1. UK Politics

This Unit Covers 

  1. Democracy & Participation: 
  2. Political Parties
  3. Electoral Systems
  4. Voting Behavior and the media

1. Democracy and Participation

Key Concepts: Legitimacy; Direct democracy; Representative democracy; Pluralist democracy; Democratic deficit; Participation crisis; Franchise/suffrage; Think tanks; Lobbyists.

Key Content

1.1 Current systems of representative democracy and direct democracy. • The features of direct democracy and representative democracy. • The similarities and differences between direct democracy and representative democracy. Advantages and disadvantages of direct democracy and representative democracy and consideration of the case for reform.

1.2 A wider franchise and debates over suffrage. • Key milestones in the widening of the franchise in relation to class, gender, ethnicity and age, including the 1832 Great Reform Act and the 1918, 1928 and 1969 Representation of the People Acts. • The work of the suffragists/suffragettes to extend the franchise. The work of a current movement to extend the franchise.

1.3 Pressure groups and other influences. • How different pressure groups exert influence and how their methods and influence vary in contemporary politics. • Case studies of two different pressure groups, highlighting examples of how their methods and influence vary. • Other collective organisations and groups including think tanks, lobbyists and corporations, and their influence on government and Parliament.

1.4 Rights in context. • Major milestones in their development, including the significance of Magna Carta and more recent developments, including the Human Rights Act 1998 and Equality Act 2010. • Debates on the extent, limits and tensions within the UK’s rights-based culture, including consideration of how individual and collective right may conflict, the contributions from civil liberties pressure groups – including the work of two contemporary civil liberties pressure groups.

2. Political Parties

Key Concepts: Old Labour (social democracy); New Labour (Third Way); One Nation; New Right; Classical liberals; Modern liberals; Party systems; Left-wing; Right-wing;

Key Content

2.1 Political parties. • The functions and features of political parties in the UK’s representative democracy. • How parties are currently funded and debates on the consequences of the current funding system.

2.2 Established political parties. • The origins and historical development of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat Party, and how this has shaped their ideas and current policies on the economy, law and order, welfare and foreign affairs.

2.3 Emerging and minor UK political parties. • The importance of other parties in the UK. • The ideas and policies of two other minor parties.

2.4 UK political parties in context. • The development of a multi-party system and its implications for government. • Various factors that affect party success – explanations of why political parties have succeeded or failed, including debates on the influence of the media.

3. Electoral Systems

Key Concepts: First-past-the-post (FPTP); Additional Member System (AMS); Single Transferable Vote (STV); Supplementary Vote (SV); Safe seat; Marginal seat; Minority government; Coalition government;

Key Content

3.1 Different electoral systems.First-past-the-post (FPTP), Additional Member System (AMS), Single Transferable Vote (STV), and Supplementary Vote (SV). • The advantages and disadvantages of these different systems. • Comparison of first-past-the-post (FPTP) to a different electoral system in a devolved parliament/assembly.

3.2 Referendums and how they are used. • How referendums have been used in the UK and their impact on UK political life since 1997. • The case for and against referendums in a representative democracy.

3.3 Electoral system analysis. • Debates on why different electoral systems are used in the UK. • The impact of the electoral system on the government or type of government appointed. • The impact of different systems on party representation and of electoral systems on voter choice.

4. Voting behaviour and the media

Key Concepts: Class dealignment; Partisan dealignment; Governing competency; Disillusion and apathy; Manifesto; Mandate;

4.1 Case studies of three key general elections. • Case studies of three elections (one from the period 1945– 92, the 1997 election, and one since 1997), the results and their impact on parties and government.

• The factors that explain the outcomes of these elections, including:

the reasons for and impact of party policies and manifestos, techniques used in their election campaigns, and the wider political context of the elections

class-based voting and other factors influencing voting patterns, such as partisanship and voting attachment

gender, age, ethnicity and region as factors in influencing voting behaviour, turnout and trends.

• Analysis of the national voting-behaviour patterns for these elections, revealed by national data sources and how and why they vary

The influence of the media. • The Assessment of the role and impact of the media on politics – both during and between key general elections, including the importance and relevance of opinion polls, media bias and persuasion.


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