Category Archives: Exemplar Essays

Level 5 Response – To what extent do Socialists agree on the economy?

Economic considerations are central to socialist ideology because socialists strive to create an egalitarian society and economic reform is central to this fundamental aim. As part of their economic reform, socialists advocate the active redistribution of wealth to remove the differences between classes that have emerged since the Industrial Revolution. To answer this question the following need to be considered: the fundamental nature of socialist economics, socialist views toward capitalism and views on common ownership. Ultimately, it is clear that socialists diverge on the issue of the economy, with modern ‘third way’ thinking being largely unrecognisable to that of revolutionary socialism.

Fundamentally all socialists can be recognised by their opposition to a laissez-faire economy and a completely free market. They are influenced by the heavy inequalities in society that have emerged from free-market economics. Socialists believe that, if left unchecked and unregulated, the economy inevitability falls victim to the unpredictability of the capitalist market, which often leads to social problems such as unemployment that only serve to further the inequality socialists wish to prevent. Socialists believe that society has been harmed by inequalities between social classes, which emerge due to economic determinism. Yet, despite these fundamental positions, there are clear differences in Socialist views towards the economy.

One difference is over the extent to which capitalism can be tolerated. Revolutionary Socialists are clear that capitalism must be abolished and are willing to advocate revolution, followed by a ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, to achieve this. Marx and Engels argued as part of their belief in historicism that the defeat of capitalism was the next dialectical stage in societies advancement. Revolutionary socialists advocate for ‘equality of outcome’ as the only answer to the problems created by Socialism. However, evolutionary socialists are willing to tolerate implementing socialist policies within a capitalist system in order advance their ideological goals. For example, Beatrice Webb called revolution ‘chaotic and inefficient’ and instead called for ‘gradualism’ whilst Anthony Crosland advocated the use of Keynesian economics as a method for socialists to moderate capitalism. Conversely to both revolutionary and evolutionary socialists, Third Way thinkers like Anthony Giddens argue that capitalism should not only be tolerated but should be embraced. They argue that the free market creates wealth that can then be used on socialist projects, like improving the NHS. Famously, New Labour figure Peter Mandelson said “we don’t mind people being filthy rich, as long as they pay their taxes”. Therefore, it is clear that Socialists disagree over the extent to which Capitalism should be tolerated, with views ranging from the idea that it has to be abolished (revolutionary socialists) to the idea that it should be actively embraced (third way).

Socialists also disagree on the importance of common ownership. Revolutionary socialists believe that as part of a post-capitalist system there should be no private ownership. Marx and Engels believed that private ownership was made possible due to the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. They believed the abolition of private property would be achieved through a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ removing the last vestiges of the capitalist state and creating a classless society in which private property would no longer be desired. Similarly, early evolutionary socialists, like democratic socialists, supported the notion of common ownership. They argued that capitalism had to be replaced by a system that saw workers fully rewarded for their work. As an example of this, the Labour Party, influenced by Beatrice Webb, included Clause IV in their constitution which called for nationalisation of “the means of production, distribution and exchange”. Later evolutionary socialists, like social democrats, supported a mixed-economy, where private property could be regulated through Keynesian inspired government intervention. Alternatively, third way socialists take an entirely different approach to common ownership, as is seen by New Labour’s decision to abandon Clause IV. Third Way socialists believe that only through a privatised and deregulated economy can enough taxation be raised to support the weakest in society. In this thinking they were influenced by Giddens who saw that the fundamental nature of the economy had changed and that governments in the ‘post-fordist’ economy should seek to arm citizens to play a role in the new economy. This explains Blair’s statement that his three priorities were ‘education, education, education’. Therefore, whilst there is some compatibility in the views of revolutionary and evolutionary socialists to the notion of common ownership, third way socialists depart entirely from this position and believe common ownership is harmful to implementing socialist policies.

