Political science at Huntingdon
Huntingdon College | Political Science | Courses
Optional: purchase Union Jacks herePSC 321: British Politics.
Sample Questions.
Actual test questions may differ, but will be of similar style.
Revised 25 Apr. 2006, compiled by Jeremy Lewis .


Sample Questions from Norton, The British Polity.
  • Explain each of the following in a paragraph:
  • Norton ch. 1: The Contemporary Landscape
  • Dunleavy (ed), Ch. 1: Dunleavy, "Introduction"
  • European currency union
  • Joining the euro: briefly explain the pros and cons for the UK
  • Essay: Does Britain have a role at the heart of Europe?
  • Essay: what are the advantages and disadvantages of the UK joining the Euro?
  • Essay: Should a referendum be called before any decision for Britain to join the Euro?
  • Essay: Discuss the merits of the Labour government's 1997 programme of constitutional reform.
  • Essay: "Thatcherism has opened the way for the radical modernizing leadership of new Labour."  Discuss fully.

  • Norton ch. 2: The Political Culture
  • empirical, allegiant culture
  • cooperative, trusting culture
  • occupation in British politics
  • mass media in British politics
  • declining civic culture argument
  • Essay: Is the civic culture in Britain declining, what are the argument raised about it -- and if so what will be the result?
  • Essay: Describe the civic culture in Britain -- and explain its differences with the United States.
  • Essay: What are the causes of a civic culture and how have they influenced the British?
  • King (ed) Ch. 1, Anthony King, "Tony Blair's First Term"
  • massive economic crises and Labour governments
  • Blair’s government's different view of “classes”
  • Old Labour, King says, was a party that kept its distance from what groups in society?
  • In the 1997 general election, Labour secured the support of what surprising groups?
  • the two pillars of traditional British socialism
  • Blair government's policy on nationalization
  • organizational links between the Labour Party and trade unions.
  • Essay: in what sense was Blair's New labour administration of 1997 still a socialist administration?
  • Essay: "New Labour boasted a new organization, new leader new policies, and new voters.  Was it still Labour?  Discuss fully.
  • Dunleavy Ch. 2: Steven Fielding, "A New Politics"
  • post war consensus
  • Third Way
  • Essay: Differentiate between the post war consensus and the Third Way of New Labour.  Was the Third Way really just a label for Labour acceptance of Thatcherism?
  • Dunleavy Ch. 12: Elizabeth Frazer:  "Citizenship and Culture"
  • conservative citizenship
  • new democratic citizenship
  • “joined up govt.”
  • collective group power
  • Essay: Explain the difference between conservative and new democratic citizenship.  Do these actually corespond to positions of the two major parties?
  • Essay: Explain the New Labour view of citizenship and culture.  How far does it differ from the previous understandings?

  • Norton Ch. 3: Past & Present
  • Essay: In what ways has the long democratic past of Britain influenced its present politics?
  • Essay: Does New Labour represent the rejection of Britain's feudal history in favor of a new, democratic future?
  • Battle of the Falklands, lecture
  • In what sense does the Battle of the Falklands illustrate what happens when an old colonial commitment is challenged?
  • "The Battle of the Falklands illustrated the dominance of short-term politics over strategy, and expertise over numbers of troops."  Discuss fully.
  • How did these factors interact to produce the outcome of the battle of the Falklands /Malvinas: strategy, technology and expertise?
  • In what sense did the battle of the Falklands /Malvinas indicate a British "muddling through" (or failure to break with the past)?
  • "The Battle of the Falklands /Malvinas was a ridiculous contest for one nation to preserve a lost empire, and for the other nation to recover land it never held."  Discuss fully, taking a sttrategic view of the battle.

  • Norton Ch. 4: Uncodified Constitution
  • Essay: How has British politics been transformed since about 1990?
  • Essay: Has there been constutional change in Britain -- and how can that occur without a constitution?
  • Essay: In what does the British constitution consist?
  • Essay: Does "constitutional" in Britain mean anything other than a claim that tradition should be respected?
  • Essay: Does the European Union reduce British sovereignty?
  • Essay: What are the sources of the constitution and how do they differ from the United States?
  • Essay: In what sense is the British Uncodified Constitution written?
  • King (ed) Ch. 2, Anthony King, "Britain's Constitutional Revolution"
  • Blair's constitutional reforms
  • reform of the House of Lords in the 1990s
  • Essay: was the Blair first administration the most active constitutional reforming goverment in Britain?
  • Essay: How does the British process of constitutional reform differ from the American, and how rapid was the pace of change in the UK in the late 1990s?
  • To what degree is the Blair administration committed to a constitutional revolution?
  • Dunleavy Ch.  5, Gillian Peele, "Law & The Constitution"
  • Britain as a multi-layered, pluralistic democracy
  • deregulation, privatization, and agencies.
  • new public management
  • reform of the composition of the Lords
  • Essay: What choices did New Labour face up to in reforming the law and the constitution?
  • Essay: Is the Blair administration the most reforming government in a hundred years?

