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“Any conformity to the principle of the separation of powers by the UK system of government is purely accidental.” Discuss.

In the UK, the principle of separation of powers is not applied in the pure sense. There are a number of areas where the dilution of separation of powers principle is apparent. However, it would be incorrect to say that any conformity to the principle is accidental, as that would imply that there is no deliberate application of the principle. The fact that there is a deliberate application of the principle, even if it is in a diluted form, is seen in a number of judgements, where reference has been made to the principle. The Constitutional Reforms Act 2005, also seeks to implement the principle.

This essay discusses the applicability of the principle of separation of powers in the UK. The essay concludes that the applicability of the principle of separation of powers is not accidental, but deliberate. Although, the application of the principle in not in the pure sense.

Separation of powers principle in the UK

The principal of separation of powers envisions that the functions of the different organs of the government shall be strictly divided and that each organ would perform the functions assigned to it. Moreover, one organ of the government shall not interfere in the functions of the other.

In the UK, powers are divided between the three organs of the government: legislature, executive and judiciary. However, the it cannot be said that the principle is applied in the pure sense. At the same time, it cannot be said that the powers are centralized in any one organ. The division of powers as between the three organs, is clearly seen in the UK, as well as the system of checks and balances that such division ensures.

The judiciary is a distinct organ of the government, as also reiterated by Lord Steyn in R (Anderson) v Secretary of the State for the Home Department. In this case, Lord Steyn observed that there was a strict separation of powers between the judiciary and the other organs of government. He held this to be a strong principle of system of government. This shows that in the opinion of the judiciary there is a separation of powers between judiciary and the other organs, and being an important principle of law in the English legal system, one can conclude that the application of the principle in not accidental. This is proved by the observation of Lord Bingham in DPP of Jamaica v Mollison, where he observed that there was a “total and effective” separation of powers between exercise of judicial powers on the one hand and executive and legislative powers on the other. In Wilson v First County Trust Ltd (No 2), it was observed: “Parliament is charged with the primary responsibility for deciding the best way of dealing with social problems. The court's role is one of review.”

It is therefore clear that the judicial opinion on the separation of powers principle as between the judiciary and the other organs is that such a separation exists. Admittedly, that does not answer the situation with regard to the other two organs of the state: the executive and the legislature.

In the UK, there is overlapping of personnel as between the executive and the legislature. Ministers in the government are also members of the Parliament. At the same time, it must be considered that the functions do not overlap. The legislature makes the law and the executive has administrative functions. Therefore, even if there is overlapping of personnel, there is no overlapping of functions, signifying an application of separation of powers principle.

Recently, major changes have been effected in the English legal system due to the passage of the Constitutional Reforms Act 2005 (CRA 2005). This also has implications in the application of the principle of separation of powers. Prior to the enactment of CRA 2005, the Lord Chancellor exercised functions in all the three organs of the government. He was the head of the judiciary, Speaker of the House of Lords and also a senior cabinet minister. This has been considered by some writers to mean that there was a dilution of separation of powers principle in the UK. With the passage of this law, and

the establishment of the Supreme Court, the Lord Chancellor’s role in the judiciary has ceased to exist. Now, the CRA 2005 mandates the Lord Chief Justice as the President of the Courts of England and Wales and Head of its Judiciary.

The establishment of the UK Supreme Court under the CRA 2005, is an important event in recent times. The Supreme Court replaced the House of Lords to become the highest court of appeal in the UK for all cases, both civil and criminal from England, Wales and Northern Ireland and civil cases from Scotland. The Lord Chief Justice of the Supreme Court sits in the Court of Appeal, High Court, County Courts, Crown Courts and Magistrates’ Courts.

Allan points out that separation of powers principle can vary in form as well as degree, and also be absolute or partial in its application. Where the pure view of the separation of powers theory has three components, that is, separation in personnel, functions and institutions, it is difficult to practically maintain this disctinction. This is supported by the views of Carolan, who says that “from a practical perspective, a hermetic division of governmental functions…was impossible to achieve.

Therefore, just because the application of the principle is not in the pure sense, it cannot be said that there no deliberate application of the principle. It is pertinent to add here that even in the United States, which is considered to have applied the separation of powers principles in their Constitution, there is dilution in the application of the principle.


