Why do UK citizens feel "that only the British (and perhaps the Swiss) are properly democratic"? Please the bolded phrases below in the quotes for illustrations:

Gary Gibbon, First-class BA History (Balliol College, Oxford). Breaking Point: The UK Referendum on the EU and its Aftermath (Haus Curiosities). p. 75.

        Leading politicians might pick up a better language and feel for the issues if they risked a bit more engagement with the public. We have politicians who come from very different walks of life from many of the people they represent. In the 2015 General Election, 3% of MPs elected had experience of manual labour.23 In the run-up to their 2015 General Election landslide, the SNP managed to widen the recruitment base for Westminster politicians, but it helps if you're sweeping up seats where you've never had a viable candidate on the Leading politicians might pick up a better language and feel for the issues if they risked a bit more engagement with the public.

p. 76

back of massive surge in support. There's a cocky presumption, repeated by David Cameron in his last Prime Minister's Questions, that frontline UK politicians are much more challenged than their international counterparts. [mine] It rests on the quick-thinking needed to take on all-comers once a week in Prime Minister's Questions. Admittedly that's a rare phenomenon in the legislatures of the world. John Major once said: "Most European heads of government couldn't find their way to their parliaments with a white stick." But PMQs hides ever decreasing exposure to all other forms Of challenge. David Camerorn's team remorselessly kept him away from random members Of the public. While Boris Johnson pressed the flesh in accessible walkabouts, taking on hecklers in the street, David Cameron stuck to a tried, tested and controlled format. You stand in a workplace in which the employees have been called in by their bosses to sit in serried ranks listening respectfully to the important visitor and asking a small number of questions under the watchful eye of an employer who pays their wages. Resentment boils up that the politicians don't seem to be under proper scrutiny. And then you end up with the angry studio exchanges that seem only to happen around elections and referendums and which add to the frenzy and the mood of anti-politics.

Denis MacShane. Brexit: How Britain Left Europe. Warning: The author pled guilty to false accounting and was imprisoned.. p. 151.

        It was John Major, when prime minister, who summed up the barely hidden contempt that many British politicians have for democracy in Europe. Challenged in the Commons in 1994 about why he was, once again, at odds with all of his fellow leaders in Europe on a now-forgotten issue the British premier snapped at MPs: 'Most European heads of government couldn't find their way to their parliaments with a white stick.' then prime minister's condescension hid a real truth. In the UK citizens share the unspoken or rather rarely spoken but deeply felt view that only the British (and perhaps the Swiss) are properly democratic, while other Europeans have yet properly to learn how to be good democrats. EU is seen as full of young nations where democratic and rule-of-law traditions have still fully to take root.

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    Regarding your title question, do you have any proof they do? It appears only to be an unsubstantiated claim in your second source.
    – origimbo
    Dec 1, 2018 at 5:03
  • I bet there many others that feel they are "properly democratic". Somewhat related: sgi-network.org/2018/Democracy/Quality_of_Democracy
    – Alexei
    Dec 1, 2018 at 8:00
  • 2
    Just saying: Britain hasn't left the EU yet.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 1, 2018 at 15:44
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    voting to close as any answers will be opinion based, the question is thin
    – Vorsprung
    Dec 1, 2018 at 21:44
  • Might be a better question if it asked about the two individuals quoted, rather than UK citizens generally.
    – Jontia
    Dec 11, 2018 at 11:24

2 Answers 2


Most other nations in Europe have had a period under which they were under Fascist, Nazi, military or Communist rule within the last 100 years. The exceptions are Switzerland, Iceland, the British Isles, and arguably Sweden. Furthermore, Iceland was under British control during the second world war, not a locally elected Icelandic government.

This may justify this belief, but it doesn't prove that the belief exists. There is a general trend in many countries to believe "my democracy is better than your democracy". Certainly this exists in the USA (for example) to the same extent that it does in the UK. Moreover I doubt that beyond "Switzerland is Neutral" most Brits know little about the Swiss government (and many younger people seem to know less).

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    Fair point. Most multi-party democracies view the Westminster system (FPTP) as less democratic because it favors a two-party system, which - from their perspective - is very close to a one-party system.
    – MSalters
    Dec 4, 2018 at 12:22

Full disclosure: There is no way to understand why they (U.K. citizens) would think that without first diving into the cultural definitions of "properly democratic" and how that is being applied to the British. My answer pertains primarily to the U.K. government. I did not answer if this question is asking if the people of Britain (and perhaps the Swiss) are thought to be "properly democratic" by all U.K. citizens (British and non-British).

Its purely an opinion.

If defined here then the U.K. falls short on 3 of the 4 key elements listed there.

Using a dictionary the U.K. once again falls short of being democratic there.

It is a contestable opinion to claim that. The monarch still retains real powers and is not elected. This is critical to this whole conversation. It isn't purely ceremonial. The test comes to what the law actually allows for. This is very unlike other monarchies (see Japan) where the real powers were stripped and made ceremonial.

Oh, then there is a legislative body that isn't fully elected either.

Another Wikipedia reference even suggests that Canada is more democratic than the U.K.

Now, these are all core elements of the government that are not democratic in nature. However, the practical effect of what the U.K. is experiencing is much more democratic than the sum of those parts. And these are all points about the government directly, not necessarily in how the British people operate their lives.

I would agree that the U.K. has one of the best illusions of being properly democratic.

Disclaimer: I know little to nothing of the Swiss so please excuse a lack of comment about them.