Arts & Humanities History

In the twenty-first century, what is monarchy for?

This long-read article was written by Edward Eves for the 2022 Robinson College essay competition, and was highly commended.

Estimated read time of essay: 15 minutes

The twentieth century was a disaster for royalty. In July 1900, King Umberto I of Italy was assassinated at Monza and in July 1946, his son, Vittorio Emmanuele III, scampers from the throne. In 1908, King Carlos of Portugal suffered the same fate as Umberto and two years later, the Portuguese monarchy was abolished. In 1913, the King of Greece was also murdered. As Leonard Woolf writes, the period was “a holocaust of emperors, kings, princes, archdukes and hereditary grand dukes” [1]. The most notable extirpation was in Russia, where the last Tsar and his family were murdered in the basement of their home on July 17, 1918. In each case, the killings were marked as prerequisites to the building of democracy in Europe. However, in almost every European nation which was ruled by monarchy, the void left behind was filled by an ambitious dictator. Was this really the solution the people envisaged when they ousted their monarchies? Now in the twenty-first century, there are only 12 European monarchies that remain. What do all these monarchies stand for? What did they stand for in the past? And what will they stand for in the future?

Since Charles I, considered the last absolute monarch of the United Kingdom, the monarchy in the United Kingdom has suffered a steady decline in political power. In the modern day, their role exists as unbending support for the party in power, whoever it may be, while they still hold various smaller roles such as the weekly meetings between monarch and Prime Minister. Such meetings have been fruitful for Prime Ministers, with Clement Attlee, a former Prime Minister, commenting,” Yet another advantage is that the Monarchy is continuously in touch with public affairs, acquires great experience, whereas the Prime Minister might have been out of office for some years.” [2] This experience and knowledge from an alternate perspective remains important as advice and counsel for each Prime Minister that holds office. Another common characteristic amongst surviving monarchies is subtlety. Their ability to exist as symbols of their state, whilst, in almost every nation, the people are more concerned with government than the monarchs themselves. As Amman, editor of The Economist magazine, writes of Queen Elizabeth II,” Indeed, one of her greatest achievements is that she has never said anything of any interest in public.” [3] Amman refers here to the Queen’s propensity for remaining unremarkable in opinion, and thus, unoffending towards the people. The monarchies that remain, remain as emblems of the nations they shepherd. Their role is not to disturb the public opinion, rather to remain neutral and in full support of their nation’s political leaders. In doing so, they can allow democracy to take its proper shape whilst their position on the throne avoids the threat of dictatorship that we have seen in other European nations.

Alongside political discretion, the pageantry associated with monarchy provides tremendous joy and a vivid sense of community for the people every year. From performers to military parades, to street parties and live music, events such as the Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee this year provide an enormous feeling of patriotism and pride in one’s own nation. Johnathan Welch of The Critic perfectly sums up the essence of these events, writing” Yet our need for solidarity remains. For want of battle, we can find such solidarity in festival. In days such as these, that need is met through celebration of a person who embodies our whole nation” [4]. In bringing the nation together in celebration and festival, the monarchy underlines its importance to national pride. Inevitably, there are those who do not buy into the occasion and the collective buzz of pageants. The same article from The Critic writes,” To the cynic, perhaps this all tells the sorry tale of cultural decline. Of a people lost at sea, searching without rudder for cohesive cultural identity” [5]. A growing portion of the population have fallen out of touch with the monarchy and Welch highlights the increasing feeling of cultural uncertainty around the surviving monarchy and its unnecessary ceremonies. Nonetheless, whether foraging for cohesive cultural identity or painting a thick facade over a nation’s cultural decline, the value of national parties in celebration of the monarchy cannot be understated.

In the UK, the Queen and other members of the royal family are patrons of over one thousand charities and organisations in the UK and the Commonwealth [6]. This staggering number of charitable organisations that the royal family continue to support highlights their desire to aid those who are less fortunate. The late Prince Philip alone was associated with 992 charities in one capacity or another throughout his 99-year-long life. A testament to his remarkable devotion to his people and a strong example of all surviving monarchies and their capacity for charity. A strong argument amongst those in opposition to the continuation of monarchy throughout Europe is their extreme wealth and the flouting of this wealth while there are those who live in desperate poverty. However, the distribution of this wealth via charity and support of over a thousand organisations helps to distil this animosity. In addition, it must be noted that whilst monarchies are of a particular burden to the average taxpayer, in the UK, for example, in 2021, the Sovereign Grant to the monarchy was £86 million [7] while the estimated income via tourism alone due to the monarchy every year is around £500 million. Therefore, while growing numbers of republicans are particularly offended by the wealth and extravagance of the monarchy, there is strong evidence to suggest that the monarchy is highly profitable, especially in the UK. Considering these figures and the sheer number of charities that the British royalty continue to support, the influence of monarchy over social and financial equality is a crucial element of their existence in modern times.

