Voting Part 3 – Putting the Government Together
Before I start a couple of disclaimers. As with parts 1 and 2 this article is specifically related to the UK government. Secondly the UK government is exceptionally complicated and confusing. This is a simplification so that it is understandable to me and you. If this is something you are interested in I totally encourage you to find out more, there will be some links at the end to get you started.
Okay let’s get going, starting small and getting bigger.
You live in a place of residence (your house or flat or bungalow or whatever) and this is located within a constituency. A constituency is an area of land with a population in it (the boundaries for these get redrawn every so often). The population is represented by an MP (member of parliament). This is different to your local government which is very complicated and not discussed here. Every 5 years there is a general election in which the electorate (people who are eligible to vote) can vote for the new government. The electorate in each constituency votes from a group of people who ‘stand’, choosing their preference by placing an X in the box next to the name of their preferred candidate. The person who gets the most votes in that constituency becomes the MP for that area, they don’t necessarily have to get 50% of the votes. The MP gets a ‘seat’ in the House of Commons in Government. There are 650 constituencies in the UK and each one elects an MP at the general election, making 650 seats in The House of Commons.
The MPs usually represent a ‘party’ although they can be independent. A party is a group of politicians who share a set of values and beliefs called policies (a certain amount of infighting aside). They set out these policies before each election in a ‘manifesto’. We have two major parties. The Labour party, which is described as ‘left wing’, typically has policies related to socialism – a sort of community based control. And the Conservative Party which is described as ‘right wing’, it typically has policies related to individualism – more of an everyone for themselves approach. However, remember this is an overly simplistic approach it is much, much more complex than this. If you are deciding which party to support visit their webpages, talk to their representative and see which one fits your views best. There are many other smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats, the Green party and UKIP.
Going back to the MPs, they generally represent a party and if one party gets 326 of their members voted to become MPs then this party has a majority. If a party gets a majority then their leader, who is chosen by its members (people who work in the party and everyday citizens who have paid money to support it), becomes the prime minister (PM). It is important to remember that you are not voting for the leader but for your MP, as long as that party has a majority and the new leader is chosen through that party’s system then the PM can be changed at any point without an election. This has happened quite a couple of recently – Gordon Brown and Teresa may were/are both ‘unelected’ PMs. If no party gains 326 MPs, as happened in 2010, then the different parties have team up in order to have this majority, this is a coalition government. Normally sacrifices are made on both sides to make a working combination manifesto. You might remember the Liberal Democrats going back on their promise about tuition fees, this was one of the sacrifices of the 2010 coalition.
Parties want to have a majority because it makes it easier for them to put through legislation (suggested laws) and make the changes they want to make. They do this by (amongst several other stages) putting a ‘bill’ (suggested law) before the house of commons (all the elected MPs) where MPs vote on it to say if it should be passed or not to become law. Again, this is an oversimplification, more detail can be found at
I have only talked about the House of Commons, there are many other parts of government including local government, Mayors and the House Of lords. More information can be found at
http://www.parliament.uk and https://www.gov.uk/browse/citizenship/voting .
If you want to find out who your MP is then go to https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ they also have more information on how the government is run. https://www.gov.uk/government/how-government-works may also be of use to you.
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