Are we witnessing the demise of the "Westminster model" in the UK?

Essay by superier1University, Bachelor'sB, May 2008

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One of the most celebrated forms of democracy, the “Westminster model” has been a defining feature of the British political system for the past century. Coined after the location where the Houses of Parliament stand, the system is also sometimes referred to as the majoritarian model, in that majority rule is a central attribute of the model. The characterising factors of the model have been present throughout modern British political history, but more apparent in some years than others. The years 1945-1970 symbolise a strong alignment with the main features of the model, in which bare majority cabinets and the concentration of executive power in one party delineated the British political system. The 1970s on the other hand saw a deviation from the Westminster model, with a Lab-Lib coalition government being formed – a step away from the majoritarian notion of the model. Despite the restoration of cabinet dominance under the Thatcher governments of the late 70s and 80s, the progressive break away from the Westminster model continued.

Moreover, in the past decade there have been significant steps taken away from the model - devolution, the limitations on British sovereignty as a consequence of its involvement in the EU, the re-shaping of party ideology and the growing use of referendums all serve to highlight this. Yet despite these deviations, concentration of power in one party and cabinet dominance still shapes British politics, the constitution is still flexible and the electoral system still produces disproportional results during general elections. A strict following of the model has ceased to exist since the 1970s, but despite this, to claim that we are witnessing the demise of the Westminster model is far fetched – the model may not be strictly implemented, but the main features of the model can still be seen in today’s...