Moreover, Britain’s Royal Family and its Armed Forces have a special relationship which goes back centuries. As sovereign, the Queen is the official Head of the British Armed Forces, and this is extremely important. Paxman emphasises this, “armies work by cultivating emotion…To do so requires the development of an instinctive loyalty. Military organisations act upon commands, so they need a hierarchy, at the top of which will inevitably sit an individual – the monarch.” [8] The army has a very strong commitment to the queen and their loyalty towards her is unmatched. Further on Paxman quotes The Commandant of Sandhurst who states that he “never, ever heard a soldier say that he is fighting for Britain. They’re fighting for the Queen.” [9] For many soldiers, simply fighting for their own country is not enough motivation, but to fight and defend their Queen, and their monarch is an honour. More to this effect, the Royal Navy has particularly close ties with the Royal Family with numerous members of the House of Windsor such as George V, Edward VIII and Prince Charles all attending naval college and training to become sailors. The idea was for these future monarchs to gain important virtues like punctuality and self-reliance that would be required as future kings of the country. This idea highlights the monarchy’s respect towards the Armed Forces and the close connections which continue to exist between the two prove to be extremely beneficial for the spirit of the Armed Forces and the defence of the United Kingdom.

Similarly, the monarchy is hugely beneficial for the Church of England. As ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’ the Queen is a vital figure and essential for the promotion of faith in the UK and the Commonwealth. The Queen’s strong association with the Church was symbolised at her coronation when she was anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and took an oath to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England” [10]. The strong ties to religion and faith add to the mystical aspect of the monarchy which convinces many that they are almost “above human’’. Additionally, with the advice of the Prime Minister, the Queen appoints Archbishops, Bishops, and Deans of the Church of England, who then swear an oath of allegiance to her. Furthermore, the Queen is known to be a devout Christian who regularly attends services with other members of the Royal Family. This is regularly documented and is the perfect advertisement for Christianity and other faiths in England where atheism is on the rise. Once more, the close ties to the monarchy bring huge benefits for religion and particularly the Church of England, with the Queen a perfect image of hope and faith.

However, beside all their current roles and functions as monarchy, one question still remains. What will the monarchy be for in the future? With Queen Elizabeth II turning 96 this year, it is only a matter of time until her legacy is passed down to her first son, Charles. The Queen has endured the longest reign ever seen in the United Kingdom and has rightfully earned the undying support of the majority of her people. How will this change when she dies? The Queen’s death will mark a new age for the monarchy and Prince Charles will have to adapt the monarchy’s function in order to remain relevant and maintain the majority backing from the British public. In his support for global conservation and as a champion for environmental concerns, Charles has found his cause. In a world where global warming is on the rise, serving as a serious threat to human existence, Charles will garner huge support in his campaigning for the protection of our planet. The most important balancing act for the monarchy continues to be staying in touch with the people whilst staying far enough ahead to be marvelled at and admired. In championing conservation across the globe, Charles can connect with the people whilst remaining an idyllic figurehead of our nation. This is only one example of how King Charles may wish to lead his country when the crown arrives on his head, but the central problem that will no doubt outlive his reign, will be how the monarchy, an ancient system of rule, can survive in the twenty-first century.

To draw to a close, in the twenty-first century there are still may roles that remain for monarchies. Arguably the most important, is the devout support for government and the increasing modesty and discretion of modern monarchies which allow democracy to thrive. In the UK, the Queen’s roles as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Head of the Armed Forces prove vitally important for the sustained popularity of the Church and the strength of will of the British Armed Forces. Lastly, monarchy’s numerous roles in charity and their importance for tourism in modern states continue to provide enormous benefits to their economies and contribute heavily towards social equality. As we look ahead into the future and the rest of the twenty-first century, the problem that surviving monarchies face is their relevance and suitability in modern governments and economies. Their ability to modernise and adapt to the current climate whilst preserving their enchantment of their people. However, for now, the monarchies prove to be tremendous symbols of devotion and commitment to their nations and whether they are removed or not, they will remain hugely important figures of history.


