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Hi everybody and welcome to united citizenship.

My name is Miss Elmi and I'll be your teacher for today.

Over the last two lessons, we've been exploring democracy.

And in today's lesson were going to take that a little bit further and focus on one of the key aspects, key features of democracy which is elections.

So by the end of this lesson I want you to be able to explain the importance of elections in a democracy, the UK's voting system and how we calculate the winners.

And looking at the strengths or weaknesses of that.

And then any alternatives that we could potentially use to improve on voting system.

So before we get started, I just want to make sure you have everything you need in front of you.

You have a pen, you have paper and you are in a quiet space where you can focus and concentrate.

Okay, so let's get started.

So just to quickly recap on what we did last lesson.

So last lesson, we looked at direct democracy, okay.

And we compared direct democracy to representative, indirect forms of democracy.

Now in the UK we have a representative model of democracy whereby we elect individuals.

We elect public officials to represent our views and make decisions on our behalf.

Whereas in a direct form of democracy we would have the choice of making those decisions for ourselves along the lines of key policy or laws.

Now there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

And last lesson we looked at those advantages and disadvantages.

And if you haven't done so I would urge you just to pause the video and maybe go back a step and have a look at that.

And by the end of that lesson, we also came to our own judgement , okay.

So we had to decide whether or not we thought direct forms of democracy was better.

Now, moving on to today's lesson, we need to explore now the role of elections in a democracy.

So what is the role of elections in democracy? If you think back to the first lesson, we looked at one of the key features of democracy which is having free and fair elections.

But what does that really mean? Well free and fair elections need to have some key aspects for it to be free and for it also to be fair.

Well, first thing it needs is that it needs to be transparent.

Transparent meaning that we as citizens should know the process of how that election is going to be conducted.

We also need to ensure that the people that are conducting that process are independent, okay.

So they're not affiliated to any political party that might be advantaged by having them count the votes and be part of that process.

They have to be completely independent from any political affiliation, okay.

So we have in the UK, an electoral commission, an independent electoral commission that does that.

The process also in order to be free of fair, should also be efficient, okay.

So that when we vote, we should get the results pretty quickly.

We shouldn't have to wait months down the line to find out who won.

So voting should be efficient.

And the process of it and us going to vote should be done in a way that is quick and easy for us to do so.

It shouldn't it be made difficult.

And another key element of making voting free and fair, is that it should also be inclusive.

So we talked about in that first lesson that voting should be universal.

All adult citizens should get to vote.

Nobody should be excluded from it.

And so in a democracy, these features, having free and fair elections, excuse me.

Having free and fair elections in a democracy is vital and how we conduct our elections would determine also how strong our democracy is.

And so why else are elections so important? Well first of all, it expresses the will of the majority.

It expresses the will of people.

We vote and therefore we are expressing what it is that we want, okay.

What is it we want in society? It also gives legitimacy to government.

And essentially what that means is that when we vote we give the right to those that win that vote to do as they promised.

It's also a way of determining government.

Can you imagine having a society where you have a government but you've never voted for that government.

Or you've never had the process of putting that government into a position of power.

Whilst in the UK we may not directly vote for them.

We do vote for MPs.

And the party with the most MPs in parliament gets to form government.

It also gives us choice.

So in an election we have multiple parties that make different types of promises.

And that gives the public a choice, a choice as to which programme or which political programme they would like to see come to fruition.

And from that it also encourages engagement.

And again, that is a real key feature of democracy.

Having citizens engaged in the process, encouraged to participate is important.

Because we know that when citizens participate, they are expressing their will and therefore they are also having some form of power.

That power gives them influence.

Allowing citizens to participate and also gives them that power to influence outcomes.

It gives them a voice through representation.

So when we elect our representatives on like a direct democracy, indirect democracy.

When we elect our representatives, they are representing our views and our wishes.

And we give them that mandate.

We give them that responsibility to do so.

And finally, it also gives us a way to hold government accountable.

So having elections, we vote for members of parliament, we vote for our representatives based on what they promised.

And if they fail to meet those promises over the course of their term.

So we have elections every five years so over that five years, if they fail to meet that promise, we can also vote them out.

So that in a sense holds them accountable.

So that is why elections are so important in a democracy.

So how do we determine who wins? I want you to imagine you are in a classroom full of 30 other kids, okay.

And I promise you that we are going to eat cake next lesson.

And as a class you have to decide which cake you want.

Now you can only pick one of the cakes on this list.

Now as you can see there's five cakes to choose from.

They all look very delicious but you can only pick one cake.

Have a think about what might be your choice.

So imagine we've got all the votes in.

You've only selected one cake that you wanted to eat for next lesson.

And these are the results.

Chocolate Fudge Cake got 10 votes, Victoria Sponge Cake got seven, Carrot Cake and Sticky Toffee got five and Lemon Drizzle got three.

