Unit 1 Definitions

Definitions, which should be worth 5 marks, for Elections, Democracy, Political Parties and Pressure Groups

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  • Created on: 31-03-12 15:05
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Politics Definitions
Election: An election is the means by which the electorate decides who should fill an
office or post, making it the most important link between the government and the
people. E.g. Parliamentary elections involve voting for an MP. Everyone over the age of
18, with a few exceptions, is entitled to a vote. The voting procedure involves a secret
ballot (although not when postal voting takes place) and one person, one vote applies.
Proportional Representation: PR defines an electoral system where there is a direct
relationship between the number of votes cast for a party and the number of seats it
wins, so if a party wins 60% of the votes it should win 60% of the seats. There are a
number of PR systems notably STV, AMS and the Party list system although it can be
argued that only the latter is a pure form of PR.
Mandate: A mandate is an instruction or command given to a body to take action, for
example Parliament to make laws. A political party will produce a manifesto during the
election campaign in which it outlines the policies it will carry out if elected. If it is
elected the party has a mandate to carry out its manifesto.
Party system: The UK is seen to have a two party system, which is dominated by two
major parties that have a roughly equal prospect of winning government power. It can
be identified by three features. Although a number of `minor' parties exist only two
parties enjoy sufficient electoral and parliamentary strength to have a realistic chance of
winning government power. The larger of the two parties is able to rule alone, usually on
the basis of a parliamentary majority and the other party provides the opposition and
power alternates regularly between these parties. E.g. Labour and Conservatives
Majoritarian Representation: This occurs when an electoral system tends to over
represent larger parties and usually (but not always as we currently have a coalition
government) results in a single party government. In other words there is no direct
relationship between the number of votes cast and the number of seats it wins, so it is
possible for a party to win fewer votes than another party and still form a single party
government as happened in the UK in 1951.
Strong Government: Strong government refers to a situation where the government
is capable of introducing and implementing its legislative programme and has been
viewed, at least until recently as a major benefit of the FPTP system. For example, both
Blair and Thatcher were considered to be leaders of strong government in that the
measures they wanted were made into law, such as Blair's introduction of university top
up fees despite strong opposition from the other 2 parties.

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Stable government: Government which is strongly established and able or likely to
continue as it can be viewed as enduring or permanent. The government remains in place
for long periods of time and the functions of government continue even if there are
changes of system.
Electoral Reform: A change in the rules governing elections, usually involving the
replacement of one electoral system by another. In the UK this term is used with the
reform of FPTP and the adoption of a PR system.…read more

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Democracy: `Rule by the people.' It is a form of govt where in which the supreme
power rests in the people and the people are able to exercise their will in political
matters. Power is exercised directly by the people (direct democracy) or by their elected
representatives in free elections (indirect democracy). It is based on two key principles
political participation and political equality to give citizens the right to make key decisions
and each citizen has equal opportunities to influence political decisions.…read more

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Liberal Democracy: Combination of both democracy and liberal features. Liberal
features include checks and balances on institutions and involves embracing civil liberties
such as freedom of speech and freedom of press. E.g. In the UK these are safeguarded
by the HRA. Its democratic features include elections that are free and fair and that the
elected should look after the interests of `all' citizens.
Referendums: This is a direct vote in which the electorate is asked to accept or reject a
particular issue.…read more

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Political Parties
Political Party: An organised body that seeks to win government power (at local or
national level) by putting candidates up for election and mobilizing public support. It
develops a range of political goals and policies and their members display common
ideological beliefs. E.g. Conservatives support free trading and favour limited government
intervention. All three parties in the UK contest all the constituency seats in England,
Scotland and Wales for example by canvassing, public meetings and leafleting.…read more

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Adversarial Politics: This contrasts with consensus politics as it is characterised by
major ideological differences between the major political parties on key policies, where
one party will automatically challenge the policies of another. Adversarial politics became
a feature of British politics under Thatcher in 1979 as she rejected much of the previous
Labour government's policies because her basic political philosophy was very different.
She was a neo-liberal who supported low taxes, low public spending, small government,
privatisation of industries and rewarding individual endeavour.…read more

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Their members all believe in the same cause so it can have
members from across the political spectrum.
Sectional (Interest) Groups: A pressure group which represents a particular section of
society that exists to advance or protect the (usually material) interests of its members.
They are motivated by self interest and membership is limited to people in a particular
occupation, career or economic position. Traditionally seen as well funded and well
organised. E.g. Trade unions, business associations and professional bodies e.g.…read more

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Functional representation: The representation of groups based on their function
within the ecnomy or society. For example industries (unions such as the National Union
fo Mineworkers), employers (the CBI or Institute of Directors) professions (Law Society
or BMA) or workers (National Union of Teachers). In this way pressure groups provide an
alternative to political parties and the eclectoral system. However, there are some
questions how well pressure groups carry out this function to due the lack of internal
democracy in many pressure groups.…read more


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