Electoral Representation and Accountability: The Legacy of Empire

  • Patrick Dunleavy


Throughout most of the twentieth century, the fundamental British conceptions of how liberal democracy should link citizens to their governments and political representatives have been limited, impoverished and unresponsive to wider patterns of social and political change. Political representation and accountability to citizens have been interpreted in a minimal way, crystallized in the ‘Westminster Model’. This ‘primitive’ conception of the scope of accountability and the meaning of citizens’ representatives has survived intact for virtually the whole century — despite the transformative impacts of two world wars, massive economic and social class changes, and the shift from Fordist and patriarchal social structures to ‘post-modern’ patterns of social life.


Liberal Democracy Vote Share Party System Electoral Representation Island State 
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Guide to Further Reading

  1. The outstanding historical treatment of 125 years of critique of the plurality rule system is Hart (1992), which shows in detail how close reform came in 1917 and 1931. For an example of the position criticized here, see Harrison (1996), a beautifully written statement of the ‘two-party club’ orthodoxy as applied to contemporary British history. Despite its contentious argumentation and patchy coverage of the really key political changes, Harrison’s book brings a large amount of material together in one volume. On the concept of representation, see Manin (1997). On electoral systems, see Dummett (1997). On parties and party systems, see Sartori (1976). On constitutional reform, see Bogdanor (1997).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patrick Dunleavy 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Dunleavy
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of EconomicsUK

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