Ultimately, on the issue of the economy socialists do not agree to a significant extent. Revolutionary socialists and evolutionary socialists generally agree on the same ends, but differ over the means to reach them. However, third way socialists do not even agree on ends – fundamentally rejecting the notion that capitalism should be abolished and that private property is abhorrent. Therefore, although there is some agreement amongst socialists on economic issues, it is not correct to state that socialists agree on the economy.

Level 5 Response – Using the source, evaluate the view that the roles and membership of the House of Lords needs to be reformed (30 Marks)

(C) Edexcel

The House of Lords is the Upper Chamber of the UK Parliament. It is made up of 92 Excepted Hereditary Peers, 26 Bishops and around 650 Life Peers. Its most significant role is scrutinising the work of the House of Commons and particularly acting as a ‘amending chamber’ for legislation. To answer this question the following needs to be considered: the legitimacy of members of the Lords, the issue of how Lords are appointed and whether the Lords is powerful enough to carry out its key roles. Ultimately, it can be argued that there are many areas where reform of the House of Lords would be beneficial. However, this reform needs to be carefully considered so as not to lose the independence and expertise that make the Lords a very effective chamber.

One strongest arguments for reform of the House of Lords is that is it out of date in a modern liberal democracy because it has ’no democratic legitimacy’. The House of Lords has no popularly elected members, with the only elections held being by-elections to elect new hereditary peers. Whilst these 92 peers are now elected by their fellow hereditary peers they are ultimately in place because of the antiquated system of primogeniture that allows them to take their seat. This undermines their legitimacy in a modern legislature. In addition, since the Life Peerages Act (1958) peers have been able to be appointed for life. Until 2014 they could not be removed even if they had committed a serious criminal offence. This is why Jeffrey Archer remains in the Lord’s despite being imprisoned for four years for perjury. The fact that such characters can remain in the Lords and make legislation without public approval is hard to justify in a liberal democracy. As such there are clear arguments that the Lords lacks the democratic legitimacy to carry out its functions. Alternatively, whilst the Lords may have no democratic legitimacy it does provide a level of ‘expert advice and scrutiny’ that elected politicians simply cannot match. Most MPs are now appointed to the House of Lords because they can offer distinct expertise on an area of public policy. For example, Lord Lisvane is a former Clerk of the Commons and expert in constitutional issues whilst Lord Dannat is a former Chief of the General Staff an expert in military matters. Lord Dannat spoke eight times on the Armed Forces Bill and 24 times on the Overseas Operations Bill in 2021 thereby helping scrutiny of areas in which he is an expert. Whilst Lords are usually specialists, MPs in the House of Commons are required to be generalists. For example, of Lord Dannat’s last ten contributions in the Lords all have been about military or security matters. By contrast, Conservative MP Huw Merriman’s last ten contributions have been about seven different topics. These specialists in the Lords can arguably have a more profound impact on policy than the generalists in the Commons. Overall, it is clear that the democratic legitimacy of the Lords is unhelpful. Yet, this problem is overcome to a significant extent by the number of peers who provide expert legitimacy that enhances the legislature and therefore on this basis reform should only take place if this can be retained.

