Functions of political parties
* to form government
* to be the official opposition
* to organise opinions
* to link individuals to the political system
* to represent views
* to encourage participation
* to provide participation
Dysfunctional parties do not do this successfully, therefore are maybe unrepresentative and have small membership and funds.
The New Labour party
After the loss to Thatcher, they redeveloped themselves by reducing the powers of trade unions, increasing the power of trade unions, moderated policies to central grounds, abandoned high taxation and accepting privatization. They select their leader under the electoral college system, with 1/3 vote MPs and MEPs, 1/3 vote trade unions and 1/3 vote party members, using 1 member 1 vote.
Labour candidates have to be party members, yet local parties do not have to choose approved candidates, but there are rules, such as 1 woman on each list.
The party conference; gives direction to the party, lets ordinary members contribute, tests new policies and principles, facilitates party-wide communication, forces ministers to defend their actions and provides a platform for members to meet and debate.
Party funding: small % from membership fees, large % from personal donations and trade unions
The Conservative party
If 10% of MPs want a leadership election, they could have one. MPs and members vote until one candidate has an overall majority.
Candidates have to apply to central office and are vetted by an official. Approved candidates can apply to any vacancy. The constituency shortlists applicants and makes the final decision.
The party conference: rallies membership, presents policies and receives endorsements, gauges reaction to new ideas, provides media opportunities and facilitates party wide communication
Party funding: small % from membership fees, large % from rich personal donors and businessmen
Types of pressure group
Sectional: look after a section of society (National Union of Teachers)
Cause: group with a single cause, good at fundraising, extremist? (Greenpeace)
Insider: status in politics and are influential, expert (RSPCA)
Outsider: unassociated with government, extreme, unimportant, unrepresentative (Fathers 4 Justice)
How do they influence?
* Private members bills
* Suggestion of amendments
* PMs questions
* Lobbying: civil servants, select committees, meeting MPs, standing committees
Positive implications of pressure groups
* organises those of similar views, so government can prioritise
* offer specialised information to government
* represent minorities which are often overlooked
* advise government in policy making
* get people involved
Negative implications of pressure groups
* unrepresentative in the case of funding
* unrepresentative- they are just active and well organised minorities
* extremist? violent?
* demands of pressure groups complicate prioritizing and therefore democracy
Functions of elections
* choosing government
* influencing policies
* giving a party the mandate to rule
Electoral systems (Majoritarian systems)
First past the post: + simple, clear outcome, majority, MP constituency link remain
-wasted votes, unproportional, safe seats, limited choice
Alternative vote: * mark 1 2 and 3 choice, if 1 votes are counted and one candidate has 50%, they are elected. if this doesnt happen, candidate with fewest 1 is eliminated.
+MPs are elected by majorities in their constituencies, MP constituency link.
- less proportional than FPP, swings in public opinion exaggerate results
Supplementary (Mayoral): * voters indicate 1 and 2 and if 1 has 50% they are elected. If this doesnt happen all but 1st and 2nd candidate are eliminated & 2 votes are resditribute
Electoral systems (proportional and hybrid)
List system: * voters vote and seats are allocated by no. of votes won
+ proportional - multi member constituencies, closed list: voters do not choose MPs
Single transferable vote: * a quota is used to find the 'winning threshold' required and votes are transferred once a candidate reaches the threshold.
+ proportional, no safe seats, no marginals, lots of choice
- multi member constituencies, weak coalitions
Additional member system: * voters vote for MP and party separately and some seats are allocated by FPP, others by a party list
+ proportional, no wasted votes, single member constituencies
-2 types of MP, unrepresentative
Party attitudes to reform
Labour: a referendum should take place on Westminster system.
Conservative: to ensure all votes are worth the same, single transferable vote. believe FPP is biased for Labour
Liberal Democrat: single transferable vote
* devolution for Scotland and Wales. turnout was poor.
* Mayor of London (1998)- turnout was 34% but was accepted by over 75%
Advantages: direct democracy, strengthens the constitution as they confirm acceptance of the way people are governed, encourage greater participation debate and awareness, moral questions can be settled when there is no party line, used to settle divisive issues
Disadvantages: undermines the party in power, are used to claim legitimacy for policies in the absence of freedom of speech/amid suggestions of electoral fraud, wording of them changes the outcome, some issues may be too complex for yes/no.
Criticisms of elections
* Social groups
* Opinion polls
* Electoral system
* Middle England
UK parliamentary elections
* are called when the PM decides or at the end of a 5 year term
* By elections occur when a seat in the Commons becomes vacant due to death, resignation or the MP becoming a member of the House of Lords
* To stand you have to be: over 21, British, Commonwealth or Irish citizens, and you cannot be: bankrupt, a member of the Lords, a clergyman, sentenced to +1 year in jail
* to vote you have to be: over 18 and a British or a citizen of the Commonwealth or Ireland if they are resident in Britain. You cannot vote if you are: a member of the Lords, patient detained under mental health legislation, sentenced prisoners, convicted of illegal/corrupt electoral practices in the past 5 years
Voting behaviour in the UK
* Class, age, gender, ethnicity, religion
* Regional voting (North/South Labour/Conservative divide)
* Importance of key policies
* Reaction to party in power
* Impact of mass media
* Tactical/protest voting