Strengths & Criticisms of the UK Constitution

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Mind Map by pcantellow, updated more than 1 year ago
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Strengths and criticisms of the UK Constitution

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Strengths & Criticisms of the UK Constitution
1 Strengths
1.1 Democratic Rule
1.1.1 The UK has had a long period of unbroken democratic rule - this is often seen as evidence of the strength of its constitutional system
1.1.2 Changes to the constitution often come about due to democratic pressure.
1.1.2.1 For example, the House of Lords had powers reduced because it is unelected.
1.2 Flexibility
1.2.1 The UK constitution is flexible an easy to change.
1.2.1.1 Remains relevant an up to date
1.2.1.1.1 Can adapt and respond to social and political change.
1.2.1.1.1.1 For example, devolution was a response to rising nationalism
1.2.2 The statute of law
1.2.2.1 It is easier and quicker to introduce an Act of Parliament than to amend the US constitution.
1.2.2.2 The UK's constitution is not entrenched
1.3 Effective Government
1.3.1 Given the absence of a "written" constitution, government decisions that are backed by Parliament cannot be overturned by the judiciary.
1.3.2 The UK's system of parliamentary government, based on the Westminster model, usually means that the government get their way in Parliament.
1.3.2.1 The concentration of power in the hands of the executive within the parliamentary system allows UK governments to take strong and decisive action.
1.3.2.1.1 Thatcher government introduced privatization, deregulation and reform around welfare.
1.4 History & Tradition
1.4.1 The constitution is organic
1.4.1.1 Has grown over time, linking current and previous governments
1.4.1.1.1 Tested by time
1.4.1.2 In comparison, codified constitutions have been "created".
2 Criticisms
2.1 Uncertainty
2.1.1 It is sometimes difficult to know what the constitution says
2.1.1.1 Surrounded by confusion because they are not 'hard and fast'.
2.1.2 Particulary applied to unwritten elements
2.1.2.1 For example, the convention of individual ministerial responsibility requires that ministers are responsible for blunders made by their departments. But does this mean that they should resign when civil servants make mistakes or only when mistakes are made by the minister?
2.1.2.1.1 Further, does responsibility imply that anyone has to resign or just that the minister must provide answers and promise to put mistakes right?
2.2 Elective Dictatorship
2.2.1 Once elected, UK governments can more or less act as they please until they come up for re-election.
2.2.1.1 Sovereign power is vested in the hands of Parliament
2.2.1.2 Parliament is routinely controlled, even dominated, by the government of the day.
2.2.2 The government could make changes to the constitution, which creates the impression that the UK does not have a constitution.
2.2.2.1 Widening the powers of government creates the possibility that government may become oppressive and tyrannical.
2.3 Centralization
2.3.1 Ineffective or weak checks and balances.
2.3.2 One of the key features of a liberal democracy is that government power is limited through internal tensions between and amongst government bodies. However, UK government is characterized by the concentration of power than its fragmentation.
2.3.2.1 The House of Commons is more powerful than the House of Lords
2.3.2.2 The prime minister tends to dominate the cabinet.
2.3.2.3 The executive usually controls Parliament
2.3.2.4 Central government controls local government.
2.4 Weak protection of rights
2.4.1 There is nothing that forces the government to respect individual freedom and basic rights, apart from elections.
2.4.1.1 Elections tend to empower majorities rather than minorities or individuals.
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