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Discuss the powers and constraints on the power of the Prime Minister

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´╗┐Discuss the powers and constraints on the power of the Prime Minister The British Prime Minister (PM) is holder of great power(s). ?The PM is the most powerful figure, indeed the most powerful figure in the British system of government?[1]. He or She leads a group of political figures some of whom have a party or national standing in their own right. At the beginning of the 20th century the PM was described as primus inter pares- first among equals. The PM has can exercise powers which are denied to other members of the cabinet for example the power of patronage. He/she has formal powers inherited by the monarch such as the ability to go to war and more informal powers such as the media. The PM also has constitutional powers for example being able to decide the election date. This essay shall outline some of the powers at the disposal of the PM as well as some of the constraints that can limit the PMs freedom of action. Firstly, ?The Prime Minister?s role is peculiarly British in two ways. The first is that as the Head of Government, he must control the House of Commons to remain in office[2]. The fact that the PM is head of government gives him/her considerable power. The PM owes his or her position to the party and must not forget such a connection. ...read more.


The fall of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 is often said to be largely the work of her cabinet, ?the introduction of the Community Charge for local government sounded the death knell for Thatcherism?[7] And her presidential style of leadership were making her unpopular. In 1990 there was a challenge to her leadership. Michael Heseltine stood against thatcher in a challenge to her leadership but ?despite being only four votes short of outright victory, she stepped down after advice from her Cabinet?[8]. fewer votes than she did but enough to damage her authority to such an extent that in a succession of face to face interviews her cabinet colleagues convinced her not to stand in the second round, thus leaving the way open for john major to be elected. Thatcher was therefore removed from office largely due to the work of her cabinet colleagues. John Major also had some difficulties in his second ministry with some of his cabinet particularly John Redwood and Michael Portillo, because of their underhand opposition to his policy. Brown enjoyed the advantage of being able to reshuffle his cabinet thoroughly when he took over as PM, hence ensuring the exclusion of his enemies and rivals. He made sure to include some of his ?inner circle? including Ed Balls sometimes named Mr Browns ?representative on earth? [9] A second constraint on the powers of the PM is the support of the media or lack of it. ...read more.


This sort of difficulty undermines the PMs Authority more generally, in the media and among the voters as a whole. Blair found this out for himself in his third term, with a reduced majority, and his first defeat in 2005 on the terrorism bill. Brown of course inherited this slimmer majority from Blair and in March 2008 he faced back-bench rebellions over his counter terrorism bill. In conclusion, it has been argued that the PM has acted beyond the constitutional role which is primus inter pares (first among equals).The PM can exercise powers held by the crown or prerogative powers for example the ability to go to war. Also the PM decides the election date. But most importantly, he or she is leader of government and by definition the most powerful politician in the country. However, should the PM forget the connection established between the press, the people and his or her party the PM will find it hard to succeed as Margaret thatcher?s downfall highlighted. ________________ [1] Book, Michael Rush, The Cabinet and Policy Formation 1984 p. 90 [2] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/political-and-constitutional-reform-committee/news/pm-powers-inquiry/discussion-paper-pm-powers/ Accessed 30/08/12 [3] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-03861.pdf [4] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-03861.pdf [5] Book, Michael Rush, The Cabinet and Policy Formation 1984 p92 [6] Book, Michael Rush, The Cabinet and Policy Formation 1984 p 91 [7] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/thatchers-legacy-from-the-poll-tax-to-privatisation-789747 accessed 31/08/2012 [8] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/727824.stm Under the heading of ? Toppling Thatcher? accessed 31/08/2012 [9] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6240362.stm Under heading ?Ed Balls? accessed 31/08/2012 [10] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/25/upert-murdochs-spell-broken-baleful-influence [11] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4717504.stm ...read more.

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