Government and Politics Essay

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Has the office of Prime Minister become too powerful? This essay concerns itself with the question of the Prime Minister’s powers and whether these have become too great over recent years so that the Cabinet has turned into a mere rubber-stamp. The roles, duties and powers of both the Prime Minister (PM) and the Cabinet will be discussed before looking at specific examples. The PM in the UK is referred to as being primus inter pares, meaning ‘first among equals’[1]. He[2] is both the leader of the government and the leader of his political party. ‘The Prime Minister is the head of the UK Government and is ultimately responsible for the policy and decisions of Government. As head of the UK Government the Prime Minister also oversees the operation of the civil service and Government agencies, appoints members of the cabinet, and is the principal Government figure in the House of Commons[3]. The PM gains his power from several areas. The most important of these is due to the way in which the electoral system operates in Britain, the PM usually commands a commons majority. The UK’s structure is unique among parliamentary governments in that usually the parliament is formed by proportional representation rarely giving any one party a majority[4]. This facilitates the passing through of legislation provided that the party members in parliament either agree with him or are prepared to tow the ‘party line’, most obviously seen in the decision to go to war in Iraq[5]. Secondly, the PM sets the agenda for the Cabinet and also communicates the decisions made in Cabinet meetings to the wider world via the media[6]. Therefore, ministers are heavily reliant upon him to pass on their views. Thirdly is his ability to appoint Cabinet ministers and his own special advisors[7]. There are no confirmation hearings as in the US presidential system[8]. Cabinet
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