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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. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. The British Constitution is no longer fit for purpose. Discuss.

    US constitution would require 2/3 of both houses of congress and support of 50 states making it very inflexible and hard to change, thus showing that our constitution is fit for purpose. Another example of the UK?s constitutions being very flexible, is that it can also mean government can perform a better job. This is because it allows the UK?s government to be more stable and more accountable by creating constitutional acts that will aid the government, such as the Fixed-term parliament Act 2011 under the hung government which states in section 1 that the government can only hold general

    • Word count: 1415
  6. 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
  7. To what extent does Parliament control executive power?

    whips, moreover, as they don?t have to please the whips to get selected to stay in their role, they have freedom to criticise government departments, national institutions, thus parliament is now seen as ?more bulldog, less poodle? according to Lord Steven Young. However even though the party choose the people who are in the committee and even if the head is from the opposition the majority of the committee would be of the governments party, so they still obey the government proving furthermore that the executives are in power.

    • Word count: 1403
  8. Assess the advantage of using proportional representation electoral systems

    to alternative vote, 68% said no, meaning that we are better off with a majoritarian system. There has been a strong case presented in favour of PR, many argue that it creates a multiparty system. Minor parties that are denied representation by FPTP are more likely to win seats in the other voting system. This broadens the basis of party representation and creates multiparty system. For example, until 2010 when the Green party only one seat, it had no representation at Westminster, despite having gained more than a quarter of a million votes in some previous general election.

    • Word count: 1120
  9. 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
  10. Assess the reasons why the Alliance Party has always struggled in Northern Ireland politics.

    They are on such a tight policy line in the centre of politics that little comments can have big impact. Anna Lo?s comments that her personal preference would be for a united Ireland, for example, did have an impact on the Alliance vote. Furthermore, the existence of ?moderate? parties within both the Unionist and Nationalist camps (UUP and SDLP) has meant that moderate voters in both traditions have had a choice other than a centre party. Very few people in Northern Ireland have no opinion on the border issue.

    • Word count: 1622
  11. 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
  12. Explain how the DUP has changed its policies (26)

    This influx of new members caused many policy changes. Crucially, many of the ex-UUP members ? and others who have joined the DUP since the early 2000s ? did not reject power-sharing with Irish nationalists per se. Rather, they wanted devolution; accepted the principles of shared cabinet positions; supported the need for weighted cross-community support and even endorsed all-island economic bodies. Provided Sinn Fein moved their associates in the IRA to call off its armed campaign and decommission weapons, and offered support for the police, all of which happened by early 2007, newer members were ready to move to sharing power with Sinn Fein.

    • Word count: 1480
  13. Assess the arguments in favour of a largely or wholly elected second chamber.

    Despite a couple of half-hearted attempts to further reform the Lords since the HLA (House of Lords Act) 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: 1355
  14. Democracy and the British Voting System.

    With figures like these, representative democracy is commonly criticized. It is argued that this common MP stereotype may not be able to fully represent his/her constituents as he cannot totally understand their issues; for example, how could a middle aged white man be able to represent a black woman?s opinions accurately? Another criticism of representative democracy is that it is a less legitimate form of democracy. Legitimacy is the authority and ability a body has to be representative. Is it argued that MPs are less legitimate because they cannot possibly account for every opinion within their constituency which leaves many voices unheard, whereas in various forms of direct democracy everybody gets their say and is accounted for equally.

    • Word count: 1924

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