Voting in British Elections and UK Constitution – Essay Example

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The paper “ Voting in British Elections & UK Constitution” is a  delightful example of essay on politics. This essay discusses the extent to which social class still the principal determinant of voting in British elections. It argued that the social class does not influence voting behaviour in Britain as there is a mixture of other factors involved. It further discusses whether the United Kingdom needs a fully codified and written Constitution and concludes that a written and codified constitution would help regulate the executive powers and provide some security to rights. Key Concepts: UK Constitution, social class, UK General Elections, voting behaviour, UK voting behaviour, written constitution“ To what extent is social class still the principal determinant of voting in British elections? IntroductionIn Britain, the social class was the principal determinant of voting in British elections in the 1960s.

Generally, social class can be defined as the hierarchical arrangement or categorization of people according to various criteria (such as cultural, education level, origin or economic level) in the society. Between 1945 and 1965, Britain was essentially a country in which social class was largely distinct.

The social class was composed of the working class, the middle class and the upper class (Curtice 2002). Association with parties served to determine the ways in which the different sets of social class interpreted political information that influenced them to vote as a bloc for a similar party. For instance, the Labour Party was primarily a party of the working class while the Conservative Party represented mostly the upper and the middle class. The question as to whether the perception of social class continues to have relevance in determining the voting pattern is central to the discussion of this essay.

This essay argues that the social class is no longer the principal determinant of the voting patterns in Britain. This is mainly because the pattern of a right-voting middle class and the left-voting working class has significantly disappeared over the last 3 decades (Anderson & Heath 2000). Indeed, substantial changes were noted in the 1970s and the 1980s (Sander 2003). This meant that the social class was replaced by a number of other factors as the key determinant of voting behaviour.

Among the changes were basically in terms of the social class system, demographic and employment (Hinton 2013). The changes led to class de-alignment and the disintegration of the long-standing association of the social class with support for certain political parties (Achterberg 2007). It can also be argued that the pattern of voting is in actual fact “ one of a trendless function” as recent studies show that the extent of class voting declined significantly in Britain in 1997 after the Labour Party shifted to the core of the political spectrum (Earlham 2012). Social class today has become less influential in determining voting behaviour.

For instance, in 1959, the working class voted for the Labour Party by 62 per cent. In 1982, this however changed to 38 per cent. In any case, some social theorists have argued that the long-established support for Labour Party has incrementally declined over the last three to four decades since the working-class jobs are scarcer than it used to be in the 1960s and 1970s (Curtice 2002). According to Curtice (2002), new voting patterns that have replaced social class voting patterns include class de-alignment, which refers to the weakening in the relationship between social class and voting, and partisan de-alignment, which refers to the decline in the strong connection that voters feel to a certain party.

Indeed, the Labour Party is today generally considered as a part of the public sector rather than a party of the working class (BBC 2013).  

References

Achterberg, P 2006, ‘Class Voting in the New Political Culture: Economic, Cultural and Environmental Voting in 20 Western Countries,’ International Sociology, Vol 21 No. 2,pp.237–261

Allen, G 2011, The Cabinet Manual on UK governance is no substitute for a written constitution, Open Democracy, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/graham-allen/cabinet-manual-on-uk-governance-is-no-substitute-for-written-constitution

Anderson, R & Heath A 2000, Social Class and Voting: A Multi-Level Analysis of Individual And Constituency Differences, Oxford University: Oxford, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.crest.ox.ac.uk/papers/p83.pdf

BBC 2013, Electoral systems, voting, and political attitudes, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/higher/modern/uk_gov_politics/elect_vote/revision/2/

Blick, A, 2011, Codifying – or not codifying – the UK constitution: A Literature Review, King's College London: London, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.parliament.uk/pagefiles/56954/CPCS%20Literature%20Review%20(4).pdf

Colley, L 2011, Why Britain needs a written constitution, The Guardian, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/04/why-britain-needs-written-constitution

Constitution Society 2013, A Written Constitution: Important Debates, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.consoc.org.uk/discover-the-facts/do-we-need-a-written-constitution/

Curtice, J 2002, Survey Research Explaining Electoral Change in Britain, Paper prepared for presentation at the Fulbright Commission Brainstorm in Elections democracy, Lisbon 1-2 February 2002, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.ics.ul.pt/ceapp/english/conferences/fulbright/8JCurtice.pdf

Debates 2013, The United Kingdom needs a written constitution, viewed 16 August 2013, http://debatewise.org/debates/766-the-united-kingdom-needs-a-written-constitution/

Earlham 2012, Voting Behaviour in the UK: Document Two: From the 1970s to the General Elections of 1992 and 1997, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.earlhamsociologypages.co.uk/elections9297.html

Hinton, P 2013, Is Voting Behaviour Determined by Social Class? viewed 16 August 2013 http://suite101.com/article/is-voting-behaviour-determined-by-social-class-a169846

King, A, 2007, The British Constitution, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Oliver, D 1992, ‘Written constitutions: principles and problems’, Parliamentary Affairs Vol 45, p135

Sander 2003, Political Choice in Britain, Chapter 1, viewed 16 August 2013, http://www.essex.ac.uk/bes/bookfiles/Sanders-ch01.pdf

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