The application of principle of separation of powers is deliberate in the UK, as is evident from the judicial opinion expressed at different occasions, as well as scholarly opinion. The application of the principle does not have to be in the pure sense and can be applied absolutely or partially.


  • Allan TRS, ‘The Rule of Law’, in David Dyzenhaus, Malcolm Thorburn (eds.), Philosophical Foundations of Constitutional Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2016)
  • Carolan E, The New Separation of Powers: A Theory for the Modern State (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009)
  • Ingman T, The English Legal Process (Oxford University Press 2011)
  • Jones B and Norton P, Politics UK (Oxon: Routledge 2014)
  • Krotoszynski RJ, ‘The separation of legislative and executive powers’ in Tom Ginsburg, Rosalind Dixon (eds.) Comparative Constitutional Law, (Edward Elgar, 2011)
  • Masterman R, The Separation of Powers in the Contemporary Constitution: Judicial Competence and Independence in the United Kingdom (Cambridge University Press 2011)
  • Oliver D and D Gavin, The Law and Parliament (Cambridge University Press 1998)

In order to answer the question, the essay first discusses the cultural and political significance of Rap and Hip Hop and then delves into the principle questions raised in the essay. The issues of identity, peer pressure, are also explored in the essay.

The cultural and social contexts in Rap and Hip Hop

Kitwana says that hip-hop is the major cultural movement of our times and is also a core influence for African-Americans born between 1965 and 1984 (Kitwana, 2008). Watts has called Gangsta rap as a cultural commodity (Watts, 2004). Travis says that hip-hop’s new cultural ambassadors are the new generation of individuals strengthened by their “own immersion and development in the culture” (Travis, 2016, p. 47).

These ideas and precepts are echoed across the length and breadth of literature that is available on the phenomenon of Rap and hip-hop. Yet, there are some who question the cultural values that are denoted within this music and rather they contend that Rap and hip-hop far from being the cultural phenomenon it is made out to be, is a negative influence on the young people as it fosters objectification of women and encourages violent behaviour among young men.

Giovachinni criticised the Gangsta Rap music of the 1980s and 1990s, because, in his opinion, “new music genre portrayed images of gangs, guns, violence, and sexism, yet it was well received and became very popular in the span of just a few years….. Some of the artists responsible for this were Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, both former members of N.W.A., Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and Ice-T. While each of these rappers showcased a unique style, the underlying messages in their work depicted acts of violence, discrimination, and sex in a way that made them appear commonplace and acceptable, when in fact they are not. The nature of gangster rap influenced society in a negative fashion, yet there was nothing that could legally be done to stop this” (Giovacchini, 1999).

One of the incidents that Giovacchini uses to bolster his contention is the shooting of a state trooper by Ronald Howard, when the latter was stopped and pulled over, Ronald was driving a stolen car at the time and the he had tapes of 2Pacalypse by Tupac Shakur, which he was listening to at the time, and also other such Gangsta Rap music cassettes that openly encouraged crime and was derisive of the police.

It is interesting that the wife and family of the slain officer Davidson too felt that the music that Ronald listened to was an influencing factor in the crime. Davidson's wife, Linda, along with her children, filed a suit against Tupac Shakur and the recording labels: Atlantic Recordings, Interscope Records, and Time Warner. An important question that was asked in the trial was that are artists legally accountable for the possible influence of their work? Despite the disgust that the judge openly felt for the music and what the judge thought it promoted, he could not rule in favour of the family of officer Davidson. Judge John D Rainey’s words are relevant here, and he said: "2Pacalypse Now is both disgusting and offensive. That the album has sold hundreds of thousands of copies is an indication of society's aesthetic and moral decay. However, the First Amendment became part of the Constitution because the Crown sought to suppress the Farmers' own rebellious, sometimes violent views. Thus, although the Court cannot recommend 2Pacalypse Now to anyone, it will not strip Shakur's free speech rights based on the evidence presented by the Davidsons" (Giovacchini, 1999).

Ogbar refers to the cultural debates that hip hop music gave way to, which involved “presidential candidates, congressmen and academics” who joined together to condemn hip-hop for its “violent, sexist and bigoted rap” (Ogbar, 1999, p. 164).

