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Key Words and Meanings - Year 12 Politics
  • Democracy and Participation, Political Parties
    Think tanks A body of experts brought together to collectively focus on a certain topic(s) – to investigate and offer solutions to often complicated and seemingly intractable economic, social or political issues. 
    Democratic deficit A flaw in the democratic process where decisions are taken by people who lack legitimacy, not having been appointed with sufficient democratic input or subject to accountability. 
    Lobbyists A lobbyist is paid by clients to try to influence the government and/or MPs and members of the House of Lords to act in their clients’ interests, particularly when legislation is under consideration. 
    Representative democracyA more modern form of democracy through which an individual selects a person (and/or political party) to act on their behalf to exercise political choice. 
    ReferendumA popular vote where the people are asked to determine an important political or constitutional issue directly. 
    Sectional groupA pressure group that represents a specific section of society such as a trade union or an employer's association 
    Promotional groupA pressure group that seeks to promote a cause rather than the interests of its own members 
    Rule of LawA set of principles asserting that all citizens should be treated equally under the law, including government itself. Also means that every citizen is entitled to due process of law and a fair trial. 
    A StateA state refers to a country whose government's jurisdiction over a territory is recognised by other states 
    ElitismA tendency for power to be monopolised by small groups of influential people. Exists mainly within business and finance groups, some trade unions, govt etc. 
    Liberal DemocracyA type of democracy where there is an emphasis on the protection of individual rights and liberties, where the rule of law is strictly adhered to, and where government is limited by enforceable constitutional laws. 
    Parliamentary DemocracyA type of representative democracy where an elected parliament is the source of all political authority and where government is drawn largely from parliament. 
    Direct democracy All individuals express their opinions themselves and not through representatives acting on their behalf. This type of democracy emerged in Athens in classical times and direct democracy can be seen today in referendums. 
    Pressure groupAn association whose purpose is to further the interests of a specific section of society or to promote a particular cause by influencing govt/public/both 
    PluralismDescription of a political system where a wide range of beliefs, ideologies and ideas is tolerated and allowed to flourish. Also implies a system where power is widely dispersed and not concentrated in a few hands. 
    Franchise/suffrage Franchise and suffrage both refer to the ability/right to vote in public elections. Suffragettes were women campaigning for the right to vote on the same terms as men. 
    DemocracyGeneral description of various political systems that are organised on the basis that government should serve the interests of people. Also expected that government should be accountable, in various ways, to the people. 
    Outsider groupsHave no special links with govt but seek to influence decision makers by mobilising public opinion 
    citizenshipmembers of the political community have both rights and responsibilities 
    Athenian democracyoldest form of democracy 
    Political ParticipationOpportunities for and tendencies of the people to become involved in the political process. 
    Insider groupsPressure groups that operate inside the political system through contacts with ministers, MPs, peers and official committees. Regularly consulted by govt. 
    LegitimacyRefers to the degree to which the state or it government can be considered to have the right to exercise power. 
    PowerThe ability of an individual or an institution to force people to do things, whether they wish to or not. 
    AuthorityThe right to exercise power, rather than the exercise of power itself. Authority is granted to rulers or anyone in power by those over whom power is to be exercised. 
    The StateThe state is a collective name for the institutions that administer a country. Normally, these institutions are non-political and are permanent. 
    E-democracyVarious methods by which political opinion and demands are expressed through the use of the internet. 
    One Nation A paternalistic approach adopted by Conservatives under the leadershipof Benjamin Disraeli in the 19th century and continued by David Cameron and Theresa May in the 21st century, that the rich have an obligation to help the poor. 
    New Labour (Third Way)A revision of the traditional Labour values and ideals represented by Old Labour. Influenced by Anthony Giddens, the ‘Third Way’ saw Labour shift in emphasis from a heavy focus on the working class to a wider class base, and a less robust alliance with th 
    FactionalismA tendency within parties to split into different internal groups who hold views that are at variance with the main beliefs of the party. 
    Adversary politicsCircumstance where political parties are engaged in considerable conflict over political issues. Also implies there are strong ideological conflicts in politics 
    New RightCombination of very liberal attitudes towards the free market and capitalist economy and very conservative attitudes to society, morality and the maintenance of law and order. 1970s/1980s 
    Old Labour (social democracy)Key Labour principles embodying nationalisation, redistribution of wealth from rich to poor and the provision of continually improving welfare and state services, which largely rejected Thatcherite/ free-market reforms or a Blairite approach. 
    Party systems The way or manner in which the political parties in a political system are grouped and structured. There are several variants that could apply to the UK, these include one-party dominant, two party, two-and-a-half party and multi-party systems. 