Now as you can see, the cake with the most votes was Chocolate Fudge Cake with 35% of the vote.

So next lesson, the whole class, all 30 of us get to eat Chocolate Fudge Cake.

Sounds delicious, right? Well, for 65% of the class, for over half the class, they actually didn't want Chocolate Fudge Cake.

They wanted either Victoria Sponge Cake or Carrot Cake et cetera.

Now essentially, the reason why I showed you this analogy was for you to really understand how we determine who wins.

Now in our electoral system, we determine who wins in a similar way.

As you can see from this example, Chocolate Fudge Cake got the most votes but it did not get a majority of votes.

And so in this scenario, you can see that actually the majority of the class wanted a different outcome.

They wanted a different cake.

And that is essentially how we determine who represents us, how we determine who wins in an election.

So our electoral system is called the first past the post.

Now the first past the post electoral voting system is used in the UK general elections, okay.

And it's also used in local elections.

It is one in which voters indicate on a ballot the candidate of their choice.

And the candidate who receives the most votes wins.

And this is also known as winner takes all.

So as you can see in this image, the horse that crosses the line first wins.

Now that seemed really simple and easy to understand.

Now let's look at it in the wider landscape.

If you think about it across the UK we have 650 areas where we can elect MPs.

Those areas are known as constituencies.

Now each of those constituencies has one MP.

And we get to vote out of a list of candidates who that one MP should be.

Now, if like in our Chocolate Cake scenario, that one MP only gets 35% of the votes and that 35% is the most votes, that MP then represents that whole area.

That is also known as a plurality system where a candidate may not get a majority which is 51% but gets enough votes more than his competitor, okay.

With that in mind, I now want you to think about this.

Now I've got two images here and just for a moment, if you want you can pause this and go and look at the worksheet which actually has it in a bigger format.

But I just want you to just have a look, think and question what are we looking at, at the moment, okay.

So I want you to think about what is it that you're looking at? What does it make you think? And then what does it make you wonder about? And I'm going to talk through my thinking process.

So what I see, what I think and what questions come to mind and what I wonder about.

So I can see from looking at this image that this is a table and a graph showing the election results of 2019.

And it was the general elections which shows the number of votes for each party, the percentage of votes that they received and the numbers of seats in parliament they achieved.

I can also see that on the left here, two parties gained a lot of votes.

So they gained a high percentage of votes.

If you want to note this down in your notepad please do so because you will need this later on to be able to maybe cite some examples.

So as you can see the Conservative Party gained the most votes.

So they gained a vote share of 43.


Labour came second gaining 32.

2% share of the votes.

Now the Liberal Democrats came third place in terms of votes, okay.

So they got quite a bit of votes.

In terms of percentage, they gained 11.


Now, when I see this, what does it make me think? Firstly, I can notice essentially that Labour and Conservative party get a lot more votes across the UK compared to the rest of the parties.

So it seems like, the real contest is between Labour and Conservative.

It also makes me think about the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party where actually the Liberal Democrats have more votes compared to the Scottish National Party.

And so it makes me wonder, it makes me wonder why I can see that the Liberal Democrats, although they have more votes, they have less seats in parliament compared to the Scottish National Party.

Now the reason why that is, is because of our first past the post voting system.

Where in a first past the post system, you have a party that gains the most.

It has a lot of popularity across the nation they are more likely to gain more seats.

So for example, the Conservative Party, even though they've got 43.

6% of the vote share, they gained 56%, more than 50%, so 56% of seats in parliament.

So they gain really strong majority.

So you just need 326% sorry, 326 seats in parliament to get a majority but they got more than that, okay.

So these seats and the amount of votes that they achieved were not the same.

Actually they got more seats compared to the percentage of votes if you look at it in percentages.

Labour however, got close to the same.

So Labour got 32% of share of votes across the UK and then roughly the same amount in percentage in regards to seats so they got around 31%.

But the real disparity, the real difference lies if you look at the Liberal Democrats.

Who got 11.

5% of the share of votes across the UK but only got 1% of the seat share in parliament.

So 11 seats are quite so around roughly 1%.

But Scottish National Party because they were so popular in Scotland.

And there are 54 seats in Scotland to get, they were in the first past the post system in an advantage because of their popularity, that they were able to come first in most of those contests.

And so gained a lot of seats but less votes than some of the other parties.


I just want you now thinking about what we're looking at and what we've seen and what we've discussed around the first past the post system.

And I want you now to pause this video and explain in your opinion, is this a fair system? So just note down three reasons why the first past the post system is either fair or unfair.

And once you've done that, just come back and we're going to go through some of the reasons why it's fair and some of the reasons why it might be considered unfair.

Okay, well done in having to go in that.

And now let's look at some of the key points you could've made.

