The language of elections

by Liz Walter​
On May 7th, citizens of the UK will be going to the polls (having an election) to decide who will form the next government. This kind of election is known as a general election.

The country is divided into 650 areas, called constituencies. Each constituency elects a member of parliament (MP) to sit in the House of Commons, which is the elected lower chamber. The unelected upper chamber is the House of Lords.

In the UK, we use a system called first past the post, where the person with the largest number of votes in each constituency is the winner. In a safe Labour/Conservative, etc seat, where there is a large majority for a particular party, a vote for a different party is therefore essentially a lost vote, unlike with a system of proportional representation, where every vote counts towards the number of MPs a party will have.

Before an election, each party will prepare a manifesto, a document which gives a description of what the party will do if it wins. Politicians will put a lot of effort into their election campaign, often helped by party members or other supporters. Ordinary political activists are often referred to as grass roots supporters or simply the grass roots.

Senior politicians often spend a lot of time travelling around the country on the campaign trail, particularly trying to persuade floating voters, also known as swing voters – people who are not loyal to one particular party, but who change their vote according to issues that matter to them at the time of the election. They will also be active in marginals – constituencies where the current MP has a very small majority.

On the day of the election, people go to the polling stations in order to cast their vote. They put an ‘x’ on the ballot paper next to the person they want to elect, and then put the paper into the ballot box. It is also possible to have a postal vote.

The votes are then collected and taken to be counted. The results are declared by an official known as the returning officer. If the result is very close, the loser may demand a recount, where all the votes must be counted again.

Then, if one party has an overall majority (more than 50% of MPs), it can form a government. If there is a hung parliament (with no party having more than 50%), the biggest party can try to govern on its own, or parties may join together to form a coalition, such as the present one between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

12 thoughts on “The language of elections

  1. Pingback: Angielski na wybory – cz. 1 | UKpolitics po polsku – polityka w UK i brytyjska polityka zagraniczna

  2. ANNA stb

    Great! Marvellous! This information is cut out for all people keen to participate actively in the elections not only by voting but also by supporting dialogues referred to elections! The best shall win!

  3. Barenya

    Hi. would like to add a word related to election.
    Canvass (for something): To ask people for their support in an election by going around an area and talking to them.

  4. Pingback: Teksty tematyczne do nauki słownictwa. | Kramik z angielskim

  5. Could someone amend the Cambridge Dictionary definition of “transponder” which says that aircraft are required by law to carry transponders, which isn’t true; they are required only in controlled airspace.
    Also, at the bottom of each webpage of Cambridge Dictionaries Online is the word “memrise” which I presume is a misspelling of “memorise”.

  6. Claudio Silveira

    Fantastic! Very useful information. Could you tell me if there are “The language of…” another subjects? Thanks a lot.

  7. Pingback: Topical lexis | ELT Infodump

Leave a Reply