Government and Politics- Unit 1 Edexcel AS

People and Politics - Unit 1

  • Created by: ellen
  • Created on: 26-12-11 11:24


What is direct democracy?

  • Athenian in origin.
  • Government by the people.
  • Considered to be the purest form of democracy.
  • Views of every person allowed to vote are directly translated into policy/law.

Problems with direct democracy

  • People may not understand complex questions.
  • Majority might discriminate against minority.
  • Impractible in a large state.
  • Costly in time and money.
  • People can be swayed by emotion rather than thinking rationally.
  • May result in public apathy (boredom).
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Arguements FOR representative democracy

  • Practical and less time consuming.
  • Politicians act more rationally than people.
  • Ensure public participation through elections e.g. joining pressure groups.
  • Representatives are always held to account by the people.

Arguements AGAINST representative democracy

  • Irregular participation- General Elections only.
  • Politicians can lost touch with 'ordinary' people.
  • Women and ethnic minorities are under-represented; only 18% of MPs are women and only 3% are black.
  • Government often ignores its mandate (manifesto commitment)
  • Voting systems are not always fair.
  • Representatives can ignore public opinion.
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Liberal Democracy

  • Basic freedoms enjoyed by all, for example, freedom of worship.
  • Democracy- free and fair electons in which two or more parties compete.

Features of Liberal Democracy

  • Free and fair elections.
  • Elected representatives and government accountable to the people.
  • Competitve elections.
  • Civil liberties are protected.
  • Variety of beliefs are tolerated.
  • Peaceful transition of power.
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  • A referendum is a popular vote on a particular policy issue of importance by the electorate.
  • It asks for a 'yes' or 'no' answer - i.e. 2011: Should the electoral system be changed from FPTP to AV?      NO- Electoral system remains FPTP.
  • In the UK, the vote is not binding on the goverment as it is only a constitution convention.
  • This is because Parliament is sovereign (holds ultimate power).
  • Referenda is a form of direct democracy.
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Arguements FOR the use of referenda

  • Consulting the people is more democratic e.g. referenda are a form of direct democracy.
  • They promote public participation in politics, which is declining (61% turnout in 2005 election).
  • They foster public debate and educate about important issues e.g. the Euro.
  • They limit the power of the government's elective dictatorship.
  • No government since 1935 has had a majority vote, so the governments mandate to legislate without referenda is questionable.
  • They demonstrate public support for issues such as devolution, there is little point in it otherwise.
  • The electorate have a say on contentious issues.
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Arguements AGAINST the use of referenda

  • Parliament is supposed to be sovereign and should not abdicate its responsibilty like this.
  • The public is ill informed about complex issues like the Euro; better to leave it to the experts.
  • Public opinion changes e.g. the Welsh voted against devolution in 1979 but for it in 1997.
  • Governments hold referenda for party political advantage e.g. Wilson on the Common Market in 1975.
  • Only hold referenda when they think they can win them; that is why Labour have not held one on the Euro.
  • Questions in a referenda are difficult to frame and bound to oversimplify complex issues and government can also manipulate the wording of the question.
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Pressure Groups

What is a pressure group?

  • An organisation which seeks to influence a comparatively small range of public policy without itself seeking to govern.
  • Members have some shared interests and objectives.
  • Pressure groups vary widely from large groups like the CBI- Confederation of British Industry (represents 150,000 businesses) to MOVE which represents a very small number.
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Sectional/ Interest Groups

  • Sectional groups seek to represent the common interest of a particular section of society. (Want to protect their own interests).
  • Members are directly concerned with the outcome of campaigns as they usually stand to gain.
  • Membership is restricted.
  • Aim to get as many eligible people to join - more power.
  • Examples:
  • NUT- National Union of Teachers.
  • BMA- British Medical Association.
  • FBU- Fire Brigade Union.
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Cause/ Issue/ Promotional Groups

  • Cause groups represent some belief or principle. They seek to act in the interest of that cause,
  • Anyone can join.
  • By doing so, you accept the beliefs and principles.
  • Achievements are not necessarily of direct professional or economic benefit to the member.
  • Examples:
  • Amnesty Internation for human rights.
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Insider Groups

