• The aim of this lesson is to understand the features of liberal democracy

  • To understand how democracy functions

  • To understand the difference between Direct and Indirect Democracy

  • To begin an evaluation of democracy

  • To consider arguments for reform

Lesson 1 Democracy

Why does democracy appear to be so desired, so praised and seen as almost inevitable, and yet also flawed and fragile?

Watch this introduction and try to answer the question: Why does Churchill say democracy is 'the worst system'?

What is Liberal Democracy?

What are the key features of liberal democracy?

Why is it seen as 'true' democracy and inevitable?

Follow these links to explore the issue of direct democracy


Link The case for Sortition Brett Hennig

  1. What is sortition?

  2. What is a jury?

  3. How might sortition contribute to reforming the House of Lords?

  4. How is direct democracy different to representative democracy?

  5. What is meant by the 'wisdom of crowds'?

  6. What did James Madison fear about crowds?

  7. What is fake or sham consultation?

  8. Why might sortition lead to consensus politics?

Direct Democracy


  • A purer form of democracy

  • Greater legitimacy to a decision

  • Improves political participation

  • Increases public engagement

  • Educates the public

  • It works


  • Not practical

  • Leads to tyranny of the majority

  • Undermines elected representatives

  • Can be low turnout

  • People do not understand the issues

  • People decide emotionally

Task: Write a short explanation of each of these points with one example to illustrate

The links below should provide everything you need for an evaluative essay on direct democracy.

Representative Democracy

The Participation Crisis

Task below:Link the features of Representative Democracy to the Positive and Negative aspects


  • Regular elections

  • Increasing since 2001 in general elections

  • Everyone over 18 with few exceptions can vote

  • UK has a multi-party system

  • Campaign for and protect minority interests

  • Parliament has power to control the government

  • Spreads power to local communities


  • Devolution

  • Turnout

  • Universal suffrage

  • Party system

  • Elections

  • Parliamentary

  • Pressure groups

  • sovereignty


  • The monarch and Lords are not elected

  • Other elections usually below 50%

  • Case for 16 and 17-year olds to vote, prisoners cannot vote, homeless are often excluded

  • Safe seats and two-party dominance

  • Act in own self-interest rather than national good

  • Parliament is usually dominated by the government

  • Has created an imbalance in the UK system; the West Lothian question

The Democratic Deficit

Finish this lesson with some wider reading: Is there a crisis of Democracy

Knowledge Check

1 What are the main types of democracy?

2 What is the role of direct democracy in the UK political system?

3 Why is democracy important?

4 How does representative democracy operate in the UK?

5 What are the problems with UK democracy?

6 How and why should UK democracy be reformed?

Knowledge check lesson 1 Answers