Yet, not all Lords are experts and there are concerns over ‘the system of appointment’. As the source also states ‘In 2015 research suggests a relationship between large political donors and nominations to the Lords’. This has been a common theme in the Lords. In 2007 Tony Blair was interviewed twice by the Police (without caution) during the Cash for Honours scandal when it was alleged that Labour Donors were being placed in the Lords. Recently, Lord Lebedev was placed in the Lords despite security service recommendations that he was a security risk. These consistent scandals undermine confidence in the House of Lords and undermine the roles it plays in the political process. In addition, many Lords simply do not play a useful role in the House. For example, since joining the Lords in 2009 Lord Sugar has voted in just 2.36% of divisions and has spoken just 63 times. There also are other ‘non-working peers’. Between 2010 and 2015 62 peers claimed £360,000 in expenses despite not voting in a single division! These inactive peers undermine the legitimacy of the Lords and creates an ‘unprofessional chamber’. However, since 2000 there has been an ‘independent House of Lords Commission’ that has been responsible for both vetting party nominations and also for appointing non-partisan crossbench peers who possess ‘independence of thought’. As part of this role they have been able to dramatically increase the diversity of the Lords and made it ‘more representative’. There are many areas where the Lords is more descriptively representative than the Commons. For example, 11% of Lords have a declared disability compared to 0.76% in the Commons. Much of the Lord’s opposition to the Bedroom Tax in 2012 was driven by vocal interventions from these members. In addition, there are 29 MPs from an ethnic minority background compared to 63 Lords. This indicates the House of Lords is helping to drive the representation of minority groups in Parliament. Whilst there are issues over the appointments to the Lords that are problematic, the independence from the Crossbench Peers is a useful counterweight to the partisan Commons. Therefore, whilst reform is needed, it most definitely should not be at the risk of losing the Lord’s independence.

A final argument is that the Lords needs to be reformed is that it is simply ‘too weak’ to carry out the functions that it has. Due to a number of factors the House of Lords does not have the power to fully hold the Commons to account. Firstly, since the Parliament Act 1949 the Lords has only been able to delay laws for one year. Whilst the Parliament Act has only been invoked four times, they very fact it exists forces the Lords to back down to the Commons. Secondly, the Lords are limited by conventions such as Commons Financial Privilege and the Salisbury Convention. The Salisbury Convention means the Lord does not reject a bill that was in a government manifesto. Essentially, this means that a government with a clear majority will be able to get their legislative agenda through Parliament. For example, the Lords made 14 amendments to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill but realistically had to back down when the Commons rejected these changes. These factors indicate that the Lords cannot carry out its role effectively. Conversely, even with these limitations the House of Lords can have influence and ‘Governments are regularly defeated in the Lords’. The House of Lords spends significant time going through bills line by line and trying to improve them. For example, the Agriculture Bill in 2020 was considered by the Lords for 96 hours compared with 32 hours, indicating a much deeper level of scrutiny. In addition, despite the Parliament Act, the Lords can inflict significant defeats on the Government. For example, in 2015 the Lords controversially voted to delay Tax Credits Cuts by the Government. In addition, the number of defeats inflicted in the Lords is significant. For example, since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister he has not suffered a substantive defeat in the House of Commons but has been defeated 243 times in the Lords. These defeats force the Commons to reconsider the issue and give it more scrutiny and also indicates that the Lords can be a buffer to the elective dictatorship that often exists in the Lords. Whilst the Lords has far less power than the Commons, this should be the case for an unelected house. It is however clear that the Lords does have enough power to make the Government reconsider its plans and to a large degree plays a useful role in the legislative process.

Overall, it is clear that the House of Lords should not be dramatically reformed as the House of Lords is full of experts who can play a meaningful role in amending legislation. Whilst the unelected nature of the Lords and controversies over appointments can be damaging to its reputation, this does not prevent the Lords from consistently holding the government to account. Therefore, any reform of the House of Lords should be carried out carefully so that it does not negatively impact the positive role that its members play in the parliamentary process.

Why is this a Level 5 Response?

  • The answer starts with a clear introduction which shows knowledge of the topic, sets out the themes to be considered and, most importantly, sets out a clear argument.
  • All the points of analysis originate from the source. They are not over-quoted – they are concisely highlighted to show the examiner the candidate is using the source (as required by the question).
  • There are three sets of paired arguments originating from the source. (It is important to note that many students will not have time to do three sets and Level 5 can be achieved doing only two).
  • There is detailed own knowledge (from outside the source) to help to analyse the points in the source.
  • Analysis is built upon this detailed knowledge, with a consistent focus on answering the question.
  • Clear mini conclusions are used at the end of the section which consider what the view on the question is as regards the issue that has been discussed.