[1] Woolf, After the Deluge, (London: Penguin, 1. Jan 1937), pp. 71-2.







[8] Paxman, On Royalty, (London: Penguin, 2006), p.112

[9] Paxman, On Royalty, (London: Penguin, 2006), p.113



Amman, ‘How monarchies survive modernity’, The Economist, April 27 2019; online edition,[ , accessed 27 July 2022 ]

Johnathan Welch, ‘The power of the pageant’, The Critic, June 5, 2022; online edition, [ , accessed 25 July 2022 ]

‘What is the role of the monarchy?’, UCL, The Constitution Unit, [ , accessed 27 July 2022 ]

‘Royal Finances’, Institute for Government, June 1, 2022, [ , accessed 28 July 2022 ]

The Week Staff, ‘How the world’s monarchs are adapting to modern times’, June 16, 2019; online edition, [ , accessed 23 July 2022 ]

Jeremy Paxman, On Royalty, (London: Penguin, 2006)

A.Purdue, Unsteady Crowns – Why the world’s monarchies are struggling for survival ( Cheltenham: The History Press, 2022)

Andrew Marr, Elizabethans – A history of how modern Britain was forged, (London: William Collins, 2020)

Arts & Humanities Philosophy & Theology

How the criticisms of Utilitarianism underline a fundamental error in our approach to ethical discourse

This article was written by Stuart Brown and was the winning article of the David Garlick essay competition. The judges commented ‘This is a very well written piece with a strong argument, which shows detailed and nuanced understanding of the issues.’

Estimated read time of essay: 6 minutes

Utilitarianism as a normative ethical theory is attacked in a number of different ways, however I hope to show how these criticisms demonstrate a fundamental mistake in the way in which we go about breaking down an ethical theory.

The first criticism which is often asserted is the impracticality of Utilitarianism when it comes to decision making in our daily lives. Even if we accept the idea that we must act in the way that best tends to produce happiness it is impossible to know which actions will cause this. We cannot predict the vast and unforeseeable consequences of our actions and hence Utilitarianism seemingly fails as we cannot effectively and accurately fulfil the task of promoting happiness in the real world. Mill strives to object to this in his book ‘Utilitarianism’ writing ‘that there has been ample time, namely, the whole past duration of the human species.’ His point here is that humans know basically which actions tend to produce more happiness as a result of the cultivated experience of humanity and the general attitudes that we have formed over time to specific actions due to such experience. Therefore, we know which actions to undertake to produce overall greater happiness. However, one must question whether Mill is even obligated to respond to the challenge of impracticality. The truth of the principle of utility and the very ethical theory itself is unaffected and detached from the question of whether it can be usefully applied in the real world. If it is true to seek the happiness of the greatest number, then this remains the case whether or not we able to do so. Hence, we see that when discussing the validity of normative ethical theories, the issue of practicality is unimportant as it has no bearing on the actual truth of the theory. The question of practicality is however not useless but rather misplaced. It should come later once a base ethical theory has been established and we look to how it can be applied.

Another popular yet erroneous approach is to argue from the starting point of a known ethical truth to try and establish or dismiss an ethical theory. To say for example, that murder is always wrong, and then to identify a specific case where Utilitarianism justifies murder is not necessarily a valid argument that Utilitarianism fails as an ethical theory because it appears to justify a wrong action. Whilst this argument may seem logical at first it presupposes that murder, or another action is simply inherently wrong. This is to fall into the fallacy of question begging as it assumes that Utilitarianism is incorrect and that some actions must have inherent value to prove that Utilitarianism is in fact incorrect. This structure of reasoning is common and often used especially in the case of Utilitarianism, but it fails crucially in all cases because it cannot without using circular reasoning establish that any given action is wrong. This problem illustrates a common mistake in how we approach ethics in that we try and find a theory to cohere with our current values. This is problematic as our self-held beliefs cannot act as a firm groundwork for an ethical theory. Instead, we must build up an ethical theory from its very foundation and derive attitudes towards specific actions later.

The trolley problem and how it is discussed often shows our disposition to starting from judgements of specific actions and then working towards an ethical theory to match such assumptions. This is a common introductory thought experiment to the topic of ethics and is one where most start with an opinion on whether it can be right to pull the lever to kill one and save five and work backwards to an ethical position. However, this is foolish as the point of an ethical theory is not to justify our previously held beliefs and judgements but rather to provide a starting framework to build our ethical perspectives anew.