So is the first past the post system fair? Some say yes, okay.

Why is that? Well firstly, it produced a clear winner, okay.

So it's really easy to know once someone crosses that finishing line or when someone gets the most votes it's clear we know who the winner is.

There's no confusion about that.

And remember, if we look I think back to when we were talking about having free and fair elections and what that looks like, what it looks like is having clarity.

Showing that there is clarity in the process and the outcome.

So having a process where you know who the winner is and there's no dispute, it makes it much fairer.

It's also very simple to understand, okay.

And doesn't cost much to run.

So people know that they only have one vote and therefore that if they are lucky their candidate may win but also their candidate may lose.

But that is a very simple way of deciding.

In a first past the post system results are calculated pretty quickly.

So we know pretty quick as soon after an election or after the polling stations have closed the outcome of those of those votes.

And it also tends to produce a two party system resulting in usually in a single government.

Now as we saw the most popular parties like the Conservative and the Labour Party tend to gain more seats, okay.

Tend to gain a larger vote share across the UK.

And smaller parties don't often get an opportunity through this system to gain that level of votes.

And that usually results in a strong government as a strong and stable government in the sense that that government is able to get a majority of seats.

This system also allows for close bonds between constituents and MPs.

And what that essentially means is that when we vote in an election, we know who our MP is, what they represent and what their platform is.

And there's clarity in that.

And so it creates a strong bond between our MP and the rest of the constituency.

But some people also say, "This is not the best way of deciding who wins an election." Okay.

And the reason being is that only winning votes count.

And so there's a lot of people's votes that are wasted.

And generally what you find is that the elected candidate may not necessarily gain a majority.

And so the majority or actually the public may not support that candidate.

So similarly to our cake example, the majority of the class over 65% didn't particularly want Chocolate Fudge Cake.

And so that whole group of people will be disappointed in the outcome.

And so a first past the post system creates that disadvantage where the majority of the public may not have elected that candidate.

And in reality, it's very hard for MPs or candidates to get more than 50% of the votes.

It's very rare that takes place.

Another disadvantage I guess, from the first past the post system is that encourages tactical voting.

And so the reason it does that is that if you ask someone who's going to vote in an area and you know your candidate is not likely to win, you may choose to vote tactically in the hope that it affects the overall picture.

Smaller parties, like the Liberal Democrats and Green party and other smaller parties are really disadvantaged in this scenario, okay.

In this voting system sorry.

And so actually the people that vote for them and vote for those particular parties, don't necessarily get the level of representation that actually meets the vote share that they had given.

And also one of the other disadvantages is that there are some times, through this system created safe seats.

Meaning there are some areas that has such a high popularity for a particular party or particular candidate that is not likely to change.

Now, that is dangerous and it creates a disadvantage simply because it can lead to voter apathy.

Meaning it can lead to people thinking that there's no point in voting if the seats are safe and it's never going to change.

So those are the kind of advantages and disadvantages of the first past the post system.

And some of the reasons why some people think it's unfair.

So is there an alternative? Is there a better alternative to the system? And there is an alternative, whether you think it's better or not is up for debate.

So the alternative is having a proportional representational system.

What does that actually mean? So a proportional representational system essentially means that the share of votes equals the share of seats gained.

So the proportion of votes received for each political party will also reflect the seats that they gain in parliament.

So if you go back to our cake example, if 35% of people wanted Chocolate Fudge Cake, then 35% of people should get Chocolate Fudge Cake.

But if 23% wanted Victoria Sponge, then 23% of the public should get Victoria Sponge.

So here you have the vote share reflecting the allocation of that particular vote, okay.

So in parliament, each seat counts.

And so if 23% of people voted for the Liberal Democrats then they should get 23% of the seats in parliament.

That essentially is a proportional representational system.

And there's different ways of determining how that proportion is calculated.

So in some ways you can have a quota system where actually you would require candidates to meet a certain threshold, a certain quota.

It could be they need 50% of the votes.

And in order to achieve that, you would ask voters to rank or do preferential voting.

So put their first choice, second choice and third choice.

And in that scenario, that means no votes are wasted.


Or alternatively, you can have a system whereby rather than electing one person in a particular area, you can increase that area and let the group of MPs.

So that actually you have more MPs reflecting different views in that area.

So you have two different ways of determining essentially how to make it a little bit more fairer.

One way focuses on the way votes are distributed and making sure votes aren't wasted.

And another focus on representation, making sure that different views are reflected.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of that? What are the strengths and weaknesses of having that particular system? So one of the keys strengths of a proportional representational system is essentially that fewer of votes are wasted.

Because if you take for instance, a system whereby you have first and second and third preference votes and you distribute those votes.

That means people's votes aren't wasted.

If they don't get their first choice, they might get their second.

It also offers more of a variety of choices for voters in that actually it gives them more options not just one option.

