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Some political commentators have suggested that the British prime minister is one ofthe most powerful figures. Lord Hailsham for example has described the office as being one of ’elected dictatorship'.

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Introduction

Some political commentators have suggested that the British prime minister is one of the most powerful figures. Lord Hailsham for example has described the office as being one of 'elected dictatorship'. Certainly the question of the position of the prime minister has come back into consideration again with the Blair government and its apparently unassailable position in the House of Commons. The source of the PM's powers lie principally in convention, unlike other systems which have a written constitution, setting out the respective powers of the different parts of government. The prime minister is chosen simply as being the leader of the largest party in the Commons, and the powers he has derive from the Royal Prerogative i.e. the powers once exercised by the monarch have been taken up in practice by the PM, although the monarch still has a formal role, for example it is the Queen who dissolves parliament, but on the advice of the PM; or it is the Queen who appoints the Bishops of the C of E and senior judges but on the advice of the PM. ...read more.

Middle

This threat has limited use since it is a high risk strategy. The alternative to this would be fixed term parliaments as is the case in most other systems, or giving the powers of dissolution to some other body which would be difficult in the British system, since elsewhere that power is often held by a president. Treaty signing and declaring war are also prerogative powers; John Major in 1992 suggested that he did not need parliamentary approval of the Maastricht treaty because of this power, but that would have been breaking with tradition. Whatever the merits of that particular case, it highlights a major problem of the current constitutional set up, namely, its reliance on convention and to some extent the good faith of the government. Other powers: are the control that the PM has over the Cabinet system and Whitehall and those that derive from being a Party leader. LIMITATIONS: The Prime Minister does have many powers, but there are still some limitations which should be considered. ...read more.

Conclusion

When things go well, the Prime Minister can bath in the glory but the opposite is also true. As the most known member of the government, it is he that the public hold to be accountable when things go wrong. Anthony Eden was held responsible for the Suez episode in 1956; Edward Heath was seen as the person responsible for the 1974 miners strike when a three-day working week was introduced; Margaret Thatcher was held responsible for the problems associated with the Poll Tax etc. Tony Blair has been accused of being too friendly with America's President Bush and not being critical enough of the President's foreign policy designs. Though the Prime Minister has a great deal of political power, this power is also balanced by the fact that there are limitations to that power. While a Prime Minister has the backing of his party, his position is secure; if he loses that support, then his position becomes very vulnerable. ...read more.

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