Whilst many of the criticisms of Utilitarianism fail, there is one which is very difficult to overcome and demonstrates the correct way to go about analysing an ethical theory. This criticism is that Utilitarianism fails to successfully establish happiness as having inherent value. Bentham falls victim to the naturalistic fallacy when trying to establish the value of pleasure. This is the fallacy outlined by David Hume that we cannot derive an ought from an is (in this case it is Bentham’s argument that we naturally pursue pain and avoid pleasure and hence we ought to do so). In ‘Introduction to the principle of morals, legislation’ Bentham writes on pleasure and pain ‘it is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do’ showing how his assertion of the principle of utility is fallacious. Most however, accept the inherent value of happiness as a brute fact and do not seek to break down Bentham’s starting assertion although this is exactly what must be done. We must adapt our philosophical approach to examine the foundational assertions of ethical theories and hence decide their merit rather than focusing on the practical application of the theory. This is the key point in the failure of our approach to ethics as it is the starting value assumptions (such as the value of happiness in Utilitarianism) of ethical theories that must be examined as these are the foundations of ethical theories and hence their success is entirely dependent on their truth.

In conclusion, as seen in the mishandled approach to the criticisms of Utilitarianism, we must adapt our approach to the analysis of ethics and shift our focus from the practicalities and repercussions of accepting normative ethical theories. Instead, we must judge their validity on the surety of their foundational claims as only then can we properly assess the truth of an ethical theory.

Law & Politics Social Sciences

Must We Always Obey the Law?

This long-read article was written by Adam Zhang for the Northeastern University London essay competition, and received a finalist position.

Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

Before we can answer the question, it is important to first understand what the law is. Laws are defined by the Collins Dictionary as “a rule or set of rules, enforceable by the courts, regulating the government of a state, the relationship between the organs of government and the subjects of the state, and the relationship or conduct of subjects towards each other” [1]. Laws define the political, economic and social factors of the environment we live in. 

So what is the purpose of such pieces of legislation?

An important reason for why it exists is that it protects basic human rights through the legal system. When charged with an offence, before any proceedings, a citizen is guaranteed a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal, and is entitled to access legal representation, and will be granted the presumption of innocence, which is the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty”. They cannot be unlawfully detained or arrested and are guaranteed a trial to determine their innocence, or guilt. As a result, it is made certain that citizens are treated fairly, since power can be given to the accused to contest the state/prosecution’s decisions effectively in a trial, which means that they can only be prosecuted if they had solid reason and evidence to do so. Such rights are enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), which merged the European Convention of Human Rights with British law, with Article 6, the right to fair trial, and Article 5, the right to liberty and security [2]. Thus, a basis is provided for the individual to uphold and defend their position against unfair treatment, whether it may be infringements on other articles of the HRA, such as the prohibition of torture and slavery and the freedom of expression, as well as on other areas of law such as criminal, employment and family law, no matter the circumstances. 

The Human Rights Act is a fundamental example of the importance of law, but there is also another key function, namely maintaining the economy. According to John Maynard Keynes [3], the government has the responsibility to maintain economic growth and low unemployment. Therefore, it needs the law to do so. This can be achieved using taxation, made mandatory under the law by statute such as the Finance Acts[4]. The subsequent tax revenues contribute to the government budget maintaining the public sector, which employs around 1/6 of the UK workforce [5], including nurses and police officers, but also the maintenance of key infrastructure, like ports, airports and motorways. Additionally, it can be used to help businesses in less economically developed areas, in the form of subsidies. An example of such policy would be the government’s new “levelling up” scheme, which plans to allocate £3.1 billion pounds [6]to communities across the country to help them recover after the Covid-19 pandemic, under Section 50 of the UK Internal Markets Act [7]. Although it could be argued that sometimes these funds are allocated inefficiently, with the recent strike action over pay being a prime example [8], the law is nonetheless vital in maintaining the government’s ability to help the economy, since without taxes the government would have no funds for wages in the first place. 

