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  • AQA Component 1, Section The Prime Minister and Cabinet

  • Edexcel Component 2, Section 3.3.2: The Prime Minister and the Cabinet 

Background: what you need to know

The crisis engulfing Boris Johnson’s premiership, following reports of parties held in Downing Street during the Coronavirus lockdown, has been front-page news for weeks. A report conducted by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, has highlighted the dysfunctional nature of the Number 10 operation.

Johnson pledged to address this by creating a dedicated Prime Minister’s Department but this has been pre-empted by the disorderly departure of several Downing Street advisers. His priority now is to restore trust with his backbenchers in order to head off a potential vote of no confidence from within the Conservative parliamentary party. It should be noted that this is a rapidly evolving crisis and events may overtake both the Prime Minister and the commentators!

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

Boris Johnson loyalists appeal for more time for Downing Street reset

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • Explain and analyse three limitations on the power of the UK Prime Minister. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

  • Evaluate the argument that the power of UK Prime Ministers depends mainly on their ability to maintain the support of their political party.

    In your answer you should draw on relevant knowledge and understanding of the study of Component 1: UK politics and core political ideas. You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]

    TIP: MPs will judge their leader’s competence, and how it is perceived beyond Westminster, in deciding whether to withdraw their support. In November 1990, for example, the unpopularity of the poll tax helped to undermine loyalty to Margaret Thatcher within the Conservative party in Parliament.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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