Living In A Democracy

Syllabus area 1: Living In A Democracy

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  • Created by: Emma
  • Created on: 06-12-11 12:51

What Is A Democracy?

  • Country governed by it's people
  • Run by elected representatives
  • Allows people to participate in important decisions
  • People have rights that cannot be taken away
  • People have responsibilities that balance their rights
  • Regular elections
  • A choice of political parties
  • Freedom of speech within the media
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How can people participate in politics?

  • Voting
  • Joining a political party
  • Joining a pressure group
  • Becoming a candidate
  • Helping at elections
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What is a representative?

  • Usually chosen by the people
  • A person who takes decisions on our behalf
  • Examples include MPs, MSPs, councillors and trade union reps
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What is a candidate?

  • A candidate is a person who stands for election
  • In the UK candidates can stand for the European Parliament, UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament or local government
  • Candidates are chosen by the local party's selection panel
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How can supporters help a political party during a

  • Handing out leaflets
  • Displaying posters e.g. on windows, lamp posts, or bumper stickers on cars
  • Canvassing - asking people door-to-door who they intend to vote for
  • Give lifts to known supporters of they can get to the polling station
  • Help scrutinise the count
  • Attend public meetings supporting the candidate, or criticising an opponent
  • Writing letters to a local newspaper
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Why are women under-represented in politics?

  • The stereotyped attitude of some people who think that women should be kept busy at home
  • Political parties can be male dominated. Some party members are misogynist i.e. they openly dislike women
  • Westminster working hours are unsuitable for many women with families
  • Women may take career breaks to look after their children. This means they could be out of active politics for a while
  • Lack of suitable childminding and creche facilities at Westminster
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Why are ethnic minorities under-represented in pol

  • Political parties are usually dominated by white people
  • Some members of political parities have racist views
  • Some voters have racist views, and would not vote for a candidate of different ethnic background
  • There has been a shortage of role models in the past
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Why are people with disabilities under-represented

  • Lack of suitable facilities at Westminster e.g. wheelchair access
  • Some members of selection panels regard a disability as a drawback, which will make it harder to get the candidate elected
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The First Past The Post Electoral System : Advanta

It is an easy system to understand

There is a direct link between the MP and the constituents

Extremist parties (e.g. Fascists and Communists) are unlikely to get MPs

Tends to produce an overall majority for one party, there is no need for compromises as you would have with a coalition government

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The First Past The Post Electoral System : Disadva

Smaller parties are under-represented (e.g. Liberal Democrats), or are not represented at all (e.g. Green Party)

Encourages apathy as some people believe their vote is wasted in constituencies with a large majority (safe seats)

A party can have most of the MPs despite gaining less than half of the votes. In 2001 Labour received 42% of the votes, yet has 63% of the MPs

It can lead to sudden lurches in government policy after a general election

First Past The Post has been abandoned by other countries as being not fully democratic

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The Additional Member Electoral System : Advantage

There is a more proportional link between votes and elected representatives

There still is a link between the MSP and the constituents

Smaller parties can get representation (e.g. Green Party, Scottish Socialist Party)

Some people feel their vote is less likely to be wasted

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The Additional Member Electoral System : Disadvant

It tends to produce coalition governments, which would have to involve compromise

There are two types of MSPs - constituency MSPs and list MSPs - which can lead to conflict

Nobody votes for a coalition

Small parties, or even individuals, can hold the balance of power which gives them a lot of influence

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How can backbench MPs and MSPs represent their con

Inside Parliament :

  • Take part in debates
  • Discuss legislation (laws) in committees
  • Question the Prime Minister at Question Time (MPs), or the First Minister (MSPs)
  • Question other Ministers (government leaders)

Outside Parliament :

  • Attend meetings and surgeries
  • Write and respond to correspondence
  • Lobby (try to persuade) important decision takers
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Why do people have a responsibility to vote?

If you don't vote you don't have the right to criticise what the government does

People have died in the past fighting for the right to vote

It will ensure that the UK and Scotland stay democratic

If the turn out is very low those elected may not represent the views of the electorate

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Why may it be difficult for MPs and MSPs to repres

They may have to follow the party line, which can sometimes conflict with local issues

Their constituency party may support a particular point of view

Lobby groups such a businesses and trade unions will express their views

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How can councillors represent the views of people

By debating and voting in committees and full council meetings

By working with council officials and departments

By lobbying influential people

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Why may councillors be the best people to represen

Usually live in the ward they represent

Often work in jobs alongside the local people

They also use the council services they are responsible for

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What are the benefits of being a member of a trade


Working conditions


Solving disputes

Equal rights

Financial services (e.g. loans)

Redundancy arrangements

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Why do some people not join a union?

Because they are self-employed

Some employers have non-union agreements forbidding workers from joining a union

The cost of joining and remaining a member could be too high

Some well paid workers don't see the point

They can enjoy the benefits of pay rises and better working conditions negotiated by the unions without joining (freeloaders)

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What actions can trade unions take?

Overtime ban - working only the hours specified in their contract with their employers

Work to rule - following every rule slavishly which has the effect of slowing down production

Strike - withdrawing labour - this can be short term (one day), selective (only one group within an organisation) or long term (until the end of the dispute)

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Why will some workers not go on strike?

They believe it will badly affect others e.g. some nurses may not strike because of a possible affect on patients

They have signed a no strike agreement with the company

They will not get paid for the days they are on strike

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How are trade union representatives selected?

It now must be by a secret ballot (vote), not by a show of hands which may be intimidating to some people

All paid-up union members are entitled to vote

Officials must stand for re-election on a regular basis

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Why is the job of shop steward important?

The shop steward is the link between the workers and the management in the workplace

It is the first person to which a union member would take a grievance

They encourage new workers to join a union

They are the link between workers and full time union officials

They chair union meetings in the workplace

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How can members participate in trade union activit

Paying union dues

Attending meetings

Electing shop stewards and other officials

Standing for election themselves

Participating in industrial action when required

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What are pressure groups?

Organisations of people who believe in the same cause

They have strongly held views and wish to influence some aspect of society

Groups of people working together usually have more effect than individuals

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What rights do pressure groups have?

They have the right to criticise the government

They have the right to hold meetings

They have the right to protest

They have the right to make their views known by using the media

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What responsibilities do pressure groups have?

They have the responsibility to base their criticism on fact

Meetings should be peaceful and legal

They should inform the local authorities and the police when they are making a protest

They have a responsibility not to intimidate

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What methods do pressure groups use?

Internet - email and web sites





Mass media campaigns (T.V., radio and newspapers)

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