However, the economy is only one facet of society in which the law must be implemented – the political aspect is also tremendously important. This is because laws protect the parliamentary democracy that gives power to the people to make important decisions, rather than a small collective of individuals. Arguably one of the most crucial pieces of legislation in this regard would be the Bill of Rights 1689 [9], which laid down the foundations of our modern parliamentary system. It removes the power of the monarch to levy tax and to issue excessive fines or punishments, as well as most importantly to stop them from suspending or making laws without Parliament’s approval. The Act also safeguards freedom of elections, the freedom of speech of MPs in debate and proceedings and the right to petition the government. This way, power is given to parliament, to run the country in the interest of the people, without the fear of interference from undemocratic elements such as the monarchy or the military. And so, the law is critical in providing a voice for ordinary citizens. Without it, we would not have a say in the most decisive political flashpoints, such as Brexit, the cost-of-living crisis [10] or the windfall tax on energy companies [11]. 

Finally, it cannot be ignored that the law stands up for the individual as well. There is plenty of public legislation protecting citizens’ civil rights, such as the Race Relations Act 1965 [12], which outlawed discrimination based on “grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins”, or the Representation of the People Act 1928 [13], which gave votes for women, as well as the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which “decriminalised” homosexual acts [14], though gay marriage was not to be legalised until the passing of the Marriage Act 2013 [15]. On top of this, the law also provides regulation of private, domestic affairs. Such was the case of R V R [16], where in 1991, the House of Lords ruled that it was illegal under English criminal law that a husband could rape his wife. The defendant had attempted to appeal his conviction on the grounds of an imaginary “marital rape exemption” under common law but was rejected by the Court of Appeal. One of the court judges, Lord Chief Justice Lane, stated that “a rapist remains a rapist subject to the criminal law, irrespective of his relationship with his victim”, and described the grounds of appeal as “common law fiction” [17]. Hence, it was removed as part of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 [18].

Therefore, these points lead to a theoretical answer – citizens must always obey the law. If it provides civil liberties, maintains the economy and protects our human rights as well as our democracy, then it seems in our best interest to do so, as not only do we help ourselves, but the whole of society as well.

However, the case of Gard and Others V United Kingdom highlights a key limitation of the law. It demonstrated that in some situations, obedience to legislation transcends political, economic, or human rights justifications, because sometimes there is simply no better outcome whether the law is obeyed or not. 

Charlie Gard, a young infant, was born on the 4th  August 2016, with a rare mitochondrial disease, MDDS. It meant that he could not respire properly or use his arms or legs – he relied on a ventilator at all times, meaning that he was required to stay at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where care could be provided. In January 2017 began suffering deadly seizures, and his doctors felt that it was time to end his life support and begin palliative care, to the opposition of his parents. For them, there was still hope of Charlie’s survival – they had consulted an American neurologist named Michio Hirano, who was working on a potential cure named nucleoside therapy. However, Dr Hirano felt the chances of success were only a “theoretical possibility” [19], owing to the treatment’s highly experimental nature. 

Charlie’s parents were not willing to give up on young Charlie’s life, and so the case was brought to the High Court by GOSH. They ruled in favour of GOSH, citing the Children’s Act 1989 [20], with Section 1 stating that the “child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration”, or in other words, because it was in Charlie’s best self-interests to not receive the nucleoside therapy, as its experimental nature may cause more harm than good. The case was then subsequently brought to the Court of Appeal, then Supreme Court, until finally it reached the European Court of Human Rights, where the decision of the High Court was upheld each time [21]. On the 27th of June 2017, Charlie was moved to hospice, and on the following day his mother declared that he had passed away [22]. 

Though the law had been obeyed, the result was extremely polarizing for many [23]. Even though placing Charlie into palliative care may have been the best way forward for him, it could be argued that the decision should have been up to his parents. It makes perfect sense if they did not wish to follow the guidance of the courts, as it would be emotionally shattering to give up the life of their child, especially if there was even the smallest chance of recovery. 

But no system is perfect, and it goes without saying that with all the benefits that the law can bring, it is undeniable that as a country, we must still obey the law. If the government or the people did not uphold the law and went against the Human Rights Act or NHS Act 1946 [24], Charlie’s parents would not have been able to contest their decision in a court of law for such a long time, and GOSH wouldn’t have had the funding from tax revenues to keep Charlie alive on a ventilator. If you disagree with a law, you should not disobey it – from R V R, we can see that laws can be changed, but only using correct procedure like using the rights that the law gives you to argue your case in court or for example, by creating a petition to get an amendment passed through parliament. This way, the order of society is respected, and as aforementioned, not only the individual but the whole of society has something to gain. 