  • Norton Ch. 5 The Electoral System: Fair and Workable?
  • constituencies of the House of Commons
  • extension of the franchise
  • characteristics of British campaigns
  • candidate selection
  • causes of voting behavior
  • Essay: In what sense if any is the British electoral system a dysfunctional system?
  • Essay: Can a winner take all (first past the post) system ever be fair?  If not, are there other advantages?
  • Essay: What are the differences between British and American campaigns?  Which type of campaign gives voters better type of choice among policies?
  • Essay: Is the British electoral system fair and workable?
  • Essay: Is the British electoral system fair and workable?  What other systems could replace it?
  • King (ed) Ch. 3, Philip Norton, "Conservative Party: Anyone Out There?"
  • The withdrawal from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM)
  • How the 20th Century can be characterized as the “Conservative Century,”
  • Hague’s new strategy for conservatives
  • state of the conservatives by 2000
  • Essay: By 2000, how did the British conservatives resemble their predecessors of the 1980s?
  • Essay: In what sense if any is New Labour the new Conservative party of power?
  • Dunleavy Ch. 8: Patrick Dunleavy, "Elections as Party Politics"
  • Political alignments and party performance in 1997 election
  • weak roots of Labour's dominance since 1997
  • "two-party system"
  • Essay: Is New Labour now the natural party of government?
  • Essay: "New Labour's dominant position is the product not of a solid realignment but only of superficial shifts in the parties' positions on policy."  Discuss fully.
  • King, Chs. 3 & 4
  • How do government - party relationships vary between the Labour party and the Conservative party?

  • Norton Ch. 6: Political Parties: ... A Two Party System?
  • Essay: Is New Labour really just old labour with a new image?
  • Dunleavy Ch. 9: Paul Webb, "Political Parties: Adapting to the Electoral Market"
  • fluid political environment
  • trends in partisan loyalties
  • Maurice Duverger on political parties before democratic era
  • cadre party and caucus, versus mass-branch party
  • professional political marketing in British parties
  • Labour's dependence on the trade unions
  • Essay: How have British parties adapted in recent years to marketing themselves?
  • Essay: Which is now the most professional party in Britain, and why?

  • Norton Ch. 7: Interest Groups: Insiders or Outsiders?
  • Essay: Do interest groups hold more or less privileged positions in Britain than in the US?
  • Essay: How has the status of interest groups been changing in Britain?
  • Essay: In British interest group politics, is it still more effective to take an inside strategy  -- or is this now out of date?

  • Norton Ch. 8: Executive: Gov't at the Center
  • Essay: Does the integration of powers lead to an excessively strong executive?
  • Essay: Is the prime minister gaining power at the expense of civil servants?

  • Norton Ch. 9: Subnational Gov't: Below the Center
  • Essay: Is British local government suffering from a democracy deficit?
  • Essay: Has British local government been strengthened or weakened in recent decades, and why?

  • Norton Ch. 10: European Community: Beyond the Center
  • Essay: Is the European Community suffering from a democracy deficit?
  • Essay: Does the European Union reduce British sovereignty?
  • Dunleavy Ch. 4: Simon Hix, "Britain, the EU, and the Euro"
  • Enlargement of EU
  • scope of EU regulation of British economy
  • British party and newspaper stances on European integration
  • Essay: "Together the British parties have colluded to keep Britain in the EU -- and prevent the popular majority from pulling out."  Discuss fully.
  • Essay: Can one really distinguish between the Third Way and British Way when it comes to policy towards the EU?

  • Norton Ch. 11: Parliament: Commons and Lords
  • Essay: Does Britain still enjoy a truly bicameral system?
  • Essay: Are the Commons and Lords still "efficient" -- or only "dignified" -- today?
  • Essay: How should Parliament be reformed, if at all?
  • Essay: Are the Commons and Lords merely a fig leaf covering prime ministerial government?

  • Norton Ch. 12: Monarchy: Above the Fray?
  • Essay: How has the role of the monarch changed over time and what is its future?
  • Essay: Is the monarchy an anachronism?
  • Essay: Does the monarchy perform any function that could not be performed by a republican presidency?
  • Essay: WIll Queen Elizabeth II prove to have been both the most adaptable -- and last -- British monarch?

  • Norton Ch. 13: Enforcement: Courts & Police
  • Essay: Do the British courts and police offer any useful lessons for the United States?
  • Essay: Do the British courts and police respect individual rights as they should?
  • Essay: How has the structure and functions of the British court system changed since 1970?
  • Essay: Compare the British and American justice systems.

  • Norton Ch. 14: Communication & Feedback: Mass Media
  • Essay: Do the British mass media play a greater role in democracy than the American?
  • Essay: What is the political stance of the newspaper and television channels in Britain?  Overall does this balance favor the Left or Right?
  • Essay: Should the British system of quasi-public and commercial television channels be reformed, and why?
  • Essay: "In Britain, the television services -- but not newspapers -- play a better role in politics than their US counterparts."  Discuss fully.

  • Norton Ch. 15: Flux & Strength
  • Essay: Where is the British political system headed in the next generation?
  • Essay: Are the signs of continuity in British politics greater than the signs of change?

  • Lecture based or general knowledge short answer questions (explain each of the following in a paragraph):
  • role of the cabinet
  • role of the shadow cabinet
  • lrole of the back benchers
  • role of the cross benchers
  • "My Right Honorable friend"
  • "The honourable and gallant gentleman."
  • role of the Speaker
  • Prime Minister's Question Time
  • "Mr. Speaker, I will begin my remarks again."
  • issue of unparliamentary remarks.
  • Queen-in-parliament
  • Royal Assent
  • the liberal democrats' party
  • the Conservative party
  • New Labour as distinct from Labour party
  • the categories of gutter, middle brow and quality press
  • First past the post electoral system
  • boundaries of parliamentary constituencies
  • Lecture based essay questions (varies with each version of the course):
  • British defense policy for environmental security [Wg Cdr. Luck]
  • official secrets act, 1911
  • freedom of information act, 2000.

  • King (ed) Britain at the Polls, additional short answer and essay questions:
  • Essay: How did Blair win re-election?
  • Essay: Did the Conservatives lose the recent election, or did New Labour really win?


  • Dunleavy ... (eds) Developments in British Politics, 6/e.  Additional Identification and essay questions.