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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. Discuss the view that the cabinet is of little importance in the British system of government.

    Disputes between senior members can also be aired in Cabinet meetings and planning policy for the future. To this end, the role of the cabinet can still be seen to be important, as it is a place for the top ranking members of the government to come together and plan the future for the country on an open scale. The planning for the iraq war took place at a cabinet level However, many people see it more as a place for agreement of policy that is decided elsewhere rather than a place for actual debate to take place.

    • Word count: 1104
  2. To what extent has the coalition strengthened the House of Commons?

    The presence of a coalition in the House of Commons represents both a strength and a weakness. One advantageous side is the rejuvenation of the institution. It also means that there are going take place more debates, investigations of the future possible laws. Therefore, there will not be more situations such as in 1983 when the Conservatives under Thatcher had a majority of 144 seats, meaning that some laws, maybe not the best ones or maybe needing the ones that would need rectifications could be passed without being questioned, and even if the opposition would have said anything, the Tories may not have paid attentions due to their strong mandate.

    • Word count: 1039
  3. How successful was the Labour Government in implanting devolution in the UK after 1997?

    own election and Scottish prime minister, this can also be argued this is the case in Northern Ireland with has less powers but still has helped deal with the deficit. However it can now also be argued that devolution has created a democratic deficit post 1997 in England itself with an average Scottish MP being more powerful than an English as he/she can vote on National and country matters which is the right an English MP does not have. This problem has been famous under the West Lothian question 'If power over Scottish affairs is devolved to a Scottish Parliament,

    • Word count: 1189
  4. Referendums present a more democratic form of participation than the opportunity to vote in elections - discuss

    Referendums are true democracy, and as a device of direct democracy, they give the general public direct and unmediated control over the government's decisions. Those who argue in favour of the use of referendums claim that they strengthen democracy, and opinions are expressed directly rather than via polticians interpretation of their views, giving the government an up to date knowledge of what citizens want between elections. The most noticable disadvantage to this argument is that it weakens parliament, as it is substituting parliamentary democracy.

    • Word count: 748
  5. To what extent are the biggest pressure groups the most successful ones?

    They therefore try and support popular pressure groups. For example if the TUC who have about 7 million members publically support a political party at election time that political party would see a increase in number of people potentially voting for them. Equally if the TUC publically removed their support from a political party, that political party's popularity would decrease. There have been numerous examples of when the government has changed its mind because of the large amount of public support behind a campaign. The Gurkha campaign in 2008 was backed by a huge section of society, the government were at first very reluctant to allow Gurkha's to settle in the UK.

    • Word count: 1060
  6. To what extent have constitutional reforms since 1997 reduced the powers of the UK government

    gave to many powers away and they would fight to claim them back. The coalition agreement focuses a lot on constitutional reform and in their 20 months and 20 days in power they have gone through a incredible amount of constitutional reform, heavily influenced by the lib dem side of the coalition. The Blair government was elected on a manifesto which included the promise of devolution. Devolution is a process of constitutional reform where power, but not legal sovereignty is distributed to local institutions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Therefore setting up, the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland assembly Labour, this was seen as a very popular policy by the elector and helped them secure a majority of 179.

    • Word count: 2010
  7. What does it take to change the United Kingdoms constitution?

    In 1991 the Labour party produced a detailed Constitution for the UK and since then many constitutional character statutes have been published adding to the support. It appears that there has been a gradual shift towards UK having a written constitution; a written constitution would just be the subsequent step. Furthermore, Britain is one of the only democracies that does not have a written constitution. There may be a great deal of problems needing to be addressed but we cannot be said to know what our constitution actually is, much less to understand it fully, until we have attempted to enact it.

    • Word count: 2034
  8. To what extent is Parliament representative?

    However, this system doesn't necessarily mean that representation of the public is achieved. Within the House of Commons, there is a distinct majority of white middle-class, middle aged men who have had public school and Oxbridge education. If representation means that Parliament has to represent the people within a smaller scope, this shows that the reality of Parliament and the reality of the British public are extremely disparate, since only 7% of the British public have actually attended public school. Furthermore, the reality of the House of Lords is even further from the reality of the public, since these peers are appointed, and not elected, so they do not even represent a cross-section

    • Word count: 1584
  9. To what extent does parliament control the executive power?