  17. ibid.
  20. ibid.
Law & Politics Social Sciences

What would have to change about ‘democracy’ in order to restore faith in democracy among young people?

This long-read article was written by Joshua Inglesfield for the Northeastern University London essay competition, and received a finalist position.

Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

What would have to change about ‘democracy’ in order to restore faith in democracy among young people?

Young people – who I shall class as anyone aged 16-24 (taking the 18-24 grouping used by Parliament and extending it to include those who may be enfranchised in the future) – are the future of democracy, and thus it is critical that they have faith in its operation; lest we fall into the enclave of authoritarianism. An increasing number of protests worldwide and a surge in populism signals that youth are tired of democracy’s inefficiency. Populist success can be seen worldwide – from the historic city of Rome where you can find the newly elected far-right Fratelli d’Italia, to Orban in Budapest, across the Mediterranean to Syriza in Greece – the list goes on. Correlations drawn with figures showing that 55% of Italian youth no longer believe that democracy ‘is the best form of government’ – 7% higher than the average for European youth [1] – demonstrates that the rise of ‘Fratelli d’Italia’ is alongside a growing lack of faith in democracy. This is no coincidence and is happening across the globe. Thus, it is clear a solution is needed.

Direct democracy would appear to be the perfect solution to loss of faith in democracy among youth – the turnout for the 2016 Brexit referendum being 10% higher than that for the 2017 election among 18-24 year olds [2] is evidence enough that youth prefer a form of direct democracy. Not only would this give young people the impression that they could make a tangible difference, but it would also reduce this notion of ‘democratic disconnect’ [3] – the alienation of young people from democratic processes. Youth also have a lack of trust in governments – with such a process young people will be confident that governments will no longer be able to ‘sell’ policy decisions to the highest bidder through party donations to as great an extent. Further to this, Colin Crouch argues that; ‘democracy requires the formal mechanisms of citizen participation but also proof of genuine political agency’- which in the eyes of young people is not being fulfilled, seeing little ‘political agency’ (actual actions) taking place with regards to their concerns. Consequently, we can conclude that young people would, by Crouch’s argument, be seeing a failure and consequently be having a lack of faith in democracy, due to this perceived absence of ‘political agency’– a situation Crouch labels a ‘post-democracy’ [4]. Such an implementation would deal with the perceived lack of action alongside strengthening ‘citizen participation’ and so increase faith in democracy. But there is a significant drawback to this suggestion. Imagine you wake up to a notification on your phone – notice of the 2nd referendum this month. Before you can even consider the proposition you must go to work, cook dinner, and go to the supermarket. 349 minutes [5] – the average amount of ‘leisure time’ per day for Britons – is all you have left. 349 minutes dwarfed by the amount of time Public Bill Committees spend inspecting a bill, and certainly too little time to properly understand the subject of the referendum. This is the constraint of time. The average person simply does not have enough of it to consider the wider implications of their vote, nor how the policy enacted by the referendum might fit in with existing policy. Consequently, their voting behaviour will become a lottery, an impulse on the day rather than a considered vote. So, while direct democracy may seem inviting, once realised the population would find themselves confused, overwhelmed, and not able to make a decision to benefit even themselves. Thus, if this were to take place the number of referendums would have to be strictly limited, and be on larger, more straightforward questions such as capital punishment.

The voting age is a hotly disputed topic in British politics. For years groups such as the Electoral Reform Society [6] have campaigned for the voting age to be lowered to 16 – mentioning arguments such as increasing political participation for generations to come [7] – but few cite increasing faith in democracy as the primary argument. The Electoral Reform Society’s argument is a valid one – they argue that if you “don’t vote, you are less likely to vote in future” [8] – and that by enfranchising these new groups we could encourage greater lifelong participation. This would have the additional benefit of increasing faith in democracy, increasing involvement and again reducing a democratic disconnect to youth– with Dr Foa and Dr Mounk writing that in the UK young people are less likely to vote for the often-anti-democratic populists when ‘mobilised to vote’ [9] – which here would be enfranchising 16- and 17-year-olds. An additional argument for lowering the voting age being the solution to declining faith in democracy among young people is the idea that when youth are not directly involved in democracy, they lose faith in it [10]. This action would therefore seem to fulfil all criteria to increase faith in democracy among youth – but there is an obvious drawback – nothing has changed for the currently enfranchised youth. Such a change would therefore do nothing to deal with the current decline in faith in democracy among the ages 18-24, a dangerous risk given that these are the ages which are already propelling extreme populists to power in nations such as Greece. Far from ameliorating the situation, this would risk escalating it. The youth ignored by such a reform may feel further alienated and see another failure of democracy to criticise, one that risks pushing the democratic disconnect to an irretrievable state of separation between democracy and young people.

