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The Prime Ministers Powers Of Patronage

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Introduction

"The prime ministers powers of patronage increase his/her control over cabinet" The modern Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wields broad executive and legislative powers. The incumbent leads a major political party, commands a majority in the House of Commons, and is the leader of the Cabinet. Under the British system, there is a unity of powers rather than separation as in other democracies. Most of the powers that are exercised by the prime minister derive from the royal prerogatives. One of the main powers of the prime minister is the powers of patronage; there are many areas to the power of patronage, these being the appointment of ministers, the allocation of cabinet posts, the ability to reshuffle the cabinet and the ability to dismiss ministers from the cabinet. Two political commentators Bagehot and Crossman who have the ideas of primus inter pares and prime ministerial government. Prime ministerial government is a government where the prime minister is dominant in terms of the executive. ...read more.

Middle

Key decisions and policy recommendations are increasingly being made by small groups of cabinet ministers working in committees. This has, in effect, significantly reduced the cabinets role in the policy making process. The prime minister decides which ministers sit on these committees and which issues they deal with. This gives the prime minister increased power and influence as they can appoint with a desired result in mind. After the 1997 landslide victory, Tony Blair ensured that proposals issued from the committee set up to recommend constitutional reform issues reflected his own non radical stance by appointing a number of conservative ministers with a similar outlook to his own. Such an example would suggest that cabinet ministers are ultimately controlled by the prime minister. Prime ministers can reshuffle cabinet portfolios. This allows the prime minister to promote successful ministers, demote those who have underperformed and freshen up the team. Ministers whose continued presence might damage the standing of government can be sacked completely. Margaret Thatcher's reputation as the "Iron Lady" extended to her relationship with her cabinet, many of whom she axed in several controversial reshuffles. ...read more.

Conclusion

This power is not the most important of the PMs Powers but as discussed above it can have damaging results for the political career of the prime minister if not used wisely. Despite the growing trend of prime ministerial dominance over the chairing of cabinet meetings and influencing decisions, there have been occasions when the PM has been defeated by cabinet. As primus inter pares, the PM, unlike the American president, does not have the power to overrule the cabinet. If a cabinet is united against the PM, their position is untenable. In 1986 Thatcher was defeated in cabinet over the proposed sale of Landrover to General Motors. By 1990, she had lost the support of most cabinet members and was forced to resign. Tony Blair faced a number of large scale rebellions by Labour MPs over the war in Iraq, foundation hospitals and tuition fees during his second term, which saw not only his opinion polls rating fall but what was also described as a loss of authority over his cabinet. In conclusion, for most of the twentieth century, the UK system of government was described as cabinet government whose members exercise collective responsibility but ultimately were controlled by the prime minister ...read more.

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