    Moreover, the government ministers also have civil servants and advisers to brief them and to research recent issues. MPs are simply trying to protect the government and citizens from undesirable policy outcomes, (for example, Parliament tried to agree upon a EU Council meeting, efficient industrial action, better school transport and armed forces pay, 7th December 2011.), but their "scrutiny" just appears ineffective when it is almost always the executive that sets the motion/topic for debates. Moral may often be low, as well, within the opposition party (since effectively they were the ones defeated after the election), in essence opposition members may see little point in turning up just to be defeated again by a majority parliament.

    • Word count: 1477
  10. Free essay

    Compare and Contrast the different styles of recent British Prime Ministers.

    Thatcher used called as innovator and mobiliser and many of changing the agenda associated with her personally. In addition, she has been called as "Weather Maker" who transformed British politics. One of those changed policies including that she did much to reduce the power of trade unions, lower taxes, inflation and privatisation in the United Kingdom. All of these policies achieved by under her strong standards and her leadership style. In 1979 before Falklands War, she has no confidence of cabinet.

    • Word count: 1071
  11. How might the House of Lords be reformed to make it more effective?

    Firstly, the lords lack democratic legitimacy and their powers are limited by law. They have no power over financial matters, cannot veto legislation and their proposed amendments can be overturned by the House of Commons. A reform would effectively make the House of Lords become more legitimate via the removal of certain peers. The House of Lords should have a complete overhaul and like the House of Commons, should be elected. This would make the peers in the House of Lords more powerful which would mean that they would be more effective within their role, particularly when it comes to scrutinising government policy.

    • Word count: 705
  12. What are the main features of representative democracy? In what ways has political participation declined in the UK in recent years?

    The 650 constituencies at present represent the popularity of the three main parties, Labour, Lib dems and the conservatives. In what ways has political participation declined in the UK in recent years? (10) One way in which political participation in the UK has declined in recent years is Public turnout in participation at a local and European level, such as in the local by-elections,elections for MEPS and referendum votes . These elections are not as well publicized to the public as not as much money is spent on the campaign as it is in the General Election, which is to

    • Word count: 1381
  13. Discuss the case for and against a Written Constitution for the UK.

    This has been due to the gradual development of the UK constitution and the absence of an event requiring an abrupt change in the constitution, such as a revolution, a defeat in war, or a major change in political ideology. To date an uncodified constitution has been effective in the UK, thus showing that the country can stand without it. The origins of written constitutions stem from American War of independence and the French Revolution. The written constitution is said to be drawn up and adopted because people wished to make a fresh start, so far as the statement of their system of government is concerned.

    • Word count: 1316
  14. How democratic is the Labour party's organisation? & Does it matter?

    This is known as an elitist system. This can be seen with the example of the conference. In times past a conference was were the policies could be debated, discussed and fought over, however the story couldn't be more different today. The conference is little more now than a media focused event in which everyone agrees because they have already had their say.

    • Word count: 505
  15. In this report I will talk about four of the different types of voting system, and which one out of them I find most preferable.

    For example, in the 2005 general election the Liberal Democrats gained 22% of the votes and gained 62 seats (9.6%), the Conservatives had 32% of the vote and gained 198 seats (30.7%) and the labour party had 35.2% of the vote and gained 355 seats (55%). If anything these statistics show that FPTP is extremely unproportional, because as little as 3.2% of the vote can result in a 157 seat difference. However FPTP does have a few good points. One of these is the likely hood of coalition.

    • Word count: 2164
  16. Is the Labour party still socialist?

    New Labour seemed to accept the Thatcherite economic policies of free deregulated markets and privatisation of industries. When they were recently in power, the party even welcomed private funds into national institutions such as hospitals and schools. This shows that labour no longer follows the former left wing ideologies on the economy but instead they are taking a more central position of state controlled capitalism.

    • Word count: 485
  17. The UK constitution is no longer fit for purpose. Discuss.

    For example, the British government are able to use extraordinary rendition on suspected terrorists for torture by extraditing them to countries such as Afghanistan and Libya, thereby violating their human rights. They can get away with this however because there is no actual rule against it that is clearly defined in the constitution, torture is illegal in the UK under the Human Rights Act but is not in other countries. This means that the government can interpret the constitution how they like because it is not written down and some parts of it, such as the rule on torture are vaguer than necessary.

    • Word count: 1281
  18. Free essay

    Identify and Discuss the Role of Prime Minister, Giving Specific Examples within the British System of Government.