    Big Societyvision of Cameron - the leading force for progress is social responsibility, not state control 
    Consensus politicsWhere two or more major political parties broadly agree on most basic policies. A period when there are few or no major political conflicts. Also implies a lack of strong ideology in politics. 
    constitutional governmentgovernment that is limited by a consitution 
    ParliamentThe name given to representative bodies in many states, including the UK. Has a number of roles including, legislating, calling government to account and representing the community. 
    Parliamentary sovereigntyThe principle that Parliament can make, amend or unmake any law, and cannot bind its successors or be bound by its predecessors. 
    PaternalismActing in the interest of others who are unable to make informed moral decisions, supposedly as fathers do in relation to children. 
  • Electoral Systems, Voter Behaviour and the Media
    Alternative vote2011 referendum to replace FPTP 
    Coalition government A government that is formed of more than one political party. It is normally accompanied by an agreement over policy options and office of state, as was the Conservative-Liberal-Democrat coalition from 2010–2015 
    Additional Member System (AMS)A hybrid electoral system that has two components or elements. The voter makes two choices. Firstly, the voter selects a representative on a simple plurality (FPTP) system then a second vote is apportioned to a party list for a second or ‘additional’ repr 
    Electoral reformA process whereby the electoral system is changed or where there is campaign for such change 
    Electoral manifestoA statement produced by a political party at election times, stating what policies it intends to implement if it gains power. 
    First-past-the-post (FPTP)An electoral system where the person with the most number of votes is elected. Victory is achieved by having one more vote than other contenders – it is also called a plurality system. 
    Plurality systemsElectoral systems where the winning candidate does not require an overall majority but merely needs to win more votes than any other candidate 
    Majority systemsElectoral systems where the winning candidate is required to win an overall majority, ie more than 50% of the votes cast 
    STVmost complex and proportional electoral system. Used in Northern Ireland 
    Electoral mandateRefers to the authority to govern granted to the winning party at an election by the voters. Also suggests that the govt may implement the measures in its election manifesto. 
    Supplementary Vote (SV)This is a majoritarian system. The voter makes two choices (hence the term ‘supplementary’). If one candidate obtains over 50% on the first vote then the contest is complete, if no candidate attains this level, all but the top two candidates remain. Then  
    Closed regional party systemused to elect the European Parliament 
    Absolute majoritywhere an MP gains over 50% of the vote 
    ElectionWhere people are given the opportunity to choose representatives who will form representative institutions and govt 
    Disillusion and apathyA process of disengagement with politics and political activity. Having no confident in politics and politicians as being able to solve issues and make a difference. Manifested in low turnout at elections and poor awareness of contemporary events. 
    Class dealignment The process where individuals no longer identify themselves as belonging to a certain class and for political purposes fail to make a class connection with their voting pattern. 
    Minority governmentA minority government or a minority cabinet is a cabinet of a parliamentary system formed when a political party or coalition of parties does not have a majority of overall seats in the parliament but is sworn into government by the outside support of the 
    Hung parliamentIn a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party (or bloc of allied parties) has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament (legislature). It is also less commonly known as a balanced parl 
    Proportional representationThe principle that parties should be represented in an assembly or parliament in direct proportion to their overall electoral 
  • The Constitution and Parliament
    Rule of LawA set of principles asserting that all citizens should be treated equally under the law, including government itself. Also means that every citizen is entitled to due process of law and a fair trial. 
    Parliamentary governmentA political system where Parliament is a central feature. Government is draw from Parliament and is accountable to Parliament. 
    Uncodified constitutionA set of constitutional rules that exist, but are not contained in a single document. Therefore, the constitution may have a number of different sources. Also implies that constitutional rules are not entrenched or safeguarded. 
    ConstitutionA set of principles that establishes the distribution of power within a political system, relationships between political institutions, the limits of government jurisdiction, the rights of citizens and the method of amending the constitution itself. 
    Unentrenched(entrenched)A constitution with no special procedure for amendment. 
    bicameralisma system where the legislature is divided into two houses 
    Fusion of powersgovernment has power of parliament and can dominate parliament. Implies that government is drawn from parliament and remains part of parliament. 
    Common law Laws made by judges where the law does not cover the issue or is unclear. Conventions Traditions not contained in law but influential in the operation of a political system. 
    Statue law Laws passed by Parliament. 
    AccountabilityMeans that the legislature can call government to account by criticising, requiring justification for policy and seeking explanations of policy. 
    DevolutionThe dispersal of power, but not sovereignty, within a political system. 
    ParliamentThe name given to representative bodies in many states, including the UK. Has a number of roles including, legislating, calling government to account and representing the community. 
    LegislatureThe political institution whose main role is to pass laws 
    The rule of law The principle that all people and bodies, including government, must follow the law and can be held to account if they do not. 