First Past The Post (FPTP) – a voting system which suppresses the votes of millions. That is, from a critic’s perspective – but the fact is that FPTP’s nature ensures that only two large parties can ever realistically hold government, a feature which while does produce strong majoritarian governments (usually – 2010 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition is a notable exception), results in smaller parties receiving almost no seats. But why is this a problem regarding faith in democracy? If we take the argument that the principal reason for loss of faith is not seeing action, would not FPTP be the obvious choice, empowering a strong government to take decisive action without being hindered by Parliamentary squabbles or half-baked coalitions? Those arguments certainly hold some water; however, the issue of representation must be raised. One of the issues young people are most concerned with is climate; so many may support the Green Party; but despite getting 2.7% of the vote share across the UK in the 2019 general election, they only received approximately 0.15% of seats available [11]. Thus, many young people who voted for a party that would pioneer their beliefs have been left unrepresented. This feeling of being unrepresented will likely lead to dissatisfaction and a lack of faith in democracy, as the problem lies in the very essence of democracy, the voting system. The clearest solution would be proportional representation – as used by 40 European nations [12]. Such a system would ensure that smaller parties pioneering the views of minorities or smaller groups such as young people are heard and would allow for greater political pressure to be applied for tangible action. Critics, however, would argue that it gives opportunity to potentially dangerous populist parties such as Syriza, or even extremist ones as seen with the rise of the Nazi party under proportional representation, portraying it as a vile breeding ground for hate. However, it is necessary to note that in modern democracy this is rarely the case to such an extent, with parties such as ‘Alternative for Germany’ [13] being kept out of government – in fact, it almost seems as if FPTP is the envy of populists at present, leading to Trumpism and pro-Brexit populist groups rising to power and succeeding [14]

To conclude, young people will need to see a change to the very structure of democracy to prevent further decline in faith in democracy – with it being imperative that these changes are not superficial PR stunts but tangible changes. What is needed is a two-fold implementation – With this in mind, I would suggest that what is necessary for the UK is the simpler change of increasing the number of referendums to involve youth to a greater extent in democracy, and the more structural change of shifting to proportional representation as a system to give the silenced minority parties a voice. These two implementations would allow for an increase in participation in democracy, which in turn would lead to an increase in faith in it as young people see their policy aspirations manifest into tangible change. Thus, as Aiden Correia writes; ‘democracy is about providing everyone with a voice. The youth are willing to talk; governments just need to start to listen’ [15] – through the measures outlined above we can fight the democratic apathy of young people before it spills over into antipathy.

[1] TUI Stiftung/YouGov. (2017). “Young Europe 2017: The Youth Study of the TUI Stiftung.” .

[2] Stephan Mashford/89 Scotland. (2020). “Youth turnout – How does the UK compare to other European nations?” .

[3] Foa, R.S., Klassen, A., Wenger, D., Rand, A. and M. Slade. (2020) “Youth and Satisfaction with Democracy: Reversing the Democratic Disconnect?” .

[4] C. Crouch. (2004). Post-Democracy. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity Press

[5] ONS. (2017). “Leisure time in the UK: 2015” .

[6] Electoral Reform Society. (2017). “Background on Votes at 16” .

[7] Electoral Reform Society. (date not disclosed). “Votes at 16” .

[8] Electoral Reform Society. (date not disclosed). “Votes at 16” .

[9] R.S. Foa/Y. Mounk. (2019). “Youth and the populist wave” .

[10] A. Correia. (2021). “The necessity of youth support in sustaining democracy” .

[11] BBC News. (2019). “Election 2019 Results” .

[12] M. Palese/Electoral Reform Society. (2018). “Which European countries use proportional representation?” .

[13] L. Drutman. (2022). “10 Ideas to Fix Democracy – Abolish Two-Party Systems” .

[14] L. Drutman. (2022). “10 Ideas to Fix Democracy – Abolish Two-Party Systems” .

[15] A. Correia. (2021). “The necessity of youth support in sustaining democracy” .