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What Limits Are There on The Power of The Prime Minister?

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What Limits Are There on The Power of The Prime Minister? It is now accepted that the most powerful individual in the British system of Government is the Prime Minister, currently Tony Blair. However, an argument that still exists involves the exact extent of the power exercised by the Prime Minister which is not very easy to calculate. A reason for this is that Prime Ministers, in the British system of Government do not govern alone. Many decisions are made by the cabinet (a group of ministers appointed by the Prime Minister) and most matters are discussed within the cabinet so it is possible to argue that the Prime Minister has very little individual power and that he has to share his power out. However, since the 1950's commentators have described an increase in the power of the Prime Minister, especially Crossman in 1962 (a cabinet member under Wilson) who argued that the Prime Minister had been taken on too much power in a diary and Benn who in 1979 referred to 'a system of personal rule in the very heart of our parliamentary democracy.' ...read more.


'The Prime Minister may be under pressure from colleagues or the media to appoint certain people to the cabinet. All Prime Ministers at least listen to advice from senior colleagues before making appointments. An important reason for this is for the Prime Minister to retain the support of the backbenchers in the party. This is very important as Margaret Thatcher realised in 1990 when she was forced to concede to the Cabinet on the decision to join the ERM after forming a rift with prominent misters such as Howe and Lawson and to their advice, she stood down from leadership contests in the same year. Another reason why the Prime Minister cannot do as he pleases with the Cabinet is because of the fear of being accused of being a dictator, the need to show he cares about the country in order to win elections and because press interest is extremely high and with the press hunting for a scandal, the Prime Minster's actions with and within the Cabinet are closely monitored. ...read more.


'Black Wednesday' where the value of the pound dropped rapidly was not actually Major's fault as the joining of the ERM happened in Thatcher's time and although against the wishes of Thatcher, with Thatcher's Government. John Major was very unlucky and since that day, nobody has trusted Conservative Government with finances. This shows other limitations on the Power of The Prime Minister such as personality, age, size of majority and as many Prime Ministers find out, luck. This is where it could be said that Prime Ministers are becoming too presidential and are being described as the cult of the outsider. A Prime Minister now needs to be charismatic like Thatcher and Blair. Size of Majority is also very important as Major discovered when there was a party split over issues such as Europe. Fortunately for Tony Blair, he currently has a huge majority in Parliament which does somewhat increase his power. However, the Prime Minister; primus inter pares, will always be the first among equals and as Burch said in 1990: 'it is simply beyond the ability of a single person, no matter how self-assured or single-minded, to be everywhere and know everything.' Ross Holden ...read more.

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