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  • AQA Component 1, Section Elections and referendums

  • Edexcel Component 1, Section 3.3: Electoral system analysis

Background: what you need to know

The article discusses the way in which the First Past the Post voting system works in favour of the Conservatives by splitting the vote against them on the centre-left. It looks at the pros and cons of an electoral pact between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. A realistic objective of such a pact might be to bring about a hung parliament, with an understanding that an incoming progressive government would introduce proportional representation.

The article outlines some of the practical difficulties of a formal electoral pact. It argues that Labour and the Liberal Democrats should be aware of the advantages of working together informally, although Labour still needs to focus on making itself a viable alternative party of government.

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

Britain’s left needs more than informal pacts

Make sure that you understand the technical terms used in the article. ‘Tactical voting’ should be familiar, but you may not have come across ‘paper candidates’ — candidates run by a party in a constituency where its chances of winning are low to non-existent.

Depending on the examination board you are following, now answer one of the following questions.

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • ‘Explain and analyse three effects of the First Past the Post voting system on the representation of parties in the UK. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

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

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way.

    [30 marks]

    TIP: In answering either question the article provides useful material on the consequences of the FPTP system for UK parties. However, you need to consider other effects, such as the lack of proportionality between votes and seats won by parties and (more positively) the likelihood of electing a government with a stable majority and mandate for action.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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