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UK Politics – Theories of Representation

4. Parties, Elections, and Mandates

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This lecture begins with some historical context concerning the importance of political parties in the UK from the 19th century onwards. We see that these parties run on particular policy programmes, and therefore that individuals elected to Parliament are crucially elected as representing the wider party and its policies. Representatives in a party system therefore might not exclusively use their own judgement, as parties have developed various mechanisms to encourage representatives to vote along party lines. We see, however, that the instances of MPs “rebelling” indicate that an element of individual judgement persists in the UK’s representative democracy. This lecture concludes with some consideration of the idea of the “mandate”.


In this course, Professor Andrew Blick (KCL) explores the theory and practice of representation in modern democracies. We begin by exploring the origins of representation in politics. Then, in the second lecture, we contrast representative democracy with direct or participative democracy as represented by recent referendums such as the EU referendum of 2016. In the third lecture, we explore two different theories of representation: delegate and Burkean. In the fourth lecture, we then consider the role of parties, elections, and mandates in the UK’s modern representative democracy, emphasising in particular the twin forces of individual judgement and party allegiance in shaping how constituents’ interests are represented in Parliament. In the fifth lecture, we ask who representatives are and what this tells us about the nature and quality of representation in Parliament. To answer this question, we explore two forms of representation: descriptive and substantive. Then, in the sixth and final lecture, we tie together the various elements of representation we have discussed thus far in the specific context of the UK Parliament.


Professor Andrew Blick has extensive experience working for think tanks in the UK Parliament and as an administrative assistant at No.10 Downing Street. He has advised democratic reform groups working in countries including Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine; and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm. From 2010-15 he was research fellow to the first ever parliamentary inquiry into the possibility of introducing a written constitution for the UK, carried out by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. In 2021 he began participation in an AHRC-funded project assessing the history of democracy from ancient times to the contemporary era, through considering written primary sources. He recently published ‘Electrified Democracy: the Internet and the United Kingdom Parliament in history’.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Blick, A. (2022, January 18). UK Politics – Theories of Representation - Parties, Elections, and Mandates [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Blick, Andrew. "UK Politics – Theories of Representation – Parties, Elections, and Mandates." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 18 Jan 2022,

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