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General Election 2010 What is a General Election? Why is it important?

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1 General Election 2010 What is a General Election? Why is it important?

2 General Election 2010 On Thursday 6 th May there will be a General Election, the first since 2005. The election was announced by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, on Tuesday 6 th April

3 What is a General Election? Every five years, there has to be an election of MPs (Members of Parliament) to the House of Commons. The UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) is divided into 650 constituencies (also called ‘seats’) which political parties and some ‘independent’ (non-party) people fight to win.

4 What are political parties? They are groups of people who believe in roughly the same ideas of how the country should be run. The main political parties are:  The Labour Party (who are the Government at the moment)  The Conservative Party (who a lot of people think will win the election)  The Liberal Democrats. There are a lot of other political parties who you will hear about through period of the election.

5 How do we decide who wins a constituency? In each constituency, political parties put up ‘candidates’ to be elected. Some people who do not belong to a party stand as ‘independent’ candidates. The person who receives more votes than anyone else wins the seat. The system is called ‘First Past the Post’. Some people say that this system is not fair because someone who gets less than half of the votes can win.

6 Who wins? What does it mean? The political party which wins the most constituencies / seats forms the Government and makes the important decisions on how the country will be run for up to the next five years. The leader of the political party with most seats becomes the Prime Minister and leads the government. Tony Blair when he won the General Election in 1997.

7 Why should people vote? People who vote help to choose the people who run the country. These people decide things which affect everyone, such as how schools, hospitals and buses are run, how much money we pay in tax and how much we give to people who need help. It is important that everyone has a say in who is elected.

8 How will it affect YOU? A new government will be elected. They will decide how money is spent, what sort of education you and young people in the future will receive and what new laws they will bring in which will affect YOUR life. In less than 7 years (and maybe even less than 5 if the voting age is lowered to 16), YOU will be a part of the next General Election. If you don’t use your vote, things may happen which you do not agree with and which you and others could have stopped by thinking about an election and using your vote carefully.

9 Thinking What reasons would you give to an adult to persuade them to vote? Would you bother to vote? Why? Some people think that the voting age should be lowered to 16. Do you think this is a good idea? Why?

10 If you want to find out more… The Hansard Society: Heads Up:’ The Electoral Commission:,, The Department for Children, Schools and Families:, Association for Citizenship Teaching: Citizenship Foundation: British Youth Council: Operation Black Vote: Electoral Reform Society: UK Parliament:,, UK Youth Parliament: Catch 21: UK Office of the European Parliament:

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