Level 5 Response – Evaluate the view that IMR and CMR are no longer significant conventions in UK Politics (30 Marks)

Individual Ministerial Responsibility (IMR) and Collective Ministerial Responsibility (CMR) are both conventions that place certain expectations on members of the government. As conventions they are not legally binding, but it is expected that they will be followed. By significance it means the impact that it has on the way the government runs and particularly in holding Ministers accountable for their actions. Ultimately, whilst CMR remains an important and reasonably binding aspect of UK politics it will be argued that IMR is lacking in any real significance in modern politics because the PM is the sole ‘judge, jury and executioner’ of it.

IMR is a convention that dictates that Ministers are responsible for everything that happens within their department and are also responsible for representing their department and the government in all their public and private dealings. Until 1994 there was no codification of what was expected of a Minister, however, the Nolan Principles then outlined seven principles that public servants should uphold. Following this, since 1997 there has been a Ministerial Code published by each administration which more precisely lays out the expectations placed on Government Ministers. One such expectation is that Ministers do not knowingly mislead Parliament and that they should resign if they do so. In addition, any inadvertent misleading of Parliament should be corrected at the first opportunity. In 2018 Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary after admitting that she had inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee by stating she was unaware of deportation removal targets when evidence indicated that she had seen documentation to that effect. This shows that some Ministers do continue to take their responsibilities under the code seriously. Secondly, it is also expected under the code that Ministers can ‘handle their brief’ and should resign if they cannot. In 2002 two Ministers resigned due to this, with both Estelle Morris and Stephen Byers doing so after several problems in their departments this indicates that historically such resignations could be common. Finally, private mistakes by Ministers are actionable under the code. For example, in 2021 Matt Hancock resigned as Health Secretary after admitting he had breached his own department’s COVID-19 regulations in having a romantic relationship with a colleague.  The PM said that it what was right that Hancock should resign and this shows that some Ministers may take the honourable approach and resign when they have clearly breached the code. Conversely, despite these cases, there are many more numerous cases of the code not being enforced. For example, in 2020 Priti Patel was found by an independent investigation of bullying Civil Servants. However, because of the political fact that Patel is popular with the right wing of his party, the PM refused to ask for her resignation, leading to the author of the independent report to resign himself in protest! In addition, a number of Ministers who have more recently failed to adequately carry out their brief and have survived in office without being removed or tendering their resignation. Gavin Williamson oversaw a series of policy disasters as Education Secretary in 2020 and yet remained in office until September 2021, whilst Chris Grayling remained in Government for several years despite a number of high-profile policy errors which led to him being dubbed ‘Failing Grayling’ by the media. These mistakes included giving a ferry contract to a company who had never owned ferries. In these cases, the PM did not want to seek their removal because it would draw attention to the fact that their government was underperforming. This is one the key limits of IMR – the Prime Minister is ‘judge, jury and executioner’ and is unlikely to want to risk politically damaging themselves by removing their own ministers. In addition, as has been seen recently during ‘partygate’, when the PM themselves is accused of wrongdoing there is no mechanism to hold them to account under IMR. Therefore, IMR is a convention that relies extensively on the personal honour of Ministers and, as such, is too rarely enforced. Only an independent process is likely to fix this, but any PM will be reluctant to give up their own Royal Prerogative power as to when to choose to ask for the resignation of a Minister.

