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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.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 27
  • Peer Reviewed essays 1
  1. Is the UK suffering from a democratic deficit?

    Many people have to choose tactically because they think their party wont win so instead of choosing the one they want, they choose the least worst. You also have people whose parents chose a party so wont even look at the rest of the parties and don’t even know what some of their party stands for. The turnout rate in the 1987 general election stated the poorest income group was 4% lower than the wealthiest.

    • Word count: 497
  2. There have been few significant changes to the British constitution since 1997. Analyse and evaluate this statement.

    This may sound reasonable in theory, but in practice it was largely unsuccessful; the majority of cities have rejected this proposal. For example, in 2016 Torbay voted to get rid of the position after approving it in 2005 and 62.5% instead chose to have a leader and cabinet system. The turnout in most of these referendums has generally been atrocious, showing that perhaps people just don’t care too much about local government - only 15% of the electorate voted in the mayoral election in Middlesbrough in 2013.

    • Word count: 714
  3. The UK would benefit greatly from the wider use of referendums Discuss (30 marks)

    Also with general elections, they only occur every 5 years, the public deserve a chance to voice their opinions between then. Referendums provide a clear answer to the question that the government is asking, the issues tend to be controversial. For example abortion, a party would be divided and be unable to choose one side over another. By having a referendum the government gets to know what the public wants. For example if a party was in power, and they only had 65% of the total results, 35% of the public won?t agree with their opinions.

    • Word count: 827
  4. Explain the reasons for the UUPs decline in Northern Ireland.

    The biggest reason for Unionist anger at the UUP was their acceptance of Sinn Fein in government without any effective decommissioning. The IRA did not completely decommission until 2005. Other issues that lost unionist votes include the Patton Reforms of the RUC, when it lost the ?royal? title and agreed to employ a greater proportion of Catholic officers. There was also unionist anger over the prisoner releases that were part of the GFA even though there was still ongoing paramilitary tension.

    • Word count: 568
  5. Explain the problems that the DUP face in Northern Ireland.

    However, Allister is proving a very capable politician in the Assembly. He is the MLA who has asked the most questions and he has proved highly effective in holding parties and ministers to account. He has frequently talked about other parties forming an opposition to make the Assembly more accountable. He has also relentlessly pursued DUP scandals to the limit - causing Sammy Wilson to create an outburst at a committee meeting. The unionist vote is being spread thinly by the amount of unionist parties ? TUV, UUP, NI21, PUP and so forth.

    • Word count: 636
  6. Assess how successful the Ulster Unionist Party has been in challenging the dominance of the Democratic Unionist Party.

    They hoped that this would make Northern Ireland matter electorally in the UK, thereby strengthening the union. They also hoped for financial and technical support in the form of electoral support. However, the link caused deep rifts in the party. Their only MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, declared herself an independent at the 2010 General Election in protest and won with an increased majority. There is also evidence that the UUP has sought to shake up its leadership team in response to claims that it was too middle aged, middle class and too male.

    • Word count: 826
  7. Explain two strengths of the House of Lords.

    The Conservative whip for the Lords is Lord Taylor of Holbeach. Furthermore, life peers cannot be sacked by their parties even if they disagree with their views. In October 2015, Lord Adonis (he was a Blairite, left probably because of Corbyn) left the labour party and became a crossbencher. He was given a job in government with George Osbourne. Any peer can do this ? they are there for life.

    • Word count: 502
  8. Why has the SDLP declined?

    In July 1999 Mallon resigned as deputy First Minister in an attempt to hasten progress on decommissioning. The SDLP were instrumental in bringing Sinn Fein into devolution, but ironically the more the SDLP move things forward the more votes they lose to Sinn Fein. The failure of the first Assembly very shortly after it began, damaged the SDLP who were dominant on the Nationalist side and had the top power sharing positions with the UUP. One widely expressed view for the transition is that Sinn Fein has successfully ?stolen the clothes? of the SDLP by transforming itself into a constitutional nationalist party.

    • Word count: 983
  9. Explain what limits there are to the Prime Ministers control over the Cabinet.

    Prime Ministers do not have a free hand in choosing the members of their Cabinet as a variety of considerations need to be taken into account in appointing Ministers. Choosing those who will make up the cabinet is considered to be one of the most important powers of the Prime Minister. However, the PM does not have a totally free hand in this matter. Labour PMs face formal limitations but all PMs must be careful to include all ideological wings of the party in making up their cabinet.

