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AS and A Level: United Kingdom

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How to become a successful politics student

  1. 1 Enjoy the subject – Politics is all around you so make sure you watch the news, read newspapers and look online at what is happening in the world. Sign up for updates from news organisations.
  2. 2 Read around the subject – There are lots of political books that will help you to gain a wider perspective of the subject, these range from autobiographies of past Prime Ministers to how varying British parties have developed.
  3. 3 Watch TV – There are lots of politics programmes which will help up to understand how politics works in reality and help to gain your own examples.
  4. 4 Make sure you know enough for the exam – Remember you will always need to know and be able to understand more than the limitations of any specification.
  5. 5 Use political vocabulary correctly – Try explaining new words and concepts to friends and family so that you get used to the using the new language.

Five things to remember when answering essay style questions

  1. 1 Make sure you focus on the question being asked. It is tempting to include everything you know in an answer but the test is what you select in relation to the question.
  2. 2 Ensure you understand what is meant by the ‘command word’ – Every question contains a specific command such as ‘Distinguish between...’, ‘To what extent...?’, ‘How effectively...?’, ‘Discuss’.
    Learn what is expected for each command word.
  3. 3 Make sure you have planned your answer so that you have a clear structure. You need to define three or four areas to be dealt with systematically. Remember that each point or area or discussion should be easy to identify.
  4. 4 Provide relevant evidence to illustrate points being made – Students often struggle to get the right balance between theory and evidence, either making their answers over theoretical or just writing one example after another. You must remember to use the evidence to support claims you making.
  5. 5 Make sure you have explored different viewpoints, theories and concepts as this will help to make sure that your answer is balanced. Do not allow your answer to be subjective.

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  1. 'Britain is in desperate need of electoral reform. The FPTP system is undemocratic.' Discuss.

    Voters also make second and third choices and if no MP reaches the quota, the MP with the least votes is eliminated and the voter's second choice is counted instead. This continues until one MP has 50% + 1 vote, in which case they become the MP for that constituency. This is much more representative than FPTP as this system elects a candidate who has the majority of that constituency's support. It is also easier to show preferences to your best and worst candidate which means, there would be an easier way to vote tactically while getting your first preferences across too.

    • Word count: 2933
  2. Using the example of a single selected political leader, explore the potential of the 'psychology of leadership' in explaining how the responses, drives and decisions of leaders are influenced by the experiences of their past.

    In this report it will be argued that the inspiration for two of Thatcher's main policies in office came from her young life and the years prior to her becoming Britain's first female Prime Minister. Firstly this report will focus on her attempts to turn the Conservative party into a more merit based party and secondly it will look at the impact Thatcher's childhood religious upbringing had on her economic policy while British Prime Minister. Thatcher & reform of the Conservative Party Almost thirty years after the event, Margaret Thatcher's surprise win of the 1975 Conservative party leadership race might not seem as a significant event in 2003 as it did at the time.

    • Word count: 2182
  3. The comparison of the US President and the British Prime Minister appears from the onset, to provide some interesting differences since the President holds the position of Head of State as well as Head of Government.

    The President can not though, expect such favorable treatment from his party, as no direct link exists between he and his party colleagues in Congress, a situation created by the 'separation of powers', a primary intention of the Founding Fathers when writing the Constitution to prevent executive dominance. The British Prime Minister also has, at his disposal, a powerful Whip system to maintain party loyalty. British MPs are faced with the threat of losing career prospects within government, temporary suspension, the enmity of their colleagues, failure to be selected by their constituency party, and the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the party.

    • Word count: 2980
  4. Explain the Parliamentary stages through which government bills must pass before becoming law.

    Bills generally consist of "clauses" - which become "sections" in the resulting Act - and "Schedules". The first step is the formal first reading. There is no debate or decision. A "dummy" copy of the bill is placed to the House on the day of presentation. Once it has been presented, each bill is allocated a bill Number. Each time the bill is re-printed (for example, after the committee stage), it is given a new number. This First Reading stage also forms the House's order to print the bill, which is done for the House by the Stationery Office.

    • Word count: 2099
  5. The relationship between the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

    Individual Ministerial Responsibility refers to the fact that ministers are directly responsible to Parliament for their departments and personal behaviour, with each department being answerable through the Permanent Secretary to the Minister. Parliament acts as a scrutineer, holding ministers to account, and they often have to protect themselves in the face of policy failures and mismanagement. This has been a problem in several cases, especially when there are negative consequences resulting from their actions. For example, escapes of information, such as the Jo Moore email following September 11th caused transport secretary Stephen Byers to reconsider his position, as did disasters such as the Rail Track failure.

    • Word count: 2258
  6. Where does the decision making power lie in the British executive: with the Prime Minister, the Cabinet or the Civil service?

    The definition of the actors in the essay gives us a population of actors to focus upon, but no basis upon which to judge the allocation and relative magnitude of power. Power in the context of making decision should be judged on three criteria; the importance of the decision influenced, the strength of influence and the number of decisions made. The process of power quantification and analysis is complicated by external and internal factors. External agencies intrude into the aggregate power base of the identified actors and therefore the sum power fluctuates, this outward flow of power is important as some actors may lose disproportionately more power after certain developments.

    • Word count: 2645
  7. What Ways Did The Liberal Government Implement Social And Welfare Reforms 1906-1911 Bring About Conflict With The House of Lords?