CMR is a convention that dictates that government decisions are taken collectively and should therefore be supported in public by all Ministers. This is an important part of Cabinet Government and is included in the Ministerial Code which says that the principle applies to all Ministers. CMR ensures joined up thinking in Government and promotes detailed discussion beyond closed doors. For example, prior to the decision of Boris Johnson to introduce his ‘living with COVID’ plan there was fierce debate between the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, about the plan to remove free Lateral Flow Tests. Whilst they disagreed heatedly on this issue, both then supported the PM’s final decision in public. This strengthens government as it becomes more careful and more deliberative. Secondly, it ensures that any Minister who does not morally feel they can support a government policy should resign. The most famous example of this was Robin Cook who in 2003 resigned over the decision to invade Iraq without a second UN resolution. This enables the public to trust that Government Ministers are acting for what they believe to be right, rather than simply following orders. More recently, resignations by Lord Agnew over COVID-19 fraud and Lord Wolfson over ‘partygate’ show that this principle is still very active in British Politics. Furthermore, it is key that there is some flexibility to CMR. and the PM can suspend it if deemed necessary. For example, during the referendums and during free votes CMR is usually suspended. This is what allowed Michael Gove to campaign to Leave the EU and Philip Hammond to abstain on the vote for Same-Sex Marriage. This flexibility is a strength as it allows the convention to continue even if difficult political circumstances arise under which the convention simply could not otherwise survive intact. This was also seen during the coalition when CMR was relaxed (if not removed) to enable reasonable disagreement to emerge between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. However, in recent years collective responsibility has been harder to maintain as technology means that it is easier for Ministers to anonymously brief against each other and maintain ‘plausible deniability’. The government of Tony Blair was hurt by the fact that even the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer were briefing against each other in the media. This clearly undermined collective responsibility, though not explicitly. Secondly, some Ministers who are considered ‘big beasts’ are shown to be above CMR. For example, Theresa May appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary not because she liked or respected him but because he was a potential leadership rival. As Foreign Secretary he consistently briefed against May and even wrote damaging articles in the Daily Telegraph but she could not sack him, instead he resigned in July 2018 arguably causing her even more damage. This shows that CMR is only significant to the PM if it suits them politically and will be abandoned if it is not. Finally, CMR is limited as a concept if there is not a fundamental ideological unity in government. This was seen between 2016 and 2019 when it was impossible for Theresa May to govern effectively. This was because different factions of her party had widely disparate views on Brexit, with One Nation Conservatives like Philip Lee in the same party as the fiercely Eurosceptic European Research Group. During her premiership Theresa May suffered over 50 resignations under CMR – all relating to Brexit. Some her Ministers voted against her in Parliament but were allowed to remain in office. For example, eight ministers, including Andrea Leadsom, voted against an Article 50 extension in March 2019. Such was May’s weakness that she could not enforce CMR on these Ministers, undermining its credibility. Yet, on balance, these limits are not substantial. Some ministers will always be more powerful and influential than others whilst Brexit created circumstances unlikely to ever be repeated.  CMR still moderates dissent, even if it exists.

CMR is undoubtedly considerably more significant that IMR in British Politics. Whilst it is sometimes relaxed in certain circumstances, this is a political necessity and should not really be seen as a weakness. In addition, it normally encourages reflective government behind the scenes and encourages a consistent message in public which avoids given confused signals to the electorate. Whilst PMs do sometimes have to relax it for certain ministers and some cannot adequately enforce it, this is still a rarity, and most Ministers are bound by it. On the other hand, IMR has limited significance. It relies on the honour of Ministers to enforce it as few PMs will do so as it may be to their political detriment. By far biggest limiting factor is the PMs role as the ultimate adjudicator of the code and this means that in reality is lacks in significance.

Why is this a Level 5 Response?

  • Normally it is best to write thematically. However, in some questions, this is not possible. A question that asks you to consider both IMR and CMR in the same essay may be one of them.
  • Both IMR and CMR are explored in depth with the different facets of them considered.
  • Detailed knowledge is deployed throughout the piece, which is often very specific.
  • Analysis is built upon this detailed knowledge, with a consistent focus on answering the question.
  • Clear mini-conclusions are used at the end of the section which consider what the view on the question is as regards the issue that has been discussed.
  • The conclusion is c synthesises the entirety of the arguments made before coming to a clear judgement.
  • Synoptic links are made to Paper 1 through consideration of factions. (This is a difficult question for synoptic links so examiners will not be looking for much).
  • Political terminology is deployed throughout the essay.