    • Word count: 882
  10. Explain two powers of the Prime Minister

    The Prime Minister also has massive powers of patronage over the Church of England (bishops etc), senior judges (Lord Chief Justice), Privy Councillors and even the Chairperson of the BBC. However this power has been gradually reduced? until very recently the PM appointed the Lord Chancellor and the top judges in the country? This has now been taken over by an Independent appointments body. Also, appointments such as Bishops and Chairperson of the BBC are often predetermined by other people in positions. The PM is often simply a rubber stamp.

    • Word count: 561
  11. Explain two policy differences between the Conservative and Liberal Democratic Parties.

    Replacing Trident was a Tory manifesto pledge in the 2015 general election. They claim it would be foolish to scrap Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines while countries like Iran and North Korea seek to develop their own atomic weapons. George Osborne has announced more than £500m of funding for the Royal Navy’s submarine base at Faslane, the home of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent. On the other hand, the Lib Dems believe the UK should step down the nuclear ladder and end the unnecessary 24-hour nuclear patrols of the high seas, designed to meet a Cold War threat that no longer exists.

    • Word count: 534
  12. Explain two policy areas over which the Conservative and Labour Parties differ.

    There is, for example, a more positive attitude on the part of the Tories towards private enterprise. They are in support of privatisation of businesses once owned by the government, this was very apparent with Thatcher. She supported privatising inefficient nationalised businesses such as British Airways, British Telecom, British Gas and BP. This she hoped would reduce the burden on the tax payer, make industries efficient and competitive and allow Britons to own parts of these companies through shares. On the other hand, Corbyn wishes to bring the Labour party back to its socialist routes (so-called ?Old Labour?)

    • Word count: 512
  13. Explain the problems that the Coalition Government has faced since 2010

    They wanted to demonstrate to the public their ability to govern. However, it also reduced their ability to remain aloof from major controversial policy areas and seemed a tactical error. Coalitions also face the issue of possible policy differences that might arise in response to developments or crises. The Lib Dem have seemingly committed political suicide by entering into coalition with the Conservatives. Many in the party felt betrayed and so did voters. A major problem was tuition fees. It had to help deal with the worst financial crisis in generations.

    • Word count: 740
  14. Explain the limitations on the powers of the House of Lords.

    The first Parliament Act came in 1911, and it removed the House of Lord?s power to veto legislation. The original form of the 1911 Act was used three times, including the Government of Ireland Act 1914, which would have established a Home Rule government in Ireland; its implementation was blocked due to the First World War. The Lords likewise can?t touch bills that relate to raising and spending of government money. Immediately after the Second World War, the Labour government of Clement Attlee decided to amend the 1911 Act to reduce further the power of the Lords, as a result of their fears that their radical programme of nationalisation would be delayed by the Lords and hence would not be completed within the life of the parliament.

    • Word count: 640
  15. Explain how the Prime Minister can control the Cabinet.

    Since then the media has further increased their attention on the Prime Minister. Cameron exercises more power over his cabinet now than ever before, because this is the first time he has had an 100% conservative cabinet. These powers include the patronage powers to hire, fire and reshuffle. When it comes to hiring the Prime Minister can select ministers to his advantage, choosing those who will make up the cabinet is considered to be one of the most important powers of the Prime Minister. For example, Blair favoured appointing other Blairites, some argue this was to supress the views of Brown.

    • Word count: 782
  16. Explain two criticisms of judicial review as a check on the executive.

    Individuals represented by legal aid lawyers have some protection against costs orders if they lose their case. A costs order is when the court orders that you must pay the legal fees of the other party when you lose a case. The amount is decided by the court. However, the government has recently proposed changes to limit legal aid for judicial review.

    • Word count: 514
  17. Explain how the Opposition can hold the Government to account.

    Labour ? formally referred to as Her Majesty?s Opposition ? is the second largest party in the commons, led by Jeremy Corbyn. The role of the opposition is to oppose, criticise, and scrutinise the government. The opposition is traditionally consulted on bipartisan matters and twenty days are set aside in the common?s yearly timetable for debate and criticism of government. In 2008, for example, the conservatives used an Opposition Day to call for an immediate inquiry into the Iraq war.

