Montag, 17. Februar 2014

Prime minsterial dominance?

This blog entry will be about the powers of the British prime minister and I'm sorry for everyone who does not know a lot about British politics and might not be able to follow my thoughts 
^^" I tried to explain as much as I could but I'm not really good at explaining things. 
During my exchange year, I thought a lot about British politics and its differences to German politics. Anyway, this article describes the rise of the prime minsterial dominance in modern times and the powers of the PM. 




Today, the Cabinet has a reduced role as a decision-making body in Great Britain because mostly the power has passed into the hands of the Prime Ministers. The senior ministers are chosen by the Prime Minister and in Cabinet meeting, the attitudes and preferences of more senior ministers normally carry greater weight than those of others present. The Prime Minister is at the helm, and then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary. 
Moreover, the Cabinet Committee deals with aspects of government business and made decisions which may not always be taken to the whole Cabinet for discussion. Their role has diminished in recent years, the frequency of its meetings and their duration both being reduced because Cabinet Committees are appointed by the Prime Minister. 
Another important point is the Prime Minister’s power to appoint and dismiss members of the Cabinet, to act as its chairman and the appointment of others members of the government. Because the ability to hire, fire and reshuffle colleagues and thereby make or break their careers is a formidable one. In relation to the Cabinet, this also includes appointing members of Cabinet committees, many of which the PM also chairs. He also draws up the Cabinet’s agenda and agreeing the minutes after the weekly meeting.
The PM also has political patronage which allows him to appoint people to important and often highly prestigious public offices. This means he appoints people from bishops to peers, from the Chairman of the BBC to members of the Privy Council. Margaret Thatcher used her political patronage, which shows the amount of this power.
The central elements in prime ministerial power today are the power of appointment and dismissal of Cabinet and other ministerial offices, power over the structure and membership of Cabinet committees (any of which the PM may chair), the central, overseeing non-departmental nature of the office, leadership of the party, single-party government, the distribution of patronage, wartime leadership, increasing use of special advisers, bureaucratic support from the PM’s office and Cabinet office. Also there is a high degree of public visibility, which has been much increased by the tendency of the media, especially television, to focus on personalities.

So the question is whether the powers of the prime ministers are considerable or if there are enough limitations to his power.
On the one hand, the size of parliamentary majority limited the prime ministerial power because prime ministers need to retain support in parliament to get their policies through the chamber. Even a prime minister who makes only limited other appearances in the House still has to appear every Wednesday to be grilled at Question Time, defend his policies to occasional select committee hearings and sell his policies on contentious issues such as Iraq and tuition fees.
In March 2003, Tony Blair could not have gone with his backing for President Bush if MPs had rejected his case for war. Primarily, getting parliamentary support means keeping government MPs happy, but over Iraq he wanted to ensure that there was sufficient agreement from the Opposition to his policy to help him defeat the Labour rebellion.
Another limitation is the party itself because Prime ministers who lose back-bench backing may find that they cannot rely on continued consent to their leadership.
Before the 2005 election, Tony Blair faced some serious revolts. After he had announced that he would not serve a full term if re-elected his critics were regularly willing to challenge him in parliamentary divisions and his authority was seriously undermined.
On top of that, there is the hostility in the media because even an incumbent who is good on television have a tough ride when the novelty wears off. A poor performer on television will soon find that the medium is useful to charismatic politicians but a problem for the less articulate or persuasive. Whereas Tony Blair had a remarkable degree of press support in 1997 and 2001, in 2005 war and other issues inspired marked hostility from sections of the Tory press, especially the Daily Mail.

On the other hand, the PM has the patronage so he is able to hire, fire and reshuffle colleagues and thereby make or break their careers is a formidable one.
Margaret Thatcher used the patronage much and by 1983, she had removed most of her political opponents from government.
Moreover the Prime Minister exercises powers under royal prerogative, including the decision to go to war and she/he is also the comer-in-chief of the armed forces.
In 2001, David Cameron ordered Royal Air Force to enforce a ‘no fly zone’ over Libya during armed uprising and later, extended missions to destroy regime’s ability to carry out operations against rebels and civilian population.
In addition to this, the Prime Minster is the leader of the leader of the government at home and abroad. He/she answers questions in the House at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesdays; acts as the country’s voice on occasions such as the death of Princess Diana or some national disaster and represents Britain in summit conferences with European leaders, the US president and other world states people. In this role of national leadership, he will sometimes appear on TV and address the nation directly.
Moreover, Cabinet committees increasingly take over work of the full cabinet which gives the Prime Minister a powerful position. Because she/he controls the creation of committees, who sits on them and also the committee’s agenda.


Taking everything into consideration, it can be said that the PM is the most powerful politician in the country and there is a prime ministerial dominance in modern times but PMs do not have unlimited power. Prime Ministers can always be evicted from Number 10 or the next election. The electorate is the ultimate limitation even the most powerful premier. If leaders are seen as too powerful, remote, out of touch or untrustworthy, voters can react against them and bring their party down. There are of course also other constraints to the Prime Ministers.


Hope you liked it and when there are mistakes, please tell me. It has been a while since I have studied British politics so feel free to leave a comment for me :)

Have a nice evening!

                                            Mai ♥

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