    The principal roles of the prime minister are taken from the historical roles of the monarch on a discretionary basis. The Royal Prerogatives are the powers of the Crown and are part of common law. The UK has a constitutional monarchy not an absolute monarchy. This means that the monarchy is impartial. The work that the monarch does in politics is largely symbolic. The work of the monarch within the remit of the royal prerogative is seen as being on behalf of elected ministers.

    • Word count: 2215
  19. The reform of the British Constitution remains an unfinished business. Explain & Discuss

    They have the power to execute primary legislation concerning domestic issues such as education, health and social services. For example, Scottish citizens are exempt from prescription charges and tuition fees because Scottish Parliament has granted them the privilege to do so. However, devolution in Wales and Northern Ireland has not been as successful or fully reformed. The Welsh assembly only have the power to execute secondary legislation, and much of its power is limited to the Welsh Office in London which holds its funds. The power the welsh assembly has is relatively small compared to Scottish Parliament, but David Cameron has promised the Welsh a referendum to be held in 2011 on whether more powers should be granted to the Welsh Assembly similar to the powers of the Scottish Parliament, which would further the constitutional reforms in Wales.

    • Word count: 1274
  20. Should the UK have a codified constitution?

    This brings in to question how relevant and up to date the UK's political system is. Currently, the constitution has evolved through conventions and changes to the law by parliament. Supporters of an un-codified constitution argue that the system works well using the current system which has been used for centuries, causing no problems. Another argument is the difficulties of codifying the British constitution, some of the problems that may incur may involve who, how and what should be in the constitution. The benefits of codification are just not worth the time and cost. However an important benefit of codifying the constitution is the existence of entrenchment, which would protect it from any changes unless it has support and in the long-term interest of the country.

    • Word count: 910
  21. Distinguish between the effects of FPTP and other electoral systems in the UK

    Proportional representation in the UK, namely AMS and STV tend to produce the opposite effect, because votes are allocated in relation to the votes, usually there is no clear winner who has gained more than 50% of the vote, this leads to either a minority or coalition government forming. This is the case Scottish Parliament, where Labour formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, but the partnership soon dissolved with the Scottish National Party ruling as a minority government. This produces a weak government with many conflicts in Parliament as the ruling party must gain support from other parties to pass laws.

    • Word count: 983
  22. Free essay

    Assess the strengths and weaknesses of proportional representation compared to First Past the Post.

    Before the coalition agreement (and arguably after), their preferred voting system they wanted to see implemented in the UK was Proportional Representation (PR). This is an umbrella term, but we are generally talking about a party getting a number of seats in the House of Commons based on the proportion of votes they received. The 'Additional Member System' and the 'Single Transferable Vote' are both examples of a PR electoral system. Supporters of the system claim that that it more clearly represents the wishes of the voters' as expressed in the ballot box.

    • Word count: 802
  23. How effective is Parliament as a check on the executive?

    So despite a large share of the vote, they do not win many seats. It is important to remember that 2010 is an exceptional election. The electoral system ensures that the most popular party has the most seats. In 1974 and 2010, this is not the case. Even though the Conservatives won the most seats, 307, they lacked an overall majority in Parliament. This meant they had to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats (who won 57 seats) in order to have a majority in Parliament. The main problem is that parties can win over half the seats with just a third of the vote.

    • Word count: 2830
  24. To what extent does the prime minister dominate the UK political system?

    Brown also placed some of his allies into key jobs such as Darling and Balls. In addition to this, those in the cabinet who are not personally loyal to the PM will pretend they are in order to keep their job, as being sacked will effectively end their career. In 1962, PM Harold McMillan sacked six cabinet ministers in the Night of the Long Knives and everyone in cabinet since knows that this can happen again. This influence is not limited to ministers, junior ministers and backbenchers want to get promoted so they are brown nosing too.

    • Word count: 2684
  25. To what extent does democracy in the UK need reform?

    Also, the rigid nature of the UK's voting system is often cited as a reason for the decline in democracy and reforms are key to enhancing it. The failure to adapt to the modern world is likely to have contributed to the current democratic deficit. An solution to this would be the implementation of digital democracy. This would enable the UK voters to cast their votes via text or internet. Nevertheless, postal voting was introduced in 2002 by Tony Blair's Labour government but the impact has been minimal.

    • Word count: 1498

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