WCSQM Essay - Nidal Abbani

How would you improve the democratic system in this country?

Democracy is a system of government where the whole population can vote on who leads them. The word democracy comes from the Latin words ‘demos’ which means people and ‘kratos’ which means rule, and together they mean ‘rule by the people’. This gives us the power to be able to say who we think should rule over us, so it can't just be one person deciding everything. So, if this system seems so great, what is there to improve? Well, for us to be able to answer that we need to know about England before we became a democratic country.

Before democracy started to fall in place, England was ruled by the monarchy and they believed in the ‘Divine right’. This posits that they were chosen by God to be king. No one could oppose this idea as the majority of England was religious and thought that if they went against the word of God then they would be punished and sent to hell.

King John was one monarch who felt strongly about this idea, and because of his ‘Divine right’ to rule, he felt it fair that he could go around doing what he felt fit, such as increasing tax. Unfortunately, after civil war broke out in 1215, John was forced to sign a charter called ‘Magna Carta’ which limited royal authority. King John gave his seal but then withdrew his guarantee. However, this did not truly matter as the seeds of democracy had been planted: all the people needed now was patience.

Sure enough, Edward cook MP challenged Charles I using the Magna Carta, as Charles I’s power was getting out of hand. In 1642 things got to such a point that civil war erupted. Charles I was captured, put on trial and found guilty. On 30th of January he was beheaded.

Charles II was crowned king and this era is known as the ‘Glorious revolution.’ And so began the human rights act and limitations on the English monarchy. The bill of rights was also signed denying the crown the ability to create laws without parliamentary authorisation; it gave MPs freedom of speech among other things. At around this time democracy started showing more of an appearance.

Naturally, we can tell democracy could only work with a leader that was compatible with change. However, although Charles II allowed change to occur, England needed a stable leader that knew what he/she was doing. Charles II was too relaxed and did what had to be done so that he could remain king. He didn’t want what happened to his father to happen to him. For example, he lied about being a protestant as he was in fact a devote catholic.

And so came the 18th century, a time of sudden change of thinking, with a surge of democratic thoughts. In 1721 Robert Walpole became our very first prime minister. He was “reasonable, with the ability to move both emotion and minds of men”.

‘Engage, aspire and excel’ was a thought that Walpole believed in, but only to excel ‘the minds of men.’ Women at this time where still not allowed to vote. In reaction to this, groups of women who demanded the vote joined the organisation of the suffragettes, they committed crimes such as vandalism and arson. Finally, in 1918 women where given the vote but had to be over the age of 30, but due to women helping during WWI they proved themselves worthy of doing the same jobs as men, and so in 1928 they could vote at the same age, twenty-one years old, and at last Brittan had become a proper democracy.

This illustrated the idea that for democracy to work at its fullest, the people that are given the vote need to treat others with equality and not discriminate. For us to work as a democracy we need to work as a team. We must be open minded to appreciate other opinions and for us to acknowledge change. It is understood as humans that it’s normal human nature to be weary of change but we must push past that because otherwise we could still be thinking that our kings and queens could do what they want and we had no say in it because of their ‘Divine right’.

Although we are still somewhat ruled by our monarchy, our modern-day system of government is a parliamentary democracy. The UK is divided into constitutions and voters in each constituency elect their member of parliament in a general election. All elected MPs form the House of Commons. Most MPs belong to a party such as the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, and Labour. The party with the majority of MPs form the government, and anyone one of the age 18 and above can vote.

How our democratic government works seems straight forward, but what happens if one party doesn’t get a majority? In that case two parties must form a coalition where parties co-operate with each other to see if they would be able to work together. Some may disagree with this idea because often the parties may find it difficult to agree on a common objective, and managing the coalition can be very time consuming. Also, it may be dominated by a powerful organization as power is not always distributed equally among members and so larger richer organisations will have more of a say, so often it goes against the whole point of a coalition.

In spite of that, some see democracy as the flame in darkness as it promotes equality and justice in society. For example, you have the freedom of religion and belief so you can worship and practise your religion the way you see fit. No one can force you to worship what they think is the right ‘god’. You can protest government actions, and you are also protected under the law from discrimination against such things as race, religion, ethnic group, or gender. The most important thing is that no one is above the law, including monarchs. This also promotes change to the way people think and their ideas to this world.

Others may argue that what is the point in even being a democratic country when the prime ministers and the party we vote for don’t even stick to their manifestos? For example, a party says that they promise to lower tuition fees but only say this so it attracts students vote. Some may say that they can’t stick to them due to cuts etc. However why put it as something that you promise to do if you are not one hundred percent sure that it is something that can be achieve?  Manifestos are sometimes seen as just a way to grab people's attention. An example of this is David Cameron, as one of his manifestos stated that “We will deliver more homes that people can afford… including 200,000 starter homes exclusively for first time buyers under 40”. However, a visible darkness loomed over as the 1% yearly social rent would cripple housing associations. This shows that David Cameron was desperate and made reckless promises that he couldn’t keep.

In addition to reckless decisions, democracy puts more emphasis on quantity rather that quality so someone is elected to be our prime minister only because he/she got more votes than another candidate. We could end up governed by an incompetent leader and equality could only be in question for the rich and famous. This contradicts all the hope we have for democracy.

We should all be treated equally – a statement that nearly all agree on. The voting age should be lowered to the age of 16 – a statement not many agree on. Although most adults think that teens have absolutely no idea on what's happening around our political world and are always glued to their electrical devices, it’s quite the opposite: teenagers are quite knowledgeable about politics and global issues. For example, in the Brexit vote more elderly voted than young adults. This didn't seem quite fair as the impact that Brexit would have would affect the younger generation as we grow, such as having to pay more when we attend university. Many international students living in Europe will have a much larger struggle to get in top universities. So how exactly is equality being shown here?

I think that to improve democracy we need to improve people's mindsets as for someone to truly believe that we can change into a better world we should all together believe it. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”; as one moves the other follows just like in the domino effect. We must also have a trust between our politicians and our voters. I suggest that if a politician can’t stick to his/her manifesto then he/she should tell their people of their mistake and try to compromise something different, not just forget about it whilst the public boil in anger.

Furthermore, when a teen reaches the voting age of 18 they sometimes just vote for who their parents believe should be elected. So truly it's not their own choice and that problem mostly occurs due to the missing knowledge of politics. So, I propose that children from the start of secondary school on should get weekly PSHCE lessons on our government and politics. This will also encourage the idea of the voting age being lowered as there is proof of the knowledge that is needed.

We should also change the way we choose our party and PM during elections because, as argued before, most of the time it relies on quantity and not quality. I propose that after the best two candidates are picked by election they both go on something like a trial where they both explain manifestoes and political views clearly and their lawyers point out bad points of the other candidate. This way we are aware of the consequences. We then vote again and the judge takes in the votes and speeches given by the candidates into account and makes the final decision with other MPs not from the same party to make it unbiased.

On a final note I strongly believe that our prime minister must be: open minded, reasonable, strong to his/her opinions but also consider the public's opinions. He/ she must believe in an equal free world. Coming back to the mindset of people, he/she must be willing to accept change and defeat. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world where perfect imaginations of people exist. Even so, we can always try to live up to that expectation. As they say “I’m not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I’m afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion”.  

By Nidal Abbani