    Uncodified (codified) A constitution not contained in a single written document. 
    Unitary (federal) A political system where all legal sovereignty is contained in a single place. 
    Authoritative works Works written by experts describing how a political system is run, they are not legally binding but are taken as significant guides. 
    House of CommonsThe primary chamber of the UK legislature, directly elected by voters. 
    House of Lords The second chamber of the UK legislature, not directly elected by voters. 
    Secondary legislationPowers given to the Executive by Parliament to make changes to the law within certain specific rules. 
    Executive The collective group of Prime Minister, Cabinet and junior ministers, sometimes known as ‘The Government’. 
  • The Executive and Relations between Institutions
    Rule of LawA set of principles asserting that all citizens should be treated equally under the law, including government itself. Also means that every citizen is entitled to due process of law and a fair trial. 
    Judicial reviewA process undertaken by senior courts where judges are required to interpret, re-interpret or clarify constitutional rules. They take place in response to appeals by citizens or associations. 
    Elective dictatorshipRefers to the idea that, once elected, government in the UK has uncontrolled power. This applies even though governments in the UK do not win a majority of votes un elections and may enjoy only a small HoC majority. 
    Salisbury Convention The convention whereby the House of Lords does not delay or block legislation that was included in a government’s manifesto. 
    Government departmentA part of the executive, usually with specific responsibility over an area such as education, health or defence. 
    Royal prerogative A set of powers and privileges belonging to the monarch but normally exercised by the Prime Minister or Cabinet, such as the granting of honours or of legal pardons. 
    Cabinet governmenta system of government where the cabinet is the central policy-making body 
    Minister An MP or member of the House of Lords appointed to a position in the government, usually exercising specific responsibilities in a department. 
    Prime-ministerial governmentPolitical circumstances in which the prime minister dominates policy making and the whole machinery of government. 
    Political leadershipRefers to all individuals who hold some power within a political system. Refers not only to govt, but also to leading members of other parties and political associations. 
    civil service neutralitythe civil service must retain political neutrality 
    Executive The collective group of Prime Minister, Cabinet and junior ministers, sometimes known as ‘The Government’. 
    Core executiveThe name for the collective identity of central government. 
    Cabinet The Prime Minister and senior ministers, most of whom lead a particular government department. 
    European Union (EU) A political and economic union of a group of European countries. 
    Ultra vires Literally ‘beyond the powers’. An action that is taken without legal authority when it requires it. 
    Supreme Court The highest court in the UK political system. 
    Political sovereignty The political ability to exercise sovereignty – i.e. sovereignty in practice. 
    judicial activismthe practice of some higher courts and judges in actively seeking to assert the rights of citizens and limit the power of government 
    Four freedoms (EU) The principle of free movement of goods, services, capital and people within the EU’s single market. 
    Judicial independenceThe principle that judges should not be influenced by other branches of government, particularly the Executive. 
    Civil libertiesThe rights and freedoms that citizens enjoy in relation to the state and its laws. E.g. Right to a fair trial 
  • Liberalism, Conservatism and Socialism
    One Nation A paternalistic approach adopted by Conservatives under the leadershipof Benjamin Disraeli in the 19th century and continued by David Cameron and Theresa May in the 21st century, that the rich have an obligation to help the poor. 
    New Labour (Third Way)A revision of the traditional Labour values and ideals represented by Old Labour. Influenced by Anthony Giddens, the ‘Third Way’ saw Labour shift in emphasis from a heavy focus on the working class to a wider class base, and a less robust alliance with th 
    ConservatismA state of mind and a political movement that is naturally averse to excessive change and reform. It is sceptical about strongly held political views and generally supports the retention of traditional institutions and values. 
    Classical liberals Classical liberalism is a philosophy developed by early liberals who believed that individual freedom would best be achieved with the state playing a minimal role. 
    LiberalismPlaces freedom, rights and tolerance high on its scale of values. 
    SocialismPlaces such values as equality of opportunity, social justice and collectivism high on its scale of values. It is either opposed to free-market capitalism or proposes measuers to moderate the undesirable effects of capitalism. 
    New Right There are two elements – (i) the neo (or new) Conservatives who want the state to take a more authoritarian approach to morality and law and order and (ii) the neo-liberals who endorsed the free-market approach and the rolling back of the state in people’ 
    A mixed economyA programme of nationalization created a mixed economy, an economy made up of both publicly and privately owned industries and enterprises. The Attlee government set out to nationalize what it called the commanding heights of the economy. These industries 
  • Feminism and Nationalism
    NationalisationThe extension of state control over the economy through the transfer of industries from private ownership to public ownership 
    FeminismThe advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.  

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