Political Engagement
6 pieces of random political jargon to remember

Learning these words and phrases will help you to follow along with Parliament debates and meetings on issues that have an impact on you:

1. Sunset Clause

Unfortunately the name sounds far more exotic than the meaning.  You will find Sunset Clauses written in certain pieces of legislation passed through parliament. A Sunset Clause is basically a clause written within a piece of law which has an expiry date.  Sunset Clauses are used when creating new laws to give Parliament the opportunity to decide whether the clause is still relevant at a future date. If no action is taken before the clause expiry date, the clause will no longer be part of the law.

2. Ping Pong

In this case Ping Pong has less to do with table tennis and more to do with the process of passing a new law through Parliament. A Bill must be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it becomes law. When one House makes amendments to a Bill, the Bill has to be passed over to the other House to be checked and then back again, until both Houses are in agreement about every clause in the Bill. This process of going back and forth between the Houses is referred to as Ping Pong as it is very similar to the way two players hit the ball back and forth during a game.

3. Hung Parliament

Sounds a bit sinister, however this term simply refers to a situation where a General Election takes place and there is no clear winner. If no single political party wins the majority of seats in a General Election this is known as a Hung Parliament. In this situation, the previous government could remain in place while political parties negotiate to form a coalition government.

4. Give Way

Much like in driving, an MP will sometimes ‘Give Way’ to another MP while they are speaking in the House of Commons, to allow that MP to interrupt and add any points they want to add. An MP cannot interrupt another MP without permission. The MP who is speaking must give permission for another MP to talk by sitting down and agreeing to Give Way.

5. Free Vote

This might sound like a strange expression as we usually think of voting as being free, however  when votes take place between MPs or Members of the House of Lords they are sometimes asked to vote in a particular way by their Party Whip. A free vote refers to a situation where MPs or Lords have not been asked to vote a particular way by their Party and can vote however they choose to.

6. Crossing the floor

If an MP decides to switch political parties it is known as crossing the floor.  The reason for this is that members of the same political party sit together within the House of Commons, with the government party sitting on the right of the chamber and the opposition parties sitting on the left. If you switch political parties you could literally have to cross the floor of the chamber to sit with your new party – hence the expression ‘crossing the floor’.