• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Compare the view that the most significant constraint upon British Prime Ministers is the power and influence of Cabinet colleagues.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Compare the view that the most significant constraint upon British Prime Ministers is the power and influence of Cabinet colleagues. One of the most important aspects of our democracy is its pluralist nature. The concentration of power into too few hands could always be a dangerous prospect. Central government in Britain consists of a complex web of relationships between various institutions. There is little doubt that the Prime Minister is the single most powerful person in British politics. However her power isn't absolute, and there are a number of constraints upon this power. The Cabinet is arguably the most significant of these constraints. There has long been debate about the exact location of power, and more specifically whether we have a Cabinet government or Prime Ministerial government. Some commentators would argue that the power of the Prime Minister has become Presidential, even Napoleonic. Others would disregard this as a gross simplification of the full picture, and that no single person or institution can create policy independently. Some historical grounding is necessary to make sense of this argument over the relationship between different power bases. During the 18th Century, the Monarch was the head of the executive, and Cabinet Ministers were directly answerable to her. When George I became the first Monarch to stop attending Cabinet meetings, a chairman was needed to head meetings and report to the Monarch. The original title given was the First Lord of the Treasury. ...read more.

Middle

Once the decision has been accepted, ministers who privately disagree are unable to criticise it in public. Some might argue the opposite however, that the principle encourages collective decision-making. The confidentiality of cabinet meetings means that ministers may openly argue issues with which they disagree, knowing that what they say won't leave the room. Foley (1994) was a firm believer that the British premiership has become presidential. He isolated a number of parallels between the role of the American President and the modern British Prime Minister. Firstly, he pointed at 'spatial leadership,' tactics employed by American Presidents to try and distance themselves personally from the post of President. John Major made a good example of this happening in the UK when he attempted to criticise the bureaucracy in government, and give the impression that he was on the same side as the average woman on the street. Similar to this point, Foley noted 'the cult of the outsider,' both politically and socially, within American Presidents. By distancing themselves from the government machinery, a Prime Minister/President can play populist politics while ignoring their colleagues. The British Prime Minister, similar to the American President now takes a very public role, exploiting the establishment of TV as the most prominent medium to address themselves directly to the public. In this way they can form a relationship directly with the public, again bypassing their colleagues. The advancement of mass media has also leapt upon the idea of political personalities. ...read more.

Conclusion

Balancers don't necessarily purposely seek power for themselves, but once they have it tend to focus on maintaining stability and keeping the peace. Innovators such as Thatcher are unlikely to leave their decisions open to much discussion by cabinet. She lead from the front, expecting her party to follow. Balancers such as John Major are less likely to approach cabinet with formal ideas, and rely more on the contribution of their colleagues. Norton accepted that these categories are far from mutually exclusive, and a Prime Minister may fall into two or more of them, and not necessarily remain in the same categories throughout their premiership. Although most commentators would agree that personality style is important, many would point to more influential external factors to explain the differences in Prime Minister's roles. For example, John Major might have been a stronger leader if his party wasn't divided and if the country's economy hadn't plummeted. Few commentators would deny the decline in the power and influence of the cabinet as a grouping. However as department heads, the most important of the Prime Minister's cabinet colleagues probably do provide the most significant constraint upon the Prime Minister. Although possessing considerable influence, it is ultimately the job of individual departments, and not the Prime Minister to formulate policy. This is more out of practicality than anything else. As the case of Margaret Thatcher showed, major rifts within cabinet don't prove popular with the parliamentary party, and it is of an utmost important to maintain a united cabinet. Therefore the power and influence of cabinet colleagues probably do provide the most significant constraint upon British Prime Ministers. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level United Kingdom section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level United Kingdom essays

  1. Comparison of the US President and British Prime Minister.

    It would appear that the constitution has limited the power of the President and strengthened Congressional power, but when looked at more closely, the President has become known as the 'Chief Legislator', according to Johnson, for his extensive use

  2. Government & Politics Revision Notes

    They did however win seats in both the 1999 and 2003 elections. Supporters of AMS claim that they retain the best feature of plurality and majority systems, this being the fact that everyone has a local MP, and remove the worst feature this being the fact that some parties are over-represented in Parliament.

  1. Discuss the view that the cabinet is of little importance in the British system ...

    It is therefore really in the committees that the decisions are made and the cabinet has turned into a place for agreement. Since 1997 there has been a change from the more formal cabinet setting of government to a more relaxed style of 'sofa government' that Prime Minister Tony Blair was so fond of.

  2. How far do you agreewith the proposition; the cabinet is dead?

    it, he spoke for them and had to resign as a result. The convention states that one decision has to be made by the cabinet, and then all of the cabinet have to support it fully, even if argued against in cabinet.

  1. The comparison of the US President and the British Prime Minister appears from the ...

    The parliamentary timetable is dominated by Government Bills, which find their roots with the Prime Minister, and have a relatively minute chance of failure. The British Prime Minister, it would appear has more legislative power than the President since he has much control over the workings of the standing committees which consider and amend legislation.

  2. Free essay

    Identify and Discuss the Role of Prime Minister, Giving Specific Examples within the British ...

    Some arguments against the Prime Minister/President debate include "practical restrictions on the Prime Minister's power to hire and fire ministers constraints are in place on the capacity of the Prime Minister to control government business" (Burch 1990), The Prime Minister has a very powerful position , but only whilst in favour of their cabinet colleagues (Jones 1990).

  1. (Prime) Ministers - Role, Resignation and Limitations

    Assess the limitations on the powers of the Prime Minister Although the Prime Minister possesses great power in the UK, there are still limitations to their power. One big limitation on the Prime Ministers power is the Cabinet, as decisions are made collectively it is possible for the Prime

  2. Does Britain have a Prime Ministerial or Cabinet Government?

    Her dominating and aggressive personality made it almost impossible to argue with her and those that did often found their views ignored. When describing herself and her leadership style she once said 'I am not a consensus politician, I am a conviction politician'.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work