chapter  7
38 Pages

The core executive

This chapter outlines the major forms of non-electoral participation in the UK. It looks at referendums, pressure groups and other forms of participation in the UK in order to assess whether or not they overcome Jean-Jacques Rousseau's challenge. Referendums and party-run focus groups do allow members of the public to have some say in policy decisions between elections. One interesting illustration of the distinctions between pressure groups and parties was the emergence of the Referendum Party which contested 547 seats at the 1997 general election, securing around 2.5 per cent of the UK vote. The rise in pressure group activity, and the increasing demand for referendums on a variety of subjects and at different government levels, constitutes a serious challenge to representative democracy as it has been understood in the UK; it is certainly not compatible with the traditional Westminster Model of decision-making.