Ten things about… politics in the UK
29 April 2010

The UK is in the middle of an election campaign. The vote will be on Thursday May 6. Read on to find out how our political system works.


  • A General Election is when everyone in the UK can vote for a national Government. People in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own governments but these do not control everything. So people there vote in general elections as well as those for their own governments.
  • The UK is divided into 650 areas of around 65,000 people. These are called constituencies. Each constituency will elect one person to the UK Parliament. That person is called a Member of Parliament.
  • The voting system in the UK is called “first past the post”. This means that the winner in each constituency is the person with the most votes. Some politicians would like to change this.
  • The political party with the most MPs will form a Government. The UK system means that one party can usually form a government by itself without help from other MPs.
  • There are three main political parties in the UK. Labour has been in power since 1997 and is more left-wing. The Conservatives are the main opposition party, and are more right-wing. The third party is the Liberal Democrats, who have had the smallest number of Members of Parliament for many years.
  • This election is very unusual because all three main parties are getting the same amount of support. People think this is because voters are angry with politicians. Another reason is that the three party leaders have taken part in televised debates with each other for the first time. After the first television debate support for the Liberal Democrats grew much bigger.
  • UK elections are always held on a Thursday. After the voting stations close, most areas start counting votes immediately. There are television programmes on election night which show the results as they come in. Lots of people stay up until very late to watch these. All these programmes have a “swingometer”. This shows how political parties are winning or losing support.
  • When it is obvious which party has won the election, the leader will go to see the Queen. She will then formally ask him to become Prime Minister and form a Government.
  • When the ruling party has changed in the election, the new Prime Minister will then move into his official residence and offices at 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister. The previous Prime Minister and family will move out in a hurry. The new Prime Minister will then begin to choose members of his party to form a Government.
  • It is not common for two parties to work together to form a Government, but it is possible that this will happen after this election.


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