    There appeared to be nothing that the Liberals could do to counter the House of Lord's actions. When in 1908 the Lords rejected the Licensing Bill, designed to cut down the number of Public Houses, which were seen to be a large cause of Poverty in Britain at the time, Campbell-Bannerman fumed and warned the Lords that if they continued to reject all the reforms set by the Liberals then he would take measures to reduce their powers. However, the Liberals managed to squeeze the Old Age Pensions Bill through the Lords, as it was a Finance Bill, the bill meant that a larger majority of the elderly could qualify for a state pension.

    • Word count: 2512
  8. How Democratic is the New Russian Constitution?

    The effect being that the system has moved from ruling by decree to governing by law. For democracy, it is important to have a plurality of opinions and influential groups in society not just one group motivated by self-interest and heavily controlled by their centre imposing their view on others like in the case of the communist party (CPSU) who had these powers through the old constitution in Russia. For democracy, it was essential to first remove the monopoly of power held by the CPSU.

    • Word count: 2441
  9. Draft a memorandum to the government evaluating the merits and demerits of differing reform options for the composition and powers of the House of Lords

    The majority of other second legislative chambers in liberal democracies are elected or are partly elected and part nominated. Until 1999 the House of Lords was comprised of a majority of unelected hereditary members and a minority of nominated members. In 1999, the right of most hereditary peers (which by definition are not democratic and not representative) to sit and vote in the Lords was abolished; leaving the Lords with a majority of nominated and no democratically elected members. Before 1997, the then labour party, in opposition to the Conservative government, pledged that when it came to power it would reform the House of Lords, regarding the role of the unelected as incompatible with liberal democracy.

    • Word count: 2212
  10. Which do you consider to be the more powerful chief executive in his or her own country: The British Prime Minister or the President of The United States?

    In contrast, the United States operates a separation of powers. The three branches, as the name suggests, are separate bodies with their own autonomy. The President and his staff constitute the executive branch of Government, who in modern times are mainly responsible for initiating policy. However, Congress (the legislature) is given constitutional responsibility for making policy. This is a severe limitation since the President is only able to submit proposals, which can easily be rejected, or at best modified, by Congress. Unlike the Prime Minister, the President cannot coerce a stubborn legislature to submit to his will.

    • Word count: 2098
  11. How powerful is the Prime Minister?

    The official guidance published by the Cameron government in the form of the Cabinet Manual (2011) describes the PM as the head of government, chief adviser to the sovereign and chair of the cabinet. The PM is thus responsible for appointing and dismissing, promoting and demoting all government ministers, orchestrating the cabinet committee system, and the overall organisation of the executive and the allocation of functions between ministers and departments. The manual describes the cabinet as ?the ultimate decision making body of government,? while the PM is said to have a ?unique position of authority? and ?will usually take the

    • Word count: 2321
  12. Should Britain adopt a written constitution?

    An important question that often rises is ?Should Britain adopts a written constitution?? This has always been the topic of debate and thus very controversial. Many of Britain?s population believe that there is no important reason to form a written constitution when it has been working perfectly fine so far. Some believe that there is no much difference whether the documents are codified or not. The consequences are not huge. As long as the state is in a good shape and has a stable government, many don?t see a reason to for the need of a written constitution.

    • Word count: 2616
  13. Critically assess the extent to which there is a crisis in participation in UK politics

    Whether or not voter apathy is responsible for a decline in turnout is an important question, there are of course other reasons for the low participation levels as apparent in the 2001 election; ?The low turnout at the last election was not down to apathy but because non-voters made a positive decision to abstain suggests a new report from the Hansard Society? (IPSOS MORI 2001). Reasons for abstinence may include a lack of knowledge amongst the young or a view of similarity between the two parties by the electorate, also the idea prevalent here was that not voting was a vote in itself.

    • Word count: 2437
  14. Evaluate the effectiveness of the various ways in which participation and democracy could be strengthened in the UK? (25)

    The advantage of this, aside from increasing the practicality of voting, is that, with the vote being recorded on a computerised register, multiple votes from the same elector can be prevented. However, by increasing the availability of polling stations, the cost of administration also needs to be taken into account, especially if doing this will not have a profound effect, in which case it may not be worth the money and effort, which would be used elsewhere. Also, the difficulty in estimating the security of a system of voting with a central computerised register is another thing that must be considered.

    • Word count: 2907
  15. "Constitutional reform had gone too far, or not far enough?" Discuss

    Britain therefore needs to stop and see if the system is working, before any further/additional-and perhaps unnecessary-changes are made. One of several major constitutional reforms that the Conservative party are opposed to/believes that it is a step too far, is having a codified (written) constitution. This codified constitution would to some extent limit government power, which the Conservatives are very much against; preferring strong government. The party also believe that an uncodified constitution allows it to evolve gradually and naturally over time, ensuring that it suits that particular time period. For example, if the constitution would have been codified one hundred years ago, then the women of today would not be able to vote.

    • Word count: 2479
  16. British policies that have taken place since the end of the Second World War.

    They believe that democratic change is the way forward to succeeding in society, this usually means voting will be used to determine what changes are made. Social reformism believes that the government should interfere with the running of society and that the large industries should all is state owned. Another one of their ideas is for everyone to have equal opportunities, also a part of this is the belief that if you have a big income that you should be taxed according to this.

    • Word count: 2332
  17. Human Rights Legislation and Citizens of the UK

    For example; when someone is abused, because of the UN Declaration of Human Rights they ensure that action will be taken to prevent it from happening again. When Society didn?t have this act people where able to get away with many different things because they were from a high class, had money or simply because nobody cared, now action can be taken and will be taken regardless to their diversity. Other examples of the treatment of prisoners and the commutation of the death sentence.

    • Word count: 2262

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