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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
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  1. The media has a significant impact on voting behaviour. Analyse and evaluate this statement. [25 marks]

    This can be demonstrated through the 1992 general election, in which the Sun wrote a headline stating, “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights,” alluding to their preference against Neil Kinnock (leader of the Labour Party). Following the Conservatives’ victory at this election, the Sun published a headline “it’s the Sun wot won it.” This demonstrates the influence that media endorsements can have on voting behaviour, ultimately affecting the outcome of general elections.

    • Word count: 1020
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Explain how the DUP dominates Unionism

    No amount of new strategies by the UUP can reverse the damage that agreeing to the GFA caused. DUP were of course firmly against the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. However, this time it found itself at odds with the UUP and bitterly opposed the party as it tried to bring peace. Rather than being the odd one out the DUP set on a strategy of working against the Agreement from within the new NI Assembly in an attempt to destroy it from within. This was clearly succeeding. The UUP were being steadily undermined by their strategy of working with Sinn Fein in the absence of decommissioning of weapons.

    • Word count: 1397
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. Assess the view that, since 2007, politics in Northern Ireland is increasingly dominated by two political parties.

    Such is the dominance of the DUP and Sinn Fein that some believe we are heading for a dominant two party system in Northern Ireland. In this view, the UUP and SDLP will continue to decline or possibly be absorbed into the larger unionist or nationalist party. Perhaps the most significant way that the DUP and Sinn Fein dominate politics in Northern Ireland is through their use of petitions of concern. All legislation must be passed by OFMdFM and this can lead to legislation getting killed before it is initiated if either of the ?big two? do not like it.

    • Word count: 1467
  10. Explain the reasons behind the rise of Sinn Fein and the problems they now face.

    Sinn Fein played the politics of negotiation to great effect, demanding that it would control decommissioning and not the British government or the unionist parties. Eventually decommissioning occurred, but it was not until 2005 that everything was fully destroyed. Since 1994 the positions of the SDLP and Sinn Fein have been largely reversed. In 1994 the SDLP was still the dominant nationalist party in terms of its share of the Nationalist vote and representation. Sinn Fein was in the middle of its strategic shift into constitutional politics.

    • Word count: 1682
  11. 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
  12. Assess the view that Sinn Fein has abandoned many of its traditional policies.

    By the 1990s international developments caused Sinn Fein to abandon many of its traditional policies. Firstly, the collapse of communism and the USSR forced them to rethink how they branded themselves. SF had placed itself on the left of the political spectrum, identifying strongly with revolutionary Marxism and Leninism. When the very state that had epitomised this ideology collapsed it became harder for Sinn Fein to present themselves as a revolutionary party of the left, and therefore they abandoned many of their policies. Secondly, the ending of Apartheid in South Africa is equally significant in causing Sinn Fein to abandon many of its traditional policies.

    • Word count: 1647
  13. 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
  14. Assess the view that since 2007 the Northern Ireland Assembly has been a legislative success

    An example of this is the Sunbed Bill, introduced by DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots on 2010/11. This law was pushed through on the back of a major health issue namely the increase in skin cancer particularly in the north west. It aimed to give Northern Ireland its own regulation of sunbeds. This included controlling their use, including an age limit and ban of under 18s. The Health Committee, then chaired by Jim Wells DUP, received 30 written submissions and took oral evidence from 5 key stakeholders. The evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill. Another reason that the assembly has been a legislative success is that it has passed legislation based on cross-community support.

    • Word count: 1630
  15. Northern Ireland. Assess the view that MLAs have been effective in holding the Executive to account since 2007.

    Ministers must reply to Questions for Oral Answer during a plenary meeting of the Assembly in the Assembly Chamber. This meeting is known as Question Time. It is a very public way for Ministers to explain what they and their Department are doing. Question Time takes place in the Assembly Chamber between 2.00pm and 3.30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. For example, in 2015 Jo-Anne Dobson who is the UUP MLA for Upper Bann asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for his assessment of the impact the Minister of Education's decision to withdraw the funding for the Early Years Fund will have on the health and well-being of the children affected.

    • Word count: 1638
  16. Reform of the judiciary has made it a powerful check on the executive. How far do you agree with this statement?

    The Human Rights Act has meant that citizens can assert their rights forcefully. Cases where it has been claimed that the European Convention on Human Rights has been infringed, especially by state organisations, end up in the courts for important judgements with political significance. Furthermore, the 2005 Constitutional Reform Act made the judiciary more independent than ever before. In particular the Supreme Court, which began operations in 2009, has exercised its independence in a series of key cases in recent years.

    • Word count: 1637
  17. The Prime Minister dominates the Cabinet. How far do you agree with this view?

    Blair was accused of having a presidential leadership style. Blair used his substantial majority of 160 to dominate Government; he could control Parliament with little opposition. Even back bench revolts had little effect. He doubled his own policy staff in Downing street to 200 showing his commitment to making policy within Downing street rather than through Cabinet. His Cabinets were reduced in time to 1 hour and he dominated the agenda. He would often make decisions in smaller cabinet committees.

    • Word count: 1538
  18. Assess the view that the unionist/nationalist division is becoming less significant in Northern Ireland politics.

    Over the years Alliance has participated in talks with other parties and sought accommodation between the two communities. Significantly, the party has rejected the 'two communities' model of society in Northern Ireland, preferring a 'one community' approach where everyone in Northern Ireland would share a common allegiance. Growth has been particularly noticeable since 2006 and the new Assembly after St Andrews. It also coincides with the party getting positions such as Justice Minister - perhaps this new credibility is transforming into votes.

    • Word count: 1535
  19. Assess the extent to which Members of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly have been successful in carrying out their functions.

    This is especially so with the abuse of the Petition of Concern. Some say it is being used as a veto by the top parties to prevent effective scrutiny and debate. All legislation must be passed by OFMdFM and this can lead to legislation getting killed before it is initiated if either of the ?big two? do not like it. MLAs have the possibility of raising a Petition of Concern if they believe there is an issue which is a serious concern to their community. To enact this they have to achieve the support of 30 MLAs.

    • Word count: 1786
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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

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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