Increasing concern about the quality of democracy has prompted efforts in many countries, developed and less developed, to ‘deepen democracy’ by providing greater opportunities for citizen participation. One such country is the UK. Over the last decade, the Labour government has introduced a number of policies designed to promote greater participation. This Research Summary will show how IDS Working Paper 314 demonstrates that there is a significant gap between New Labour’s rhetoric of ‘deepening democracy’ through citizen participation and the reality on the ground.
The Paper concludes that recent reforms provide some scope for improving the quantity and quality of interaction between citizens and the state, but are unlikely to result in any significant change in the balance of power between them. The Paper’s author, Diana Conyers, is a Research Officer in the Governance Team at IDS. The concept of ‘deepening democracy’ has emerged over the last decade to describe measures to address concerns over the quality of democracy. The author focuses specifically on the complexity of participation in democracy and, in particular, the fact that participatory approaches can be used to disempower as well as empower citizens. She emphasises that if participatory reforms are to ‘deepen democracy’ they must result in a significant change in the balance of power between citizens and state.