Edexcel AS Government and Politics Unit 1 Revision Cards


Functions of Elections

- Governmental Functions:

Elections are the princple way that the UK government is formed. They serve to transfer power from one government to the rest. Governments are formed from leading memners of the majority party.

For example in the1997 election the Conservatives under John Major lost to Tony Blair.

- Representative Function:

Elections create a link between the elected offical and the constituents. Which creates a link to the government of the day, holding them accountable for their actions and being removable.

-Legitimising Function:

Elections provide legitmicy to the government as citizens are giving their consent to be governed. Elections give the government authority to hold power and make laws.

For example the conservative government has the power to make laws as it’s in government.

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Differences Between Elections and Referendums



In elections you vote for a candidate.

In referendums you vote simply yes or no to a question.

In elections you make your decision based on a range of political issues.

In a referendum you make you decision on one specific issue.

Elections must take place every 5 years. They are mandatory.

Referendums are not mandatory. They can be held whenever.

Elections are a form of representative democracy.

Referendums are a form of direct democracy.

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Political Participation Through Elections

Elections provide people with political participation through:

-Providing people with the opportunity to directly participate:

People can join political parties, they can also campaign for certain political parties. People can vote at polling stations and can become an MP.

-Elections educate the public:

People become politically aware when choosing between different political parties. For example election broadcasts on national television.

-Provides a means to hold the current government accountable:

If the current government has performed poorly or made bad decisions they can be removed and held accountable. For example voters may choose to vote for the opposition or smaller minority parties in a protest vote.

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Criticisms of Voting in Elections

-People don't vote rationally:

People tend to vote for oppostion parties because the are disenfrancised by the current governement.  For example young people gave their vote to Labour and Jermey Corbyn in 2015 election as they were disenfrancised with the current conservative party.

-There is never a complete agreement with policies of a single party:

A vote for a party does not always mean the voter agrees with all policies, it sometimes means they are the most compatible of all the political parties.

-Technically there is no way of forcing the government to carry out its policies:

There is no way to actually get a government to  carry out policies from their manifesto. For example the Labour government went to war in Iraq whilst promising not too beforehand.

It is impossible for parties to forsee emergency events:

Different policies may be needed in the future therefore voters may not agree with the policies that the government they voted for implements in ths situation. For example the first and second world wars.

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Electoral Systems: First Past the Post

First Past the Post:

Plurality System, which means the candiate who has the most votes of the candidates is elected.

Used in the General Election.

Voters choose one candiate from a single party (The party choose the candidate in which they want to stand as MP). The winning candiate from the constituency with the most votes will take a seat at the House of Commons.The political party with the absolute majority (more then 50%) will form a government. The leader of the governing party becomes Prime Minister and selects their cabinet.

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Electoral Systems: First Past the Post Advantages

Advantages of FPTP

Disadvantages of FPTP

Strong Government:

The government will have a clear overall majority, can provide effective leadership for the nation. This is useful in times of crisis. For example Tony Blair saw a sufficient enough threat in Iraq to invade- this decisive action made him accountable.

Disproportionate Results:

The number of seats is not proportionate to the number of votes.

For example in 1951 Labour won 48.8% of votes, Conservatives won 48% of the votes but Conservatives won 26 more seats.

Stable Government:

The government will have a clear overall majority, meaning they have a consent of the majority and mandate to govern.

Smaller Parties Lose Out:

Smaller parties are unable to win seats because their votes are spread thinly across the country instead of being concentrated in a single constituency.

Strong MP to Constituency Link:

FPTP uses a single MP to a single constituency. Therefore there is a closer link and the constituent is clear on who they can approach for help.For example Oona King was held accountable after she voted in favor of the Iraq war despite the majority of her constituent’s disagreement.

Lack of Choice:

Voters only get one vote as they cannot vote for more than one candidate, so they have to pick the most compatible.


Provides a Clear Winner:

There is no need to form a coalition as there is a clear winner on who should form a government immediately after the election. Although under FPTP there can be a Hung Parliament overall which would require a coalition or support from independents or other parties.

Minority Government:

Governments can be elected to form a government after winning only a minority of the votes. This threatens the legitimacy of the mandate.

For example, In 2005 Labour won the election with only 35.2% of the popular vote

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