How do elections work and why should we vote? (part 1 of 2)

How do elections work and why should we vote? (part 1 of 2)


TV voice: Call this number to make the goat eat hay, or call this number to make the
goat eat cakes. It’s your last chance to vote. Narrator Brian: I see you’re voting there, Eddie? Eddie: Hey? Nah. This isn’t voting. It doesn’t mean anything apart from whether
the goat gets to eat hay or cakes. Brian: It’s still a kind of voting though, Eddie. It’s trying to reach a fair decision by letting people register their opinion. This is democracy. Though most democracies don’t feed éclairs to a goat. Eddie: No, they’re giving him hay. I voted for cakes. That’s rubbish, but I suppose my vote doesn’t really mean much if there are hundreds of other people voting. Brian: Well, if you look at it like that, you might as well not bother doing anything. Just sit in your room playing Nintendo Playboys. Eddie: Nintendo Playboys, yeah. Brian: Look, if people didn’t have the right to vote they’d have no say in how the country was run, and in some parts of the world, people are willing to die fighting for the chance to vote. Eddie: So we’re not talking about goats anymore, are we? Brian: No, we’re not. Eddie: OK, so what’s the point of voting in a general election? There’s millions of people voting then, so my vote makes even less difference. You don’t know what politicians are talking about half the time. Brian: What? You mean when they go, ‘With all due respect,’ ‘In real terms,’ blah, blah, blah, in that sort of way? Eddie: Yeah, that’s the one. Brian: Mmm. Perhaps if I show you what happened in the 2005 general election, you’ll see how voting makes a difference. General elections give the people who vote, the electorate, a chance to vote for a new representative for their area. The country is divided into areas called constituencies, and the person who wins the vote in a constituency is a Member of Parliament, or MP. Let me take you back and show you what happened in the 2005 election. Brian: Although everyone knows the general election is coming, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, makes the formal announcement on April the 5th. He asks the Queen to dissolve, or suspend, Parliament and sets the date for the election day as May the 5th, just one short month away. Tony Blair: I and my colleagues will be out every day, in every part of Britain, talking to the British people about our driving mission for a third term. Brian: Six days later, Parliament is dissolved. This means that all the old MP’s who won last time now have to campaign to get re-elected. Eddie: Or start looking for a new job. Narrator Brian: That’s right. Here, in Watford, Claire Ward is hoping to hold onto her seat. Eddie: My seat held onto me this morning. It was dead weird. What happened was… Brian: Pardon? Eddie: Well, there was chewing gum on it. Brian: Mmm. Claire’s seat is her job as a Member of Parliament for Watford, which she’ll lose if she doesn’t get enough votes. Claire Ward: People often say, ‘What will you do for me if I vote for you?’ and sometimes it’s a specific thing that they want, or it’s general. They want to know if they are going to have a good economy: ‘Will your party, will you, help to create a good economy, lots of jobs? What will you do with the health service, what will you do for education?’ Brian: Claire is up against four other would-be MPs Each is trying to convince the people of Watford that he or she is the best person to represent their interests, both in Watford and for the country. Eddie: How do they choose between them? Brian: Some are worried about local issues. Others want a candidate who will represent their views on national and international issues. Some people don’t vote for the MP but for the party they belong to. Or if people don’t think that an MP has done a great job, they might feel it’s time for a change. Eddie: So, I could give someone the sack just by voting. Claire Ward, I’m coming in to get ya! Please don’t swear! Brian: Like I said, voters are also thinking about the different political parties the candidates belong to. Some people vote for the same party all their lives because they believe in its values and philosophy. In Watford the three largest parties all have candidates standing for election, and there are also candidates from the UK Independence Party and from the Green Party. Eddie: Yeah, but what if I don’t know anything about a political party. How do I know what they might do? Brian: Each party has an election manifesto: a list of things that it promises to do if it gets into power.

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