The politics of Rap and Hip Hop

Kitwana says that largely because of rap music, Black faces have become recognisable in the mainstream media (Kitwana, 2008). She says that although the Black face has been central in sports, it has not resonated in public consciousness, as rap and hip hop has resonated. She says that the national exposure that was received by rap music thanks to the television and music industry, played a very important role in the way in which local cultural manifestations evolved over a period of time (Kitwana, 2008). The important aspect about rap and hip hop is that it gave commercial success to Black artists and fostered an entrepreneurial spirit in aspiring Black rap and hip hop artists. This was important in giving African Americans a voice in the national stage, making them more recognisable as members of a successful and rich community, rather than just minimum wage earners (Kitwana, 2008). In this way, rap became a cultural icon for the young African American community, especially men.

It is noteworthy that rap and hip hop also have a lot of political mileage and are not just cultural phenomenon. This is evident from the Rap Mogul Russel Simmon’s announcement in 2000 that he would turn his attention to the use of rap and hip hop to bring the new African American generation into mainstream politics (Kitwana, 2008). That he would say this during the 2000 presidential campaign is very relevant here. That he would make this announcement, 8 years before America went on to elect Barack Obama, the first African American president of the US, is poignant. Could it be that rap and hip hop played a role in synthesising the African American community and propelling them into a nationally recognisable force that found a resonance in the political climate? Simmons efforts have been considered to be the most high-profile attempt at bringing the hip hop generation of young African Americans into the mainstream politics. Because Simmons is also a

music mogul, the obvious involvement of rap and hip hop in the effort is inevitable. However, even if rap and hip hop have been able to achieve the bringing together of national identity, pride and political progress of the young African Americans, that would not exonerate it from the charge of being encouraging of misogyny and violence, if the music does exert that kind of impact on its listeners.

Identity and music amongst the young African Americans

Dysan says that “From the very beginning of its recent history, hip-hop music—or rap, as it has come to be known—has faced various obstacles. Initially, rap was deemed a passing fad, a playful and ephemeral black cultural form that steamed off the musical energies of urban black teens. As it became obvious that rap was here to stay, a permanent fixture in black ghetto youths’ musical landscape, the reactions changed from dismissal to denigration, and rap music came under attack from both black and white quarters” (Dyson, 2004, p. 61).

What Dysan says is important because it portrays the journey of rap and hip hop from the music of the Black ghettos, to the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today. Rap and hip hop has not only propelled African American culture to the national stage, it has also created visibility for the African American cultural form throughout the world.

Undoubtedly, the initial expressions of rap and hip hop music and culture were experimental in nature, however over a period of time, rap “began to describe and analyze the social, economic, and political factors that led to its emergence and development: drug addiction, police brutality, teen pregnancy, and various forms of material deprivation” (Dyson, 2004, p. 61). Rap gave voice and expression to the deep felt thoughts of the urban African youth, especially males in their adolescence and early twenties. These thoughts and perceptions were also the result of the deep seated societal prejudices that these young men lived with and experienced. These prejudices included racial profiling and a general perception of the troubled and criminal tendencies of the young urban African American male.

Rap became an important form of expression for the African youth and it found resonance and power due to the fact that it could be related to easily as it voiced the general feelings if these young men. However, over a period of time, the music also became powerful in terms of its commercial value and outreach.

Criticising the unnecessary negativity that is given to rap music, Dyson says that such reactions “betray a shallow understanding of rap, which in many cases results from people’s unwillingness to listen to rap lyrics, many of which counsel anti-violent and antidrug behavior among the youths who are their avid audience. Many rappers have spoken directly against violence, such as KRS-One in his “Stop the Violence” (Dyson, 2004, p. 63).

This is an important aspect of the music that gets lost due to the negative reactions that it generally receives due to the popularity of some rap and hip hop stars who indulge in promoting misogyny and violence in the content of their lyrics. This leads to the overshadowing of the other rap and hip hop artists whose music though of the same genre, does not promote or indulge in themes of misogyny and violence.

Promotion of negativity and violence

Misogynistic themes have not always been part of popular music, however, these themes first emerged prominently in rap and hip-hop music in the late 1980s, when the themes revolved around portrayal of women as sex objects and/or victims of sexual violence (Adams & Fuller, 2006).

