedom of the individual is seen as sacrosanct, and each individual in the ‘electorate’ is free to choose whether to participate or not as well as which representative to vote for. However, since the early 1970s, democracy has begun to lose its appeal to the people and its traditions have begun to be challenged. A new series of debates surrounding the contemporary cultural relevance of democracy has arisen. Of central importance are the call for constitutional reform or a Bill of Rights, expressed through Charter 88; the need for a change in the electoral system to one that works in the interests of all parties, not just the traditional two; and the rise of pressure groups.
   Further reading
    Madgwick, P. (1994) A New Introduction To British Politics, Cheltenham: Stanley Thomas (Publications) Ltd.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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