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A Guide to the 2010 General Election


A Guide to the 2010 General Election Dr Justin Greaves Department of Politics University of Warwick – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A Guide to the 2010 General Election

A Guide to the 2010 General Election
  • Dr Justin Greaves
  • Department of Politics
  • University of Warwick

Outline of this talk
  • The basics (background and context)
  • What is a swing?
  • What is a hung parliament?
  • The electoral system
  • Opinion polls
  • The national debt (perhaps the main election

So, what are the basics?
  • More than 45 million people aged 18 or above vote
    for a new Member of Parliament (MP) for the area
    in which they live (Constituency)
  • Elections must be held at least every five years
    in Britain up to PM to choose the date
  • Traditionally held on a Thursday

Why a Thursday?
  • One theory about its origins is that people were
    not paid until Fridays and so holding polls on
    Thursdays ensured they were not too drunk to vote

Two controversial issues
  1. Should the voting age be reduced to 16?
  2. Should we introduce compulsory voting (as in

The three main parties
The three party leaders

The TV debates
  • This is the first election in the UK where there
    have been TV debates between the three party
  • Here is a clip from the 2nd debate

Too much celebrity?
  • Is it becoming too much like the X Factor or
    Britains Got Talent?
  • Leaders judged on how good they look on TV?

What is a swing?
  • Swing is a tool which helps explain how elections
    are won and lost
  • In simple terms it is a way of measuring how the
    public's support of political parties changes
    from one election to the next

The calculation
  • Step 1. Add the rise in one party's share in the
    vote to the fall in the second party's share of
    the vote.
  • Step 2. Divide your figure by two. The resulting
    figure is the swing.

An example
  • In the 2005 General Election the Labour Party had
    a lead of 3 over the Conservative Party
  • Lets assume that in Thursdays election, the
    result is a Con lead of 4 over Labour
  • This is a swing of 3.5 (34/2)

What to look out for
  • 1.6 swing against Labour Labour lose their
    overall majority
  • 4.3 swing against Labour The Conservatives
    become the largest party. They would still not
    have an overall majority.
  • 6.9 swing against Labour The Conservatives gain
    an overall majority and therefore form the next
  • (but will a UNS operate?)

What is a hung parliament?
  • If one party has an absolute majority it means
    that it has more seats than all the other parties
    put together (326)

  • If no party has such a majority then there is a
    hung parliament
  • The smaller parties can then join forces to
    out-vote the government
  • This makes it difficult to pass laws

  • There is a good chance of a hung parliament
    resulting from this election
  • The last time it happened was in February 1974

Options in a hung parliament
  • Formal coalition (alliance with another party)
  • Confidence and supply
  • Minority government
  • If none of these options work there would have to
    be another election

Why is it so rare?
  • Hung Parliaments and coalitions happen a lot in
    other countries
  • So why are they so rare in the UK?
  • This is mainly a result of our electoral system

Proportional Representation
  • Many countries have a proportional electoral
    system (eg under PR if a party wins 30 of the
    votes, it will win approx 30 of the seats)
  • It is rare for any one party to get over 50 of
    the vote
  • Therefore, in these countries parties will have
    to work together

First past the post
  • Britain has a first past the post electoral
  • Therefore, 650 constituencies
  • In each one, the candidate who gets the most
    votes wins (even if it is less than 50)
  • EG if the winner gets 36 of the vote they still
    take the seat

  • It is like a horse race
  • The winner of the race is the first to pass a
    particular point on the track

Strange results
  • FPP can throw up strange results
  • A party with 35/40 support can get well over 50
    of the seats
  • The party that wins most votes may not win most
    seats (eg 1974)
  • The Lib Dems could come first in vote share and
    third in seats

Opinion polls
  • You may have seen opinion polls in the media
  • These may only interview 1000 people out of the
    whole population of Britain
  • If the sample is representative these polls
    should be accurate

  • Polls usually have a margin of error of or 3
  • 19 times out of 20 a poll should fall between
    this margin of error

Think, pair, share
  • What could cause an opinion poll to be biased or
    skewed in some way?

National debt and borrowing
  • One of the biggest election issues is the amount
    of money the government is borrowing (and
    Britains national debt)
  • Due to the recession the government had to borrow
    a lot of money

  • One reason was to rescue the banks

  • Another was to pay benefits to those who became
  • And if people are out of work the government also
    loses tax revenue

Party Policy
  • The Labour Party plans to reduce the amount we
    borrow by 50 over four years (starting in 2011)
  • The Conservative Party say this is not enough.
    They want to go cut faster and deeper

Debt statistics
  • Borrowing of 163 billion last year
  • The government forecasts that debt will soar to
    1.1 trillion by 2011

Debt statistics (2)
  • We owe 14,480 for every man, woman and child
  • That's more than 31,254 for every person in
  • Every household will pay 1,898 this year, just
    to cover the interest

Thank you for listening
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