Does the UK have a Prime Ministerial government?

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Does the UK have a Prime Ministerial Government? (40marks)

The Prime Minister is very much a staple of British politics today and it can be seen in the last thirty years that there has been a power shift in UK politics very much in favour of the Prime Minister. Traditionally, the UK government operated under a theoretical system known as cabinet government which is basically the idea that all members of the cabinet should have an equal say in policy making with the Prime Minister being ‘first among equals’ in the cabinet. However, in recent times it can be seen that the UK government has moved to a system known as Prime Ministerial government which is when a prime minister uses its powers and influence to dominate all areas of government including the dictation of government policy. It can be seen that the powers of patronage the Prime Minister has, the control and bypass of the cabinet by the PM and the fact that the PM is in appearance the head of the country,  all of which suggest a move towards a prime ministerial government in recent years. However, it can be argued that whilst the PM appears to be all dominant in fact the PM still relies on the support of its cabinet, its party and the strength of its party in parliament or in other words the success of the PM.

One way in which in recent years, the UK has moved towards PM government is through the control and bypassing of the cabinet by various Prime Ministers. In recent years, there has been a bypassing of cabinet government and an increase in the use of bilateral meetings (which is essentially a gathering of the PMs most trusted ministers from the cabinet and deciding what to do on certain policies before the cabinet meeting) which allows the pm to have more power over policy and also takes power usually reserved for the cabinet. An example of this is Blair’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ of which brown was the only ever present member whom he discussed policy with an example of this being the privatisation of the control of interest rates in the bank of England which was very much Blair’s own personal policy. Another way there has been a move from cabinet government is that the prime minister has become able to push their own policy forward with little or no support from their parties for example Thatcher pushed through the poll tax bill even though the party was more or less united in opposition to the idea.  In addition to this in recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of personal advisors to the PM in comparison to previous years where the PM had barely any personal advisors and the now established PM’s office which consists of advisors to the PM thereby limiting the need for cabinet consultation. These moves clearly show a bypassing and control of the government supporting the idea the UK has moved to a PM government rather than cabinet government.

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One restraint on the powers of the prime minister is the strength a majority in parliament. It could be argued that there is a correlation between the power of the prime minister and the parties size of majority in parliament for example Blair initially was a very strong prime minister operating under a strong majority in parliament going undefeated in parliament until after the 2005 election but, after significant lessening of the majority in the next election he wasn’t as strong as he didn’t have as much public support for him to justify himself and his policies to his party ...

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