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Arguments that the British Prime Minister is an elective dictator are arrant nonsense. The Prime Minister is constrained by his or her cabinet colleagues, the will of Parliament and the decisions of the judiciary. Discuss.

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Introduction

"Arguments that the British Prime Minister is an elective dictator are arrant nonsense. The Prime Minister is constrained by his or her cabinet colleagues, the will of Parliament and the decisions of the judiciary. The British Constitution rests on the separation of power and the operation of the rule of law. The Prime Minister operates firmly within the particular constitutional arrangement in place for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" Evaluate the above statement and consider the extent to which you think it is true. As the head of the executive branch of government and chair of the cabinet, the Prime Minister is the most high profile politician in Britain and the questions surrounding the post's status and power are central to an understanding of the British political system. Like other western democracies, the responsibilities and functions are in relation to a constitutional framework, which sets out certain boundaries for the executive, legislative and judicial aspects of government. However, such a framework is largely unwritten and uncodified, something that has a considerable effect on the practical realities of being Prime Minister. Additionally, the British political climate has come under recent pressure, due to the changing nature of the core executive and the impact of the mass media and influence of the European Union. This essay intends to analyse the main assumptions of the British constitution, in specific relation to what extent they have a bearing on the prime minister's powers and limitations, where a strong focus will be on both the theoretical and practical ramifications surrounding the power of his or her position. ...read more.

Middle

For example, James Callaghan's labour party was forced to stand down in 1979. However, the Prime Minister does acquire the power to appoint whips (more common in the House of Commons than the House of Lords), that are imposed to try and force members to agree with proposals. If a bill makes it to the House of Lords, it is here considered in detail and amendments are made9. This then means the bill is sent back to the House of Commons, delaying the enactment of the bill. The House of Lords can limit both what the Prime Minister puts through the House of Commons and the speed at which it can pass through the House of Lords. However, it must be stressed that the House of Lords is essentially a revisory chamber, where its major influence is "through persuasion and the correction of detail rather than direct defiance of the Prime Minister"10. Decisions made by the judiciary also place some constraint on the Prime Minister. Although the executive appoints judges, their independence is secured by law. "The English Courts' powers extend beyond reviewing the technical legality of the administrative act or decision"11. One of the judiciary's functions is to protect citizens against unlawful acts of government agencies and officials12 and therefore has the power to review unreasonable exercise of the powers given to the executive. The Prime Minister and other members of government are restrained from criticising the judiciary by convention. ...read more.

Conclusion

This access to the media gives the Prime Minister power over government colleagues. The nature of the British political system is far from straightforward, in that candid statements pointing to the Prime Minister's unlimited powers, or the spent tenets of the British constitution offer only inaccurate analysis. The concepts of a separation of powers and a rule of law are not in the realm of constitutional legality, largely due to the fact that the British constitution is unwritten and lives off custom and convention. Therefore the Prime Minister is perhaps not scrutinised, as he or she would be if the constitution were more legally grounded. However, these principles do serve as a sound basis for the making and evaluation of government policy. They promote the virtues of regularity, rationality and integrity on the part of those central to the parliamentary process. There are other, more subtle factors at work as well. The premiership is not just one individual, however his or her personal style is crucially important, as demonstrated by the contrasting leadership strategies of MrsThatcher, Mr Major and Mr Blair. Although there can be differences in style and circumstances, the Prime Ministers are fundamentally leaders. It is the Prime Minister's job to rise above cabinet issues and in this sense the Prime Minister is not a colleague, but the boss. With a close hold on the executive branch, as well as a considerable majority in parliament, Prime Ministers have the power to press their governmental programmes and policy-making agendas with undeniable authority. ...read more.

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