Are British Prime Ministers as Powerful as Is Sometimes Claimed? Essay

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Are British prime ministers as powerful as is sometimes claimed? For much of the postwar period, prime ministers had little input into policy – mainly because they lacked the capacity to make policy. However, since the 1970s prime ministers have increased their capacity to intervene. This has partly been a consequence of an increasing media focus on the prime minister but also, from Margaret Thatcher onward, a sense that prime ministers needed to have a vision about what their governments should do. As a consequence, prime ministers have gradually institutionalised their involvement in policy. The view now, is that it is the prime minister, and not the cabinet, who dominates both the executive and Parliament. This happens because the prime minister is both the head of the civil service and the leader of the largest party in the Commons. As prime ministers have considerable authority in the management and controlling of cabinet, it is argued that cabinet has declined and so the power of the prime minister has increased. Prime ministers chair cabinet meetings, this enables prime ministers to harness the decision – making authority of the cabinet to their own ends. Therefore, British prime ministers are as powerful as it is claimed because the prime minister can effectively determine the role and significance of cabinet. For example the “westland affair” in 1986, proved a political scandal for the British conservative government. Thatcher was not willing to compromise, resulting in Heseltine’s resignation, proving the ability of the prime minister to control cabinet. Furthermore, party leadership; it sets the prime minister apart from all other ministers and gives him or her leverage across the wider governmental system. Party leader ship is able to increase the prime minister’s authority within the cabinet and government, as other ministers recognise that

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