And finally it shows that actually smaller parties who may not necessarily get first place or be the first across that finishing line but may come second in different locations.

It means that they are more represented, okay.

So it gives them more of an opportunity to gain seats and represent their voters in parliament.

So what are the weaknesses? What are the kinds of challenges to this particular system? So one of the challenges is that sometimes you don't necessarily always get a single government.

And it could lead to a coalition government.

Coalition meaning one party working alongside another party to form government.

In 2010, we had the Conservative Party in the UK and the Liberal Democrats joining a coalition to govern.

So they came together cause neither of them gained a majority number of seats in parliament to form government.

So in a coalition government PR systems often result in coalition government.

Now some people see that as a good thing cause it means that actually governments have to start working with different parties and compromising.

And working closely together and collaborating a little bit better.

And others see it as a disadvantage because it sometimes can create conflict and gridlock.

Another weakness is that in certain situations where you have, for example, in terms of having a larger area where you may have multiple representatives for that area.

It means that that close tie between the MP and their constituency is slightly broken, okay.

So that close links between MPs and constituents can be damaged in this situation.

And then because smaller parties have more of an opportunity to get into the mainstream in a proportional representational system, it can need to extremist parties with very extreme and irritable views, gaining popularity.

And then becoming part of that political mainstream which can also be very damaging within a democracy.

So those are the strengths and weaknesses of a proportional representation.

And we've looked at also the kind of strengths and weaknesses of a first past the post system.

What I now would like you to do is have a look at these comprehension questions.

And I want you just to answer those comprehension questions, questions one to four independently.

So in a minute I want to ask you to pause the video and just answer those questions, just to check how much you've learnt from this lesson today.

When you're asked these questions I just want you to make sure you write in full sentences and you try to use the wording of the question in your answer.

And elaborate a little bit more in your answer.

Try not to just give a simple point but develop that point and give an explanation.


So if the question is starting with explain make sure you say why.

So I'm going to give you a moment just to pause the video and complete those comprehension questions.

And then once you're done, just come back and we'll go through some of those answers.

Okay and welcome back.

So let's go through the answers.

So for question one, it asks what is the role of elections in a democracy? So you could have answered in this way.

The role of elections in a democracy is to ensure that the will of the majority is made clear.

This is exercised through voting for a candidate and their political promises.

Question number two, explain the first past the post system.

The first past the post system is a voter system whereby the candidate with the most votes is elected.

This is often known as a plurality system.

So check and cross reference your answer with these answers.

And if you've made any errors, just make a note and correct it on your notepad.

Let's look at question number three.

Explain two criticisms that can be made of the first past of post system.

So this question is asking for two disadvantages of the first past post system.

One criticism of the first past post system is that candidates can be elected with little public support, as a candidate needs to get the most votes, not a majority of votes.

Therefore, the majority of voters who did not elect the candidate may feel unrepresented.

Another criticism of the first past the post system is that it can create areas known as safe seats, which usually elected MP from the same party.

As a result, votes are wasted in these areas and have no impact on the election.

So here you have again two criticisms of the first past the post system.

Now, if your answers are slightly different, just make a note of the answers and responses that are given here.

And also on your worksheet you should have a glossary with some key terminology such as safe seat, first past post, proportional representation.

Go over those key terms, just so you're able to understand what they mean and use it in context.

And the final question asked.

Explain one way a proportional representation system may be fairer.

One way PR may be fair is that seats are awarded depending on the percentage of votes each party wins.

This would mean more parties would have the opportunity to gain seats and as a result, would be more representative of the electorate's view.


Now just double check and cross reference this answer with your own and make any corrections as you see fit.

Right, so we've come to the end of the lesson and just to recap on all the areas that we've learned today.

So we looked at the role of elections in a democracy and why elections are so important in a democracy.

We also looked at the advantages and disadvantages of the voting system we have in the UK.

The first past post system and the proportional representational system.

So you should by now have a really good understanding around the importance of elections in a democracy and the voting systems that we use.

If you want to learn more, feel free to go ahead and do some extra research, okay? So I want to challenge you to a takeaway task.

And in this task all I want you to do is the following.

Firstly, try and find one example of a country that uses PR and one that uses first past the post, okay.

So other than the UK, which other countries use proportional representational systems. Also, can you find examples of parliaments or assemblies in the UK which use PR, okay.

And then finally, try to do some research around the views on proportional representation according to the political parties that I've listed here.

So what do they think about proportional representation? Do they think that it should be used in a general election? So those are your takeaway tasks that you can do just to find out a little bit more about our voting system and to get a better understanding about the strengths and weaknesses of different voting systems. We have now come to the end of the lesson so at this point I just want you to go ahead and complete your quiz.

And come back next lesson where we'll look at the role of the media in a democracy.

Have a great day and I'll see you next lesson.