    • Word count: 646
  18. How well do the House of Lords do their jobs?

    Amendments, 92 hereditary remained members of the lords. Despite a couple of half-hearted attempts to further reform the Lords since the HLA this conditional anachronism remains part of the way we are governed. As the unelected body the HL is the junior House, it revises legislation and scrutinises government in a less heated and party partisan manner. However since 1911 the HL's role and more importantly its composition has undergone sporadic bouts of controversy. Since 1911 the HL has undergone reform but in a piecemeal incremental fashion, 1957 Life Peerages Act, House of Lords Act 1999 and the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 have all altered the composition of the HL.

    • Word count: 938
  19. Explain how MPs can carry out their representative role

    This compares favourably with 50 years ago when MPs rarely lived in their constituencies and seldom visited them. As elected representatives of a constituency, MPs have the responsibility to represent all members of their constituency. There are numerous ways in which MPs can do this. Most, if not all, MPs will meet their constituents on a regular basis in a ?surgery? to provide advice and to receive representations. People can contact their MP if they feel they have been treated unfairly by a Government office or agency, there is a problem in the local area or to ask MPs to support a particular campaign they are interested in.

    • Word count: 819
  20. Explain how Departmental Select Committees act as a check upon the government

    Committees do try to influence policy but they usually make enquiries into failings or areas where concern has been raised, such as the government?s Iraq policy both in the Defence department and the Foreign Affairs department. A key Departmental Select Committee is the Defence Committee, chaired by Dr Julian Lewis. It is made up of politicians from the Conservatives, Labour, SNP and DUP. An example of an inquiry was one that looked into defence expenditure and the 2% pledge. The UK aims to spend 2% of GDP on defence, and the inquiry was set up to discover if it would be sufficient.

    • Word count: 656

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Extent to which leadership effected the 2001 federal election outcome.

    "In conclusion, leadership was a very important factor in determining the outcome of the election. However, the two events outside the control of either of the candidates, those of the Tampa crisis and September 11, were used as a vehicle by the Liberal party to show John Howard's capabilities as a leader. These events allowed Mr. Howard to shine; in times of crisis the party with the advantage of incumbency become very popular, and a change of Government is undesirable. Beazley was on a sure path to success, but Tampa and September 11 rendered a Labor victory all but impossible. It was clear from pre-election polls that after these events Labor's substantial popularity was completely reversed in favour of the coalition. Each party's campaigns also showed the value placed on leadership, this being the most substantial issue dealt with in television advertising."

  • To what extent has the Prime Minister become Presidential?

    "In conclusion, the Prime Minister may sometimes appear to be distancing himself from Parliament but unlike the President he is constantly answerable and remains accountable to Cabinet. On the other hand, many powers of our Prime Minister are less restrained than those of a President such as patronage, the support of a strong party system and the ability to exercise a large number of prerogative powers. These powers are largely flexible due to the lack of a legal framework defining the office (influenced by the fact Britain has no codified constitution). The Prime Minister has certainly appeared to become increasingly presidential and we are moving away from Cabinet government and toward Prime Ministerial government; however I disagree that it is conforming to the American model. Blair is continuing a recent trend of particularly dominant Prime Ministers, for example Wilson and Thatcher. By taking full advantage of Labour's huge parliamentary majority and continued popularity, he appears to be pushing the Office to its limits, further enhancing the control of the Prime Minister over policy making."

  • Discuss the view that today Parliamentary Sovereignty exists more in theory than in practice.

    "It is therefore my conclusion that I am in agreement with the statement that "Parliamentary sovereignty exists more today in theory than in practice". There are too many limiting factors against the view which is supporting that Parliament is wholly autonomous and sovereign of any higher authority; the EU being a glaringly obvious example of a supranational state which has become deeply federalised and, in more cases than not, ruled against the UK's own decisions in individual circumstances. Another instance which has highlighted the flaws of the conventionalisation of the legislature is the Human Rights Act (1998). Sadly, it binds the future actions of any successor government to itself. It should be held that any future parliament can be permitted (and hold the supreme right) to debate and execute the re-introduction of corporal punishment, for instance, but the HRA effectively prohibits that, as the EU's implementation of the HRA also will supersede any vacancy left by the repealing of the Act; a damning indictment against the position upon which the UK has suddenly found itself."

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