Understanding Elections

Understanding Elections



Elections in the UK (Lesson 1)



60 minutes

Understanding Elections

Student Pre-Work

[Assign in the previous class] Spend 10-15 minutes reading about a UK political party [assign these to students so that 2-3 students per class are researching each party]. Find out who the leader is, how the party fared in the most recent election, and make a note of 2-3 main policies. What did the party promise during the election, and what results have they achieved?
  • Conservative
  • Labour
  • Scottish National
  • Liberal Democrat
  • Democratic Unionist
  • Sinn Féin
  • Plaid Cymru
  • Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Ulster
  • Green
  • UKIP


The UK’s Electoral Process (10 mins.)

Watch: An Introduction to Parliament (Video) (8:25)

Class Activities

Note: Elements of this lesson have been adapted from materials on Parliament.uk. Please visit the site for further learning resources and an interactive whiteboard activity.

Voting in the UK (10 mins.)


  • Must be 18+ to vote
  • You go to a polling station to cast your vote for a candidate in your voting area (called a constituency). The winner in each constituency becomes a Member of Parliament (MP), winning a seat for their party in the House of Commons
  • The MP’s job is to represent every member of their constituency
  • The party with the majority (326+) of votes becomes the ruling party. Their leader becomes the Prime Minister
  • Other parties form the opposition
  • If no party has a majority, we have a hung parliament. A minority government or coalition may be formed, or a new election may be called.
  • In the UK, we use the ‘first past the post’ electoral system. This means that the winning party is the party that gets the most votes. The party does not need a majority of votes to win.

Political Parties in the UK (10 mins.)


Call upon students to share their research from the pre-work task.

Which political parties do you know? Who is their leader? What are their main policies? How successful were they in the latest election?

There are 650 MPs in the Houses of Parliament, one for each constituency, plus the Speaker of the House.

Major parties in the UK include:

  • Conservative (David Cameron)
  • Labour (Harriet Harman – acting)
  • Scottish National (Nicola Sturgeon)
  • Liberal Democrat (Tim Farron)
  • Democratic Unionist (Nigel Dodds)
  • Sinn Féin (Gerry Adams)
  • Plaid Cymru (Elfyn Llwyd)
  • Social Democratic and Labour Party (Alasdair McDonnell)
  • Ulster
  • Green (Natalie Bennett)
  • UKIP

Candidates may also be Independent (not aligned with a party).

How Parties Compare (10 mins.)

Solo Activity

Students should work through The Guardian’s What the Parties are Offering You activity to see which party’s ideologies they are most aligned with. While they work through the asset, they should consider the types of policies that political parties create.

Preparing for an Election (15 mins.)

Group Activity

Students get together in small groups. They are forming a political party and need to nominate a group member to stand for a mock election that will be held next class.

Provide each group with the Preparing an Election Campaign (PDF) document. Groups should work through this document, collaborating prior to next class to prepare the required 200 word speech. This speech will be read by the nominated candidate during next class, and an election will be held.

Closing Response

Quick Quiz (5 mins)

[Asset tbd]

How many seats are there in the House of Commons — 650

What is the collective term for the parties who do not hold a majority government, but do have representation in the House of Commons? — The Opposition

Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected to the House of Commons using a system called what? — First Past the Post

Our country is divided into voting areas. What are these called? — Constituencies

What is the name for the location where votes are cast? — Polling Station


Collaborate with your group to complete the ‘Preparing an Election Campaign’ document, creating a short (90 second) campaign speech outlining your policies and telling the class why they should vote in your favour. Your candidate will make this speech next class.




Elections in the UK (Lesson 1)


Key Stage 4


60 minutes

Curriculum Points:

  • the different electoral systems used in and beyond the United Kingdom and actions citizens can take in democratic and electoral processes to influence decisions locally, nationally and beyond

Materials & Preparation


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