Whatever happened to parliamentary democracy in the UK?

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Abstract

In view of widespread agreement that there is something seriously wrong with the traditional model of parliamentary democracy in the United Kingdom, this article examines the reasons why the emphasis continues to be placed upon the 'parliamentary' rather than the 'democratic' dimensions of the phrase 'parliamentary democracy'. In doing so, it identifies the Westminster model as a set of norms, values and meanings prescribing legitimate government, and examines the extent to which UK governments still invoke this model to legitimise their actions. Three specific challenges to the Westminster model are examined - the operation of policy networks; the increased significance of judicial review and the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998; and the impact of devolution - to reveal, paradoxically, the continuing significance of the model. Yet, paradox upon paradox, while UK governments continue to espouse the Westminster model to legitimise their actions, they may yet reap - in an inversion of the precepts of that model - the whirlwind of a self-generated and self-perpetuating 'legitimation crisis'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-701
Number of pages19
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Volume57
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Keywords

  • parliamentary democracy
  • british politics
  • democracy
  • government

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