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Democracy in its purest form involves everyone having their say. In ancient Athens all citizens voted on every issue. Except that women and slaves were excluded. Representative Democracy We elect MPs to represent us. They vote on matters in Parliament. MPs usually vote according to what their party’s policy is, unless they
disagree with it and rebel. THE WHIP is a ‘tough’, ‘persuasive’ MP who will try to pull his party’s MPs into line. A Referendum These are rare in the UK. When a very important decision on the future of the country is required, a special vote called a referendum is called and every voter can choose. Decisions like joining the European Union or the Euro currency may be examples of these. ‘Free vote’
Sometimes MPs don’t have to vote with their party. These usually involve matters of conscience like abortion or fox hunting. HOUSE OF LORDS This is the UPPER CHAMBER of parliament. They will check, challenge, and approve decisions made by the House of Commons. Until recently all the Lords were hereditary peers. This means that they are ‘Lords’ because of their family. It has been reformed and
these Lords were replaced with appointed ones, called LIFE PEERS. ‘People’s Peers’ The House of Lords is in the process of being REFORMED (changed) and there may be calls for it to be filled with ELECTED people called ‘People’s Peers’ instead of the life peers. RECAP: hereditary/life/peoples peers
Devolution The Scottish Parliament (Holyrood in Edinburgh) and the Welsh Assembly were both set up after REFERANDA. Devolution means shifting power away from the centre. Scotland can raise its own taxes and pass laws. Wales can only discuss issues. The North of Ireland has an assembly at Stormont but is very unstable due to the ‘Troubles’. Some other regions like Cornwall and the North-
East have growing calls for devolution. VOTE VOTE VOTE! The British way of counting votes is called: FIRST PAST THE POST This means that people have one vote in one area (constituency). The candidate with the most votes there gets elected to the House of Commons (an MP~). All the MPs in every party are added up to see which has the
MAJORITY. Sometimes the winning party actually has less votes than the losing one! Many people want a different system. P.R. stands for PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. Every vote counts, and the party with the most votes gets a number of seats IN PROPORTION to its votes. Both Labour and Conservative oppose PR because they do very well with FPP. Smaller parties like LIBDEMS or Greens want it though.
‘Voter apathy’? ‘Apathy’ means ‘can’t be bothered’. At least one in four people in Britain do not vote. There are many reasons for this: • some say that people are just lazy and new ways to vote like SMS/text, email, digital TV or phone-ins would improve ‘turnout’, or having POLLING STATIONS in Tescos or petrol stations.
• some say it is because people feel DISILLUSIONED, DISENGAGED and ALIENATED from politics. Why should they vote for parties that don’t represent their views? •Some say voting should be compulsory •Some say starting people earlier will help, lowering the age to 16