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A constant theme of modern British Politics is whether or not prime ministerial government has taken over from traditional cabinet government.

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IN013803 Politics Essay 11/03/03 A constant theme of modern British Politics is whether or not prime ministerial government has taken over from traditional cabinet government. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet exert formal powers but the proportion of power between them will depend on informal relationships and changing variables, such as personalities, issues and circumstances. Occasionally the debate subsides, only to start up again with renewed vigour when a dominant personality like Mrs Thatcher or Tony Blair, occupies number 10. Therefore it is necessary to look deeply into the question of whether or not the present system of government is 'prime ministerial' rather than predominantly cabinet led. Parliamentary government as we know it has not always been part of the British constitution. The Civil War of the 17th century was a great turning point when the Stewart's idea of the divine right of Kings to govern a country with little reference to the people - was overthrown. This was a great triumph for democracy. Nevertheless, there was still a long way to go. For most of the 17th century, parliament did not meet continuously. Between 1681 and 1685 it did not meet at all. After the revolution of 1688, the Commons began to meet regularly. ...read more.


Concerning foreign relations, Margaret Thatcher, however, had a 'Little Englander', anti European Sentiment. Her Euro Scepticism led to conflict with Europhiles such as Ken Clarke, former cabinet Minister Chris Patten, and Geoffrey Howe. Another example of a 'bust up is when in 1986, Michael Heseltine marched out of the cabinet and resigned on the grounds that Mrs Thatcher did not allow him to make his case in full cabinet for a European-backed rescue of the West Land Helicopter Company. As well as these strong beliefs, her supreme sense of power and domination over the cabinet was illustrated perfectly when she entered the cabinet meeting only to say" I haven't got much tome today, only enough time to explode and have my way". This is a clear illustration of her self-righteous character which were only to cause harm for her and her party in the years to come. These characteristics and events proved to be detrimental to Thatcher's government. In eleven years of her regime, came with successes in difficult circumstances, such as the Falklands War and failures like the Poll Tax. However, it was her personality, her cabinet divisions and harsh policies that eventually led to her demise from power. ...read more.


A presidential leader wants to get on with his job and recently Blair indicated that he wanted less time consuming obstacles, by reducing the time in which ordinary MPs could voice their opinions in Prime Ministers Question Time. More concerning to the democratic role of the cabinet, is the fact that since 1997 when Labour came into power, the government has expanded its number of special advisers from 38 to 81. Blair has established two additional bodies, the Strategic Communications Unit and the Research and Information Unit. Political Spin Doctors are stealing management precedence over the traditionally apolitical civil service. This trend is becoming increasingly indicative of the diminishing role of the cabinet according to the former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, who claimed "cabinet government is dead" The role of the cabinet is diminishing through modern, autocratic political regimes. The lesser reliance on the Cabinet, has quite possibly to do with the increased number of responsibilities, therefore more dependence is placed on special advisors. It could also be partially to do with the Prime Minister's will to press ahead with his plans and avoid policy confrontation with 'Old Labour' ministers. In conclusion it is true to say that the current British political regime is 'prime ministerial' because it is dominated more by the will and aims of Tony Blair, than by the philosophical contribution of the Cabinet. ...read more.

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