One of the first important studies conducted into the content of hip-hop and rap music involved a content analysis of 490 rap songs from 1987 to 1993 (Armstrong, 2001). The study found that 22% of these songs had content that related to violence against women including assault, rape and murder (Armstrong, 2001). His study is important because it classified rap songs into different categories based on the level of misogyny or violence that was encouraged in the content. The categories included those in which rappers pride themselves on sex acts appearing to harm women; seem to invite male violence against women; justify other acts of violence; warn women against challenging male domination with the threat of assault (Armstrong, 2001).

However, the question does arise, even if some part of hip-hop music is bigoted, sexist or violent, would it be true to say that the music does promote negativity about women, or violent behaviour? This can only be answered with the help of a quantitative research methodology, because other than that there are only perceptions that are being expressed by some members of the society, prominent or otherwise.

The impact of media on audience perceptions has been studied in some studies. The cultivation theory is important here as it was developed by George Gerbner (Gerbne, et al., 1994). Gerbner’s focus was on television content, and he studied how audience exposure to violence on television shaped their own conception of social reality (Rosenberry & Vicker, n.d., p. 165). Gerber et al said: “when people are exposed to media content or other socialization agents, they gradually come to cultivate or adopt beliefs about the world that coincide with the images they have been viewing or messages they have been hearing” (1994, p. 22). Gerbner developed cultivation theory by examining how long- term exposure to violent media messages alters audience perceptions of violence in their everyday lives (Rosenberry & Vicker, 2009). The cultivation theory would posit that the people who listen to rap and hip-hop would be affected by the violent and misogynist messages that they receive from the music. Based on this, another researcher, Cundiff, has conducted a quantitative research into the question and her findings are relevant here (Cundiff, 2013).

Cundiff’s research was conducted with the help of a qualitative content analysis and online survey. College students were the respondents of the survey and the objective of the research was to gather data to help understand how the college students perceive and respond to the portrayal of women when exposed to misogynistic lyrics. The lyrical content of popular rap and hip-hop songs Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart between 2000 and 2010, was analysed by the researcher. The songs chosen contained demeaning language, content on rape/sexual assault, sexual conquest and physical violence. The study found that of the respondents who participated in the survey, both men and women found the legitimation of violence against women to be the most offensive aspect of misogynistic lyrics in rap/hip-hop songs. The attributes of misogynist lyrics that were the most derogatory were the sexual objectification of women; derogatory naming of women; and the derogatory shaming of women (Cundiff, 2013).

Even more important are the results that showed that the majority of respondents showed high levels of concurrence with the perception that rap and hip-hop music encourages disrespectful and misogynist attitudes toward women. Many respondents believed that most rap and hip-hop music is suggestive of women being just for male sexual satisfaction (Cundiff, 2013). As far as cultural significance or political significance of rap and hip-hop is concerned, almost 75 per cent of respondents felt that rap and hip-hop music does not provide any positive or cultural messages for its listeners (Cundiff, 2013). Majority of the respondents answered in positive that rap and hip-hop music promotes aggressive and violent behaviors toward women. 50 per cent of the respondents concurred that rap and hip-hop music glorifies the domestic violence against women perpetrated by men (Cundiff, 2013).

Michael Eric Dyson (2010) says that the misfortune of Rap and Hip Hop is that many “White pundits and journalists only seem to bring up Hip Hop’s vastly harmful role in spewing venom towards Black women when it suits the White media and political purposes” (Dyson, 2010, p. 123). While Dyson is critical of the mainstream media’s selective discussion on misogyny in the Rap music, he is also critical of those Rap and Hip Hop stars, such as Snoop Dog, for instance, who do betray a rather negative attitude towards Black women. This is even more remarkable when compared with the otherwise idolatry that the same stars reserve for their mothers, while at the same time, a derogatory attitude is seen towards young African American women who also happen to be mothers. He says that “the relentless attack on young Black mothers in Hip Hop spreads vicious myths and stereotypes about young Black mothers. It also reinforces their social fragility” (Dyson, 2010, p. 130).

An interesting take on Rap and Hip Hop and violence is seen in the work of John McWhorter, who is admittedly a fan of Hip Hop, and also admits to the negative attitude that Hip Hop sometimes does reinforce about women (Whorter, 2008). At the same time, he reasons that listening to violent music should not mean that people would indulge in acts of violence because that is akin to saying that people should start stabbing others after seeing a bull fight (Whorter, 2008).

