Has the Prime Minister acted more as a president in recent years?

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Has the Prime Minister acted more as a president in recent years?

Presidentialism is the trend of political leaders acting increasingly like executive presidents through the rise of personalized leadership. The key difference between a president and a prime minister was succinctly summed up by Bagehot in 1963 when he described the role of e prime minister to be the ‘first among equals’. This means that traditionally prime minister is the primary representative of government whilst sill ensuring that all members of the cabinet have an equal influence over decisions. In recent years it is clear that this is no longer the case.

The Iraq war in 2003 demonstrated personal leadership replacing collective leaders and many believed that the decision to go to war was a clear reflection of the fact that the UK no longer had a prime minister, but a president. Tony Blair had ignored mass anti-war demonstrations on the streets on London and other major UK cities with his fierce determination to ‘stand by the USA’.

In an age of political celebrity, the public profile of the prime minister dominates those of senior colleagues and of their parties. In line with the trend towards ‘presidentialism’, the leaders are increasingly expected to determine their parties’ ideological direction and to deliver electoral success. There are several factors that determine whether a prime minister is leading as a president, significantly altering the role of the prime minister including the growth of spatial leadership, the tendency towards ‘populist outreach’ and the increase of personalised election campaigns.  Evidence of these factors becoming ‘standard practice’ of the prime minister in recent years illustrates the trend of growing presidentialism in UK politics and in the workings of the government today.

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Primarily the significance of a growing spatial leadership shows how the role of the prime minister is becoming more individual, distinguishing himself away from the party he represents. The tendency of the prime minister to distance themselves away their parties and governments by presenting themselves as an ‘outsider’ allows them to develop a personal ideological stance. The powerfulness of a prime ministers spatial leadership could be seen by Margaret Thatcher and the idea of Thatcherism, the same could also be seen more recently from Tony Blair and ‘Blairism’, Tony Blair also illustrated this by taking credit for the idea’s of ...

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