  • These are groups that are regarded as legitimate by government and are consulted on a regular basis.
  • Most sectional groups are insider groups (because most public sector professions are employed by the Govt).
  • They have direct access to ministers without having to go through Parliament or the media.
  • E.g. NFU consulted about the foot and mouth crisis in 2001.
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Outsider Groups

  • Either do not wish to become involved in regular consultation with the government or would like to gain recognition by the government but are unable to do so.
  • IPPR were aiming for insider status, and eventually became insider with a change of government in 1997.
  • Earth First oppose the political system and therefore do not want insider status.
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  • A political system/ democracy, where a wide range of beliefs, ideologies and ideas is tolerated and allowed to flourish. It also implies a society where many different groups are active and free to operate.
  • Representatives are chosen infrequently and by the majority. Pluralist theory argues that there are other ways to influence politics between elections and to represent the views of the majority.
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How do pressure groups help democracy?

  • They widen participation and are especially attractive to young people and women.
  • They promote debate and raise public awareness of issues e.g. human rights and the environment.
  • They keep the government in line with public opinion between elections, e.g. the fuel protests in 2000.
  • They defend disadvantaged groups whose interests might otherwise be ignored, e.g. Shelter for the Homeless.
  • They maintain political stamina, e.g. Friends of the Earth on recycling.
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How do pressure groups hinder democracy?

  • Self interested groups like Formula 1 bypass public debate and use financial muscle to get what they want.
  • Unelected groups have no right to influence a democratically elected government.
  • No justification in a democracy for pressure groups to use illegal methods, e.g. Reclaim the Streets or violence, e.g. the ALF.
  • Pressure group influence isn't level.
  • Well organised groups can get their way even if a public opinion is against them e.g. the Countryside Alliance on hunting.
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Is pressure group influence increasing? - YES.

  • Pressure group membership is rising while party membership and voter turnout (51% in 2001) are declining; the RSPB has more members than all 3 main political parties combined.
  • Women and young people are more attracted to pressure groups than parties.
  • It could be argued that in a global economy big business has more power than parties.
  • Pressure groups campaign on issues like animal welfare and GM food which interest the public but parties tend to neglect.
  • The lack of difference between the parties makes pressure groups seem more relevant to them.
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Is pressure group influence increasing? - NO.

  • Most pressure group campaigns, e.g. against the Iraq War or in defence of hunting, fail.
  • It could be argued that what we are seeing is a crisis in party politics rather than a rise in pressure group influence.
  • Only parties can form government and official opposition and offer electoral choice.
  • Labour's reduced majority since 2005 has made Parliament more relevant, e.g. gambling, Trident.
  • Pressure groups often have to work through parties, e.g. the League Against Cruel Sports lobbied Labour against hunting.
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  • Elitism is the theory that power is concentrated and not evenly distributed.
  • Some pressure groups have more power and influence than others.
  • Economic groups are commonly seen as more powerful than other groups.
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Political Parties

What is a political party?

  • A political party is an organised body seeking to win government power by putting candidates up for election and gaining for public support.
  • Parties hold a range of views based on shared ideology, e.g. Conservatism.
  • They have a wide range of policies which they put together in a coherent form (manifesto) at election time.
  • They have members and activists as well as fielding candidates for public office.
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Functions of a Political Party

  • Representing the people.
  • Formulating policies and presenting them to voters in a manifesto.
  • Giving voters electoral choice.
  • Providing opportunites for participation, membership, activism, standing for public office.
  • Forming a government and managing political change in such a way to ensure stability.
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Consensus Politics

  • Refers to the parties agreeing about fundamental issues, like Blair and Cameron.

Adversarial Politics

  • Parties disagreeing and reversing each others policies, as Thatcher did after 1979.
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omg thank you soo much this has helped me soo much 



Doing my Exam in just under 2 hours so I hope this helps :D



Loving this, thank you :)

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