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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 

This article is strongly critical of Boris Johnson’s reluctance to remove Health Secretary Matt Hancock, after he was exposed as having broken his own government department’s rules on contact with others during the pandemic. It sees the episode as part of a pattern of poor and belated decision-making on the part of the Prime Minister. This provides material for an important area of the A Level Politics specification — the extent to which Prime Ministers can control events and be successful in implementing their policies.

The resignation of Matt Hancock can also be used to illustrate another concept — that of individual ministerial responsibility. This is the principle that ministers are responsible for their personal conduct and the running of their departments.

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

After Matt Hancock’s exit, government must get a grip

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 view that the most important factor influencing the power of the UK Prime Minister is the impact of external events.

    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: A relevant Component 1 topic is the outcome of general elections, as the size of a Prime Minister’s parliamentary majority significantly affects their ability to deliver their agenda. Alternatively, consider the role of the media — for example, it was the publication of a photograph of Matt Hancock embracing his aide in The Sun newspaper that brought about his downfall.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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