This article picked by a teacher with suggested questions is part of the Financial Times free schools access programme. Details/registration here.


  • AQA Component 1, Section 3.1.2: Political Parties

  • Edexcel Component 1, Section 2.2: Established Political Parties

Background: what you need to know 

These three articles illustrate the problems facing the main UK parties as they seek to win public support in the Covid-19 pandemic, which has shaped UK politics for almost a year. The Conservative party has traditionally been committed to a small state, and its calculations are also affected by the Treasury’s desire to reduce the enormous public debt burden. Yet its leaders must also be mindful of backbench MPs’ reactions if it were to introduce tax rises and spending cuts, which would adversely affect businesses and workers in their constituencies.

Labour faces a different challenge: how to win back working-class voters who switched to the Conservatives in 2019. Keir Starmer has sought to appeal to them by emphasising Labour’s patriotic credentials, but it is harder for him to differentiate his party from the Conservatives now that they have abandoned ‘austerity’. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats are struggling to achieve public recognition, with their parliamentary representation reduced to eleven MPs and their main defining issue, opposition to Brexit, a lost cause.

The articles also illustrate another important feature of current politics: the way in which the three parties have converged on many aspects of policy. The Conservatives and Labour are competing for the same former ‘red wall’ voters, who are socially traditionalist in their values but also want to see an active state offering economic support. Under Starmer’s leadership, Labour has also dropped its opposition to Brexit. The Liberal Democrats have lost support partly because Labour is competing on the same centre ground.

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

Budget is a clarifying moment for UK Conservatives

Labour’s Starmer has no quick fix; Johnson stole his story

Aimless Liberal Democrats need to go local to rebuild

  • Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

‘The policies of the three main UK political parties have a great deal of common ground.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement. [25 marks]

  • Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 1

Evaluate the view that the policies of the main UK political parties have become increasingly similar.

You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. (30 marks)

TIP: Edexcel’s A Level specification requires candidates to know about the policies of the three main UK parties on four main areas: the economy, welfare, law and order, foreign policy. AQA is less prescriptive but clearly these would all be good areas to look at. You must discuss both similarities and differences between the policies of the parties.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article