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A level Politics - Paper 1 UK (2) > Electoral Systems > Flashcards

Flashcards in Electoral Systems Deck (23):

Functions of elections in the UK

Representation - enable the electorate to select MPs to act on their behalf
Choosing a government - voting determines the make of the HoC
Participation - voting is a form of participation
Influences over policy - allows citizens to voice their policy preferences. As parties issue manifestos outlining policies they would introduce if elected. Winning party claims a mandate
Accountability - government and MPs held accountable and removed in the next election if the electorate is unhappy with them
Citizen education - election campaigns provide citizens with information on major political issues and policies of main parties
Legitimacy - ives winning party legitimacy
Recruitment - parties nominate candidates for elections to provide them with campaign resources


Types of UK elections

General elections - elects all 650 MPs to the commons, every 5 years
Devolved elections - Scottish parliament, welsh and northern Irish assembly have elections every 5 years
European Parliament elections - UK has an MEP elected every 5 years
Local elections - councillors elected for 4 year fixed terms. In some areas mayors and police commissioners are elected.
By-elections - picks a new representative of a seat becomes vacant


Supplementary vote

Used to elect the mayor of London
Voters record two preferences.
Winning candidate must achieve an absolute majority. If a candidate gets an absolute majority they are elected.
If not the two highest candidates are retained and second preference votes are calculated.



Plurality system used in UK general elections
MPs elected in single member constituencies. Each constituency elects one representative to the HoC.
Candidate needs a plurality of votes to win. Party with the most candidates becomes the government and the leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister.


Single transferable vote

This is a proportional system used in Australia’s senate, the Irish republic and European elections in Northern Ireland
Voters vote in order for as many or as little candidates as they like.
The quota gives the winning threshold.
If a candidate achieves the threshold they win and the rest of the votes are transferred to second preferences. If nobody achieves the threshold the lowest candidate is eliminated and votes are transferred.
In the formula the second preferences votes are not as valuable as the first


Regional list

Proportional system used in European elections in Great Britain, list seats for Scottish parliament, welsh assembly and the London assembly.
In this method each constituency party submits a list of candidates. Seats are allocated based on according to the votes cast for each party


Alternative vote

Proportional system used to elect the majority of chairs of select committees in the commons and the Lord speaker in the House of Lords
The uk held a referendum in 2011 to use this in general elections but 67.8% said no with a turnout of 42%.
Voters rank candidates in order. Ballot papers counted, if a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote if they win, if not the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and second preference votes are reallocated. Process is continued until a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote


Additional member system

Mixed system used to elect Scottish parliament, welsh and London assembly
Voters are given two votes.
first vote if for a constituency MP and the winner is decided by FPTP.
Second vote is for a political party. Those MPs are allocated to regions to make the result fairer for all parties


What was unique about the 2017 general election

First time since 1951 that both main parties gained votes. Due to UKIP going from 4 million to 600,000 votes.
Conservatives and labour gained a combined 82% of the vote, the highest since 1970.
Election was the least disproportional since 1955
Increase in marginal seats, 121 with less than a 10% gap
Regional disparities narrowed as labour made gains in southern seats and the conservatives gained Scottish seats


Advantages of FPTP

Easy to understand and operate
Normally produces a majority giving a strong and stable government who can fulfil their manifestos
Single member constituencies provide a clear link between MPs and their constituency
Keeps out extremist parties as the system makes it hard for them to gain seats


Disadvantages of FPTP

Disproportional outcomes - 2015 UKIP gained 12.6% of the vote but 1 seat
Causes electoral deserts - conservatives got 34% of north east vote but 10% of seats
In 2010 2/3 of MPs did not achieve a majority
Different constituency sizes means votes have different impacts, largest constituency is the Isle of Wright (110,924) and the smallest is Nah-Eileanan (21,837)
Limited choice due to safe seats


Advantages and disadvantages of the supplementary vote

Advantages - winning candidate achieves a broad support this gives them greater legitimacy, supporters of smaller parties can vote for them and their preferred main party

Disadvantages - candidate can win a majority with second preferences meaning the least unpopular candidate may win rather than the most popular candidate
The system wouldn’t be proportional in general elections


Advantages and disadvantages of the single transferable vote

Advantages - delivers proportional outcomes and ensures voters are of equal value, government is likely to consist of a party with a majority of the vote, greater choice as voters pick from different candidates from same party.

