Skip to main content
bbc.co.uk
Home
TV
Radio
Talk
Where I Live
A-Z Index

BBC News

BBC Election 2005

Watch the BBC Election News
SERVICES
  • Election news alerts
  • Email services
  • Mobiles/PDAs
  • News for your site
Last Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Glossary of election terms
Confused by those election phrases trotted out by politicians and commentators? Cut through the waffle with this handy guide:

Absentee ballot A vote cast by someone who cannot reach a polling station. Can be postal or by proxy (see below).

Agent A person who represents candidates in their dealings with the electoral authorities and runs their campaigns.

Ballot Another term for vote.

Ballot box Sealed box with a slit in the lid, into which voters place their ballot papers.

Ballot paper Paper containing a list of all candidates standing in a constituency. Voters mark their choice with a cross.

Battlebus A vehicle used by a party to transport its leader or other senior figures around the country to rallies or to meet the people.

Boundary Commission The body which reviews constituencies every 8-12 years to make sure they represent current population patterns. Widespread changes in Scotland in the wake of the creation of a Scottish Parliament mean they have had a reduction in seats.

Budget The government's tax-raising and spending plans, outlined once a year by the chancellor of the exchequer.

By-election An election held between general elections, usually because the sitting MP has died or resigned.

Cabinet The group of senior ministers at the head of the government.

Candidate Someone putting themselves up for election. Once Parliament has been dissolved, there are no MPs, only candidates.

Canvassing During a campaign, active supporters of a party ask voters who they will vote for and try to drum up support for their own candidates.

Coalition When two or more parties govern together, when neither has an overall majority. Coalitions are very rare in Westminster; the last was the administration led by Winston Churchill during the Second World War. The Liberals propped up the last years of the Labour Government of 1974-9, but did not actually take a part in its running.

Constituency The geographical unit which elects a single MP. There will be 646 in the UK after the election.

Deposit 500 paid by candidates or their parties to be allowed to stand. It is returned if the candidate wins 5% or more of the votes cast.

Devolution The delegation of powers to other parliamentary bodies within the UK, specifically, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies.

Dissolution of Parliament The act of ending a Parliament.

Election expenses Candidates are only allowed to spend a limited amount of money on their individual campaign. Accounts must be submitted after the poll proving they did not exceed this limit.

Electoral register A list of all those in a constituency entitled to vote. Also known as electoral roll.

Exit poll A poll asking people how they have voted just after they have left the polling station.

First past the post Term used to describe the UK's parliamentary election system. It means a candidate only needs a simple majority - more votes than his or her rivals - to be elected.

Franchise The right to vote. Now available to those over 18 and on the electoral register.

General election Election at which all seats in the House of Commons are contested. General elections must take place at least every five years, but are usually held after about four years on a date chosen by the prime minister.

Hung parliament If after an election no party has an overall majority, then parliament is said to be "hung". The main parties will then try to form a coalition with one or more of the minor parties.

Landslide The name given to an election which one party wins by a very large margin. Famous landslides in UK elections include Labour's victory in 1945, the Conservative win in 1983 and the election which brought Tony Blair to power in 1997.

Manifesto A public declaration of a part