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  • AQA Component 1, Section Elections and referendums

  • Edexcel Component 1, Section 3.1: Different electoral systems 

Background: what you need to know

The article reports that the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties are to fight the next general election on the basis of an informal electoral pact. This means that in a number of seats where one of the two parties is best placed to defeat the Conservatives, the other will not put many resources into contesting it. The plan recognises the reality that in many southern English seats, anti-Tory voters are more likely to prefer the Lib Dems, whilst Labour are the main challengers in former ‘red wall’ seats in the north.

A consequence of this kind of progressive pact would be that, although it is likely to fall short of a formal coalition, there would be an informal understanding between Labour and the Lib Dems in government. This might work on the basis of a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement, with a Labour government offering electoral reform in return for Lib Dem support.

This is a consequence of the First Past the Post voting system, where there can be only one winner in the UK’s single-member constituency contests. The two centre-left parties are seeking to exploit tactical voting — the practice whereby voters whose priority is to defeat a sitting MP vote not for the candidate they prefer, but for the one most likely to win the seat.

Click to read the article below and then answer the questions:

Labour and Lib Dems in informal ‘non-aggression’ pact before next UK election

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • Explain and analyse three ways in which the First Past the Post voting system affects UK politics. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

  • Evaluate the view that the First Past the Post electoral system has a negative effect on UK democracy.

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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