Disadvantages - less accurate in translating votes than other proportional systems, he multi member constituencies weaken the link between MPs and constituency, likely to produce a coalition government, counting process is long and complex


Advantages and disadvantages of the additional member system

Advantages - proportional outcome and votes are less likely to be wasted, voters have greater choice due to split ticket voting, can be used to improve representation of women, votes are easy to count and the system is easy for voters to understand.

Disadvantages - creates two type of representative one with constituency duties and one without, smaller parties under represented, proportional outcomes are less likely where the number of additional members is low


Impact on party representation

In 1950 the UK had a two party system, 2.5 ENEP and a 2 ENPP. However in 2015 it was 4 ENEP suggesting an end to the two party system however this dropped down to 2.8 ENEP in 2017.
The 2015 election most disproportionate elections
Conservative won a majority with 38% of the vote, UKIP got one seat with 12.6% of the vote and the SNP won 95% of Scottish seats with 50% of the Scottish vote


Impact of voter choice

Voters have more choice under AMS, SV and STV systems than FPTP due to split ticket voting. Means voting behaviour is not sophisticated.

But these systems are confusing
2007 Scottish parliament elections had to be changed due to 146,000 ballots filled incorrectly
2016 mayor of London elections - 382,000 voters didn’t use their second preference and 220,000 voters cast the same person as their first and second preference.


Explaining voter choice

Rational choice theory - assumes voters make a rational judgement on what is best for them
Issue voting - assumes voters put an issue above all others and vote for the party with a similar opinion on that issue
Valance issue - vote for whoever they believe will deliver a strong and successful economy
Leaders - voters vote on who they think will be the best Prime Minister


1979 general election

Caused by a vote of no confidence to James Callaghan.
Labours policies focused on trade unions and they had a moderate financial course. Conservatives proposed the right to buy scheme and promised tax cuts
The media played a big role, speeches wee timed to catch evening news, media focused on personalities and it led to the Thatcher factor
Conservatives won 339 seats with 43.9% of the vote and labour won 269 seats with 37% of the vote


The 1997 general election

John Majors Conservative party were split on the issue of the EU.
Conservatives focused on economic recovery but the issue of the EU dominated their campaign. Labour focused on cutting class sizes, reducing NHS waiting time and employment.
6 week campaign (longer than usual) as Major thought it would put pressure on Blair. Sex scandals and corruption was reported in the Conservative party.
Blair won 418 seats with 43.3% of the vote and the conservatives won 165 seats with 30.7% of the vote


2017 general election

May called an early election to provide a mandate to deal with Brexit.
Labour focused on improving welfare, abolishing university fees and introducing 4 new bank holidays. Conservatives focused on the NHS but cuts to education.
The conservatives won 318 seats with 42.4% of the vote and labour won 262 seats with 40% of the vote


Traditional role of the media and the changing role of the media

Traditional role - provide reports on political events, provide a commentary on events and policy, scrutinise the government, educate the public on issues

Changing role - today the press / online media mock politicians rather than provide an informed debate. They created a mood of cynicism towards politics and politicians. Focus on leaders have made them celebrities instead of focusing on their job. Media made entertainment of politics. Rise of online media has meant fake new stories are believed to be true


Roles media have played in elections

War reporting - patriotic reporting of Falkland war gave Thatcher the impression of the Iron Lady, swinging public opinion towards her.
Sleaze - 1992 parliament reported on sex scandals, impacted Conservative party, known as nasty party.
Bliar - Blair accused of sexing up the cause for the Iraq war.
Expenses - 2009 Daily Telegraph released expense scandal.
Satire - rise of political satire in 1960s linked to decline in reputation of politics. Programmes mock politicians. Ed Miliband went on Russel Brands YouTube channel called the Trews



A referendum is a vote on a single issue
Local referendums include elected mayors, congestion charges and neighbourhood plans
National referendums are on constitutional change
Referendums are regulated by the electoral commission