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

How much power does the Prime Minister really have?

Extracts from this document...


How much power does the Prime Minister really have? The Prime Minister is the head of government in the British Isles and is therefore supposedly the most powerful person in the Isles. The Prime Minister is appointed by the currently reigning Monarch after a general election and is, according to tradition, usually the leader of the political party which wins the most seats in the House of Commons in the aforementioned general election. The Monarch is not obliged by law to appoint the leader of this party however previous Monarchs have set a precedent by which the Monarch is expected to abide. If the King/Queen were to try and appoint anyone other than the leader of the largest party it is likely that that person would forward a motion to abolish the Monarchy. In this essay I will be looking at and assessing the power the Prime Minister possesses. I will also be examining how the power held by the Prime Minister is regulated and what measures are in place to keep a check on it. In order to understand the power that the Prime Minister holds it may be necessary to take a brief look at the history of the office of the PM. The origins of the office lie in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 whereby the Monarchy was reinstalled post-civil war. ...read more.


Benn came up with this theory at a time when many MP's were arguing that the office of Prime Minister was gaining power at the expense of the cabinet. Benn's theory was, however, not an entirely new one; Richard Crossman had come up with a similar idea in his book 'The English Constitution' in 1960. Benn's ten powers were: * The power to appoint. * The power to create peers. * The power to give out honours. * The power to appoint chairs of nationalised industry. * The power to make other appointments (Judicial service, Civil service etc.). * Power over ministerial conduct. * Power relating to government business. i.e. agenda setting. * Power over information. * Power in international relations. * The power to terminate a parliament or government. Benn believed that the ability to 'hire and fire' was the most important of these powers. After the 1997 election in which Tony Blair's Labour Party swept to power with a landslide victory Blair was accused by many commentators of abusing the first of Benn's ten powers. He appointed many acquaintances of his to high ranking positions of power. The tabloid press dubbed them 'Tony's cronies'. In addition to this Crossman argued that there had been two major changes in the machinery of the PM's office. ...read more.


Professor of government and politics at Manchester Metropolitan University Martin Burch came up with a similar thesis in a paper published in 'Transforming British Government Vol. 1' (2000). He claimed there were only three categories of classification: 1. Delegators - Those with a tendency to trust ministers and who interfere minimally. 2. Interveners - Those who Push colleagues towards a certain view. 3. Overseers - Those who adopt a more general overview and seek an overall government objective. In conclusion I believe that it would be fair to say that the power held by the Prime Minister varies considerably depending upon a variety of factors. This is best stated by former PM Sir Richard Wilson: ''The PM's power varies from time to time according to the extent their cabinet colleagues allow them to have that power, depending on whether the cabinet is split, depending upon the strength of the government majority in the house of commons and also upon popular opinion in the electorate and attitudes in the party''. -Sir Richard Wilson In theory the PM is the most powerful person in these Isles; however, there are a number of limiting factors placed upon this power. From the lowliest voter to the highest civil servant to the opposition leader everyone has a certain amount of power with which they can constrain a PM to prevent the establishment of a tyrannous dictatorship or worse. The PM's power is a variable whilst freewill remains a constant. ...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. Marked by a teacher

    Leadership styles

    3 star(s)

    * A participative approach may not be the most cost effective way of organising a service. The time of service officers is expensive and in terms of public perceptions and government funding it is best if the public services, especially the uniformed services, are doing the job and not talking about how to do it.

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

    This, it would appear, gives the President a vital alternative source which can only help increase his power as it provides vital information and analysis. The British Prime Minister, according to Dunleavy, has also taken on such a policy, pre-cooking policy and using alternative sources of information when deciding policy.

  1. To what extent does the prime minister dominate the UK political system?

    Employing over 150 staff, it is divided into four parts - Private Office, Political Unit, Press Office and Policy Unit. The Private Office keeps the Prime Minister updated on his schedule and prepares answers for PMQ's. So when the Prime Minister is questioned at PMQ's, he may be seeing the answer for the first time as well.

  2. To what extent has the Prime Minister become Presidential?

    Therefore, even without a personal department (as the US president has), Blair is certainly not lacking in support. In July 1998 Blair merged the Cabinet Office with The Office of Public Service, creating, what has been named as "a Prime Minister's department in all but name".

  1. Arguments that the British Prime Minister is an elective dictator are arrant nonsense. The ...

    ministers such as Lord Chancellor, it is possible to reject the whole idea as the Lord Chancellor performs all three functions. However, despite this the separation of powers is considered to be vital in order to maintain a balance of powers.

  2. To what extent has the post of Prime minister become more presidential?

    the British Prime minister has, he is also restricted by a fixed term of four years meaning he does not have the benefit of calling an election when he chooses. In relation to the presidential roles the Prime Ministers roles have changed in some ways towards a British version of the American model.

  1. Where does the decision making power lie in the British executive: with the Prime ...

    thus to identify the current distribution of power we must adopt a historical perspective. Taking a series of snapshot historical perspectives may make us over emphasise the importance of individuals in analysing power, only by mapping broader trends in institutional reform (which may be enacted by individuals)

  2. How and why has the role of the prime minister changed over the post-1945 ...

    The reduction of question time has arguably made the prime minister less accountable to parliament, and as such increased his power. According to Dunleavy since 1961 question time has also increased the role of the leader of the opposition who now almost alone questions the prime minister (1995, p281).

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