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UK Politics – Theories of Representation

6. The UK Parliament

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In this final lecture, we tie together the various elements of representation we have discussed thus far in the specific context of the UK Parliament. We consider the First Past the Post system for elections and the argument that this does not produce proportionate results, thereby reducing the quality of representation. We explore the significance of the fact that part of UK Parliament – the House of Lords – is not elected, and consider too the idea that while the UK Parliament is presently more representative in a descriptive sense than it has been in the past, full descriptive and substantive representation has not yet been achieved. We explore the role of parties in shaping representation and the idea of a “dual mandate”. Finally, we return to a contrast between direct and representative democracy, exploring how referendums like Brexit can complicate our understanding of what it means to honour the wishes of the people in a modern representative democracy.


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’.

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APA style

Blick, A. (2022, January 18). UK Politics – Theories of Representation - The UK Parliament [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Blick, A. "UK Politics – Theories of Representation – The UK Parliament." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 18 Jan 2022,

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