To what extent has the Prime Minister become Presidential?

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Livvy Ollin 12b2

To what extent has the Prime Minister become Presidential?

        Questioning the Prime Ministers governing style is commonplace in today’s society. Conventionally the British governmental institution is referred to as a Cabinet government, but many feel that the system is evolving (noticeably under Blair) to a point where the Cabinet has become suspended and centralisation of power a reality. In the 1960s, Conservative MP Humphrey Berkeley claimed that Britain had an almost “unchecked Presidential rule”; and at the dawn of a new century comparisons between Blair and Bush stretch beyond foreign policy to governing system.

To discuss the question, it is necessary to define both systems and examine how the British system has developed in to what it is today. The most prominent example of Presidential administration is the American model therefore I shall be using it as my example for comparison.

When questioning the nature of Blair’s leadership, there are many features that link his style to that of a President. Firstly, he has often been criticised for appearing to position himself above the party and for the fact that he chooses to communicate directly with his voters, rather than discussing through Parliament – a feature prominent in Presidential politics in which the leader regularly addresses the nation and the media. Another example of Blair’s disregard for Parliamentary procedures can be seen in his appalling voting record.

In order for a President to gain their position as head of state; they must first receive direct election from the people. This differs from the British system, in which the head position culminates only as high as advisor to the Head of State (the monarch), and is acquired not by direct election, but through a party system by which the majority party becomes the government, and the leader becomes the Prime Minister. However, the general electoral system has often been described as little more than a presidential contest, with votes being made on the basis of feelings towards party leaders.

Due to the fact that the Prime Minister has gained his position through being elected as an MP through the success of his party, he is therefore dependent on the support of his party in Parliament. On the contrary, the President is independent of the legislature and therefore not reliant upon the support of Congress. The Presidential system involves a separation of powers, with a separate election of executive and legislative branches, each allocated independent constitutional powers.

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In a Presidential system such as in America, the President is able to represent the nation as he has been elected by them. Although officially the Prime Minister is elected only as an M.P. for his constituency, in practice, general elections are becoming increasingly focused on the party leaders, for example in the run up to the 1997 elections part of the Labour campaign focussed around presenting Blair as a likeable, “just like us” man, being photographed in his Newcastle football shirt. This is also confirmed by the media where opinion polls and often voting patterns are primarily centred on ...

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