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  • AQA Component Elections and referendums

  • Edexcel Component 1: 4.1: Voting behaviour and the media

Background: what you need to know

This article assesses Labour’s remarkable by-election victories on 19 October in Mid-Bedfordshire and Tamworth. The party took these previously safe Conservative seats with swings of 20 and 23 per cent respectively. There have also been signs of a Labour revival in Scotland following the SNP’s recent defeat in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

Some commentators have pointed out that turnout was very low in all three by-elections and the contests were triggered by unusual local circumstances, so may not be an accurate guide to the outcome of the next general election.

However, the results have caused consternation among Conservatives who doubt that Rishi Sunak’s attempt to brand himself as the ‘change candidate’ at the party conference is succeeding. There is also a danger that less committed Conservatives may not turn out to vote since Keir Starmer seems a much less threatening figure than Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.

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

Labour lets itself dream of power after by-election triumphs

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • ‘The most important reason why parties win or lose elections is voters’ perception of their competence.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement. [25 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 1

  • Evaluate the view that perceptions of governing competence are the most important influence on voting behaviour in the UK.

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

    TIP: Compare these recent by-elections, and what they may mean, with contests held in the run-up to earlier general elections that you may have studied. An interesting parallel would be with the April 1996 South-East Staffordshire by-election — the seat that was later renamed Tamworth — held just a year before Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide victory.

Graham Goodlad, Portsmouth High School

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