Ultimately, it can be said that there is evidence that certain Rap and Hip Hop artists do include misogynist and violent lyrics in their songs. However, to say that such lyrics lead to people becoming more misogynist and violent needs to be backed by more evidence. At the same time, it is important to remember that Rap and Hip Hop also has lot of social, cultural and political significance for the African American society.


Hip-hop and rap are cultural and social phenomena, as well as being a part of the mammoth music industry, that is worth billions of dollars today. There is little doubt that the music plays a significant role in the lives of the people who listen to it. At the same time, it is a difficult proposition to hold the music responsible for the acts of its listeners because proving that aspect of the music’s impact is difficult from a qualitative and quantitative point of view.

There are many who believe that rap and hip-hop demonstrate the cultural or political power of the African American community. These writers and academics believe that the music plays a significant role in shaping the cultural strength of the community.

On the other hand, there are many critics of the music who believe that the music does promote attitudes of misogyny, objectification of women, encouragement of sexual, physical and domestic violence against women. Critics also believe that rap and hip hop fosters violent behaviour in young men and encourages them to commit crime. In particular, there is a significant amount of content against the police in rap and hip hop. Due to this, the music is thought to be a bad influence, especially for young and impressionable men.


    1. Adams, T. & Fuller, D., 2006. The words have changed but the ideology remains the same: Misogynistic lyrics in rap music. Journal of Black Studies, Volume 36, pp. 938–957.
    2. Armstrong, E., 2001. Gansta misogyny: A content analysis of the portrayals of violence against women in rap music1987-1993.. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 8(2), pp. 96-126.
    3. Bryant & D. Zillman, eds. Hillsdale(NJ): Erlbaum, pp. 17-41.
    4. Cundiff, G., 2013. The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music: An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics. Elon Journal Of Undergraduate Research In Communications , 4(1), pp. 1-41.
    5. Dyson, M. E., 2004. The Culture of Hip-Hop . In: M. Forman & M. A. Neal, eds. That's the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader . New York: Routledge, pp. 61-68 Dyson, M. E., 2010. Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. Philadelphia:
    6. Giovacchini, A. M., 1999. The Negative Influence of Gangster Rap And What Can Be Done About It. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 November 2016].
    7. Kitwana, B., 2008. The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African- American Culture. s.l.:Basic Civitas.
    8. Watts, E., 2004. An Exploration of Spectacular Consumption: Gangsta Rap as Cultural Commodity. In: M. A. N. Murray Forman, ed. That's the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, p. 593.
    9. Travis, R., 2016. The Healing Power of Hip Hop. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. Giovacchini, A. M., 1999. The Negative Influence of Gangster Rap And What Can Be Done About It. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 November 2016].
    10. Ogbar, J. O. G., 1999. Slouching toward Bork: The Culture Wars and Self-Criticism in Hip-Hop Music. Journal of Black Studies, 30(2), pp. 164-183.
    11. Dyson, M. E., 2004. The Culture of Hip-Hop . In: M. Forman & M. A. Neal, eds. That's the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader . New York: Routledge.
    12. Adams, T. & Fuller, D., 2006. The words have changed but the ideology remains the same: Misogynistic lyrics in rap music. Journal of Black Studies, Volume 36, p. 938–957.
    13. Armstrong, E., 2001. Gansta misogyny: A content analysis of the portrayals of violence against women in rap music1987-1993.. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 8(2), pp. 96-126.
    14. Gerbne, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M. & N Signorielli, 1994. Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. . In: J. Bryant & D. Zillman, eds. Media effects: Advances in theory and research. Hillsdale(NJ): Erlbaum, pp. 17-41.
    15. Cundiff, G., 2013. The Influence of Rap and Hip-Hop Music: An Analysis on Audience Perceptions of Misogynistic Lyrics. ELON JOURNAL OF UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN COMMUNICATIONS , 4(1), pp. 1-41.
    16. Dyson, M. E., 2010. Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. Philadelphia:
    17. Whorter, J. M., 2008. All about the Beat: Why Hip-hop Can't Save Black America. NY: Gotham Books .
    18. Whorter, J. M., 2008. All about the Beat: Why Hip-hop Can't Save Black America. NY: Gotham Books .

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