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

To what extent can the Prime Minister control the cabinet?

Extracts from this document...


´╗┐Matthew Daniels 8/2/12 Until the 1960s, it would have been accurate to describe the British system of government as ?cabinet government?. Since then however, the concept of cabinet government has been gradually eroded and replaced by the notion of ?prime ministerial? government. The cabinet was considered to be the centrepiece of the government and its supreme policy-making institution. However, during the premiership of Harold Macmillan, between 1957 and 1963, and particularly the first administration of Harold Wilson, from 1964-70, it became obvious that the days of cabinet government were numbered. Two of Wilson?s cabinet colleagues, Richard Crossman and Barbara Castle began to speak openly of ?prime-ministerial government, but not because they were Wilson?s political opponents within the Labour Party, but because their experience of cabinet government was not what they had expected it to be, as the prime minister had started to control the cabinet. The main reasons for Wilson being able to do this, include the use of allies in the cabinet; being able to manipulate the agenda of cabinet meetings; and finally through the use of the media. ...read more.


A prime minister who first took advantage of this manipulation was Harold Wilson in the early 1960s. The prime minister can also manipulate cabinet meetings through the use of ?secret cabinet minutes?, by which only the minutes he wanted to be recorded were, so that they were written to suit his or her conclusions. Due to this, many senior cabinet colleagues during Wilson?s premiership felt that matters were outside their control, even though they sat at the apparent centre of power. Finally, the prime minister can also be seen to be able to control the cabinet, due to the fact that they have the responsibility for the composition of the cabinet. The prime mister has the power to hire, fire and reshuffle cabinet members and they can make or break their political careers. The prime minister can exploit this power to control the cabinet, by appointing their strongest allies to key positions within the cabinet, so that they are more likely to get the decisions that they want. Margaret Thatcher is a great example of where a prime minster has used their power to reshuffle the cabinet to strengthen their power. ...read more.


An example of when this has been the case, is when David Miliband wrote an article in The Guardian newspaper on the 30th July 2010 which greatly undermined the work that Gordon Brown had done as prime minister. Such examples, like the one before of when Gordon Brown?s leadership had been questioned, shows that not every prime minster can control the cabinet. To conclude, it is indeed the case that prime ministers do have the ability to control the cabinet to quite a great extent, as the ability to compose the cabinet means they can have their strongest supporters within it; they can manipulate cabinet meetings and minutes so that they can control what is discussed and the conclusions that come out of them; and finally the use of a close-knit group of advisers mean that agreements can be made before cabinet meetings and so the outcome of discussions can be pre-determined. However, this ability to control the cabinet solely depends on how much support that the prime minster has, as we have already seen that if you do not have the support then you will not be able to control the cabinet. ...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

    To what extent does the prime minister control the cabinet?

    4 star(s)

    Cabinet meetings have declined over the past decades, from around 100 a year to only 40, under Blair they rarely lasted more than an hour, which, when taking into consideration the size of Cabinet and the sheer amount of issues that are discussed, indicates that Blair put little importance on Cabinet meetings.

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

    The changing fortune of presidents is reflected in their role with the Council of Ministers. All presidents since the Second Republic (1848-1852) have chaired the Council of Ministers. In most of the Republics, the Council operated as little more than a rubber stamp, to which decisions taken by ministers at

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

    In sum, the Prime Minister's powers to hire and fire government members, like many other features of the office, are a mixture of freedom and tight constraints. In reality the power exercised by the Prime Minister depends upon their own personality, the standing and attitude of the Cabinet members and intangible factors almost impossible to analyse7.

  2. The relationship between the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

    This has become increasingly evident with Lord Falconer operating as the head of several Home Office committees, and Lord Simon working with BP in the trade department. Equally, he approves choice of ministers' parliamentary private secretaries as these are the people who will soon be making their way up the ladder through the party lines.

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

    Two such examples are Atlee spending ´┐Ż100m on development of nukes without telling Parliament or Cabinet, and Eden preparing for the invasion of the Suez without telling cabinet until the night before. Committees have become more important for recent PM's.

  2. Free essay

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

    An example of this would be the current G20 summit to decide how best to deal with the current economic climate. As head of state he is also the head of the Executive. The Prime Minister is in charge of overseeing the civil services and government agencies, and is ultimately answerable for all its decisions.

  1. Prime Minister & the Cabinet

    In most democratic countries the separation of power means that the legislature, the judiciary and the executive are kept separate from each other and function independently, therefore the judiciary and the legislature have a duty to regulate the executive to ensure stability in how power is being exercised, by the head of the government.

  2. Explain how the Prime Minister can control the Cabinet.

    Prime Ministers also have the power to fire ministers for a variety of reasons, such as ministers failing to comply with collective responsibility. Examples include Michael Heseltine and his disagreement with the cabinet over the sale of Westland Helicopters. Prime Ministers could also fire over policy disasters, such as when

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