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Has The Principle Of Cabinet Government Been Marginalised By A ‘Presidential’ Prime Minister? Does It Matter?

2292 words - 10 pages

The idea that the Prime Minister acting ‘Presidential’ has marginalised Cabinet Government is in my eyes a valid one. In coming to this conclusion it is necessary to understand exactly what Cabinet Government is and so, determine if in fact it is being trivialised and marginalised by the PM. The Cabinet is a collection of elected ministers, chosen by the PM to aid in making important decisions for the PM. The most important principle for the Cabinet as stated in the Ministerial code is ‘The principle of collective responsibility, save where it is explicitly set aside ’. Prime Ministers chair these meetings and are meant to be the ‘first among equals’, however I don’t believe this is the ...view middle of the document...

Adding to this, Margret Thatcher said about Cabinet meetings ‘I don’t mind how ministers talk, as long as they do as I say’ . Therefore I find this a good reason for why Cabinet Government has been marginalised. The avoidance of Cabinet ministers shows a clear step away from Cabinet and suggests the PM may wish to look elsewhere for advice.

A second and more important reason why Cabinet Government has been marginalised can be found in where the PM may be looking for this aforementioned advice; Special Advisers. Tony Blair had 27 special advisers aside from the Cabinet. He held many bi-lateral meetings with only 2 or 3 advisers present, which caused Kavanagh to describe Blair’s leadership as a ‘sofa government’ . James Naughtie even said ‘No Prime Minister since the nineteenth century has spent more time avoiding cabinet colleagues than Tony Blair’ . In total Tony Blair had over 200 hundred people working for him in No. 10, so many they had to spill over into No.12. Thatcher, although not having quite as many as Tony Blair was also guilty of having non-Cabinet advisers. She preferred to recruit her own advisers from more experienced backgrounds. Through this we can see another blatant move away from Cabinet advice thus strengthening my view that a ‘Presidential’ Prime Minister has marginalised Cabinet Government.

Another very important factor contributing to a lessened presence of Cabinet Government is the role the PM plays in foreign policy and the new idea of a ‘celebrity politician’. Blair’s dominant role in pushing for the invasion of Iraq promoted him as a separate source of authority and arguably a head of state. Also, his very personal relationship with G. W. Bush helped add to this image that Blair was making key decisions based primarily on a few peoples views and not on the Cabinets. Seconded to this it the idea of a ‘celebrity politician’, where political parties are voted in on who the leader is, and not what the policies are. An example of this can be see in the television debates pending the May 2010 elections where Nick Clegg’s voting poll sky rocketed after a fantastic performance in the debates even though there was no change in his policies at all. This shows that even the electorates aren’t thinking about electing a party, but a leader to lead the country, which is not Cabinet Government. Thus emphasising my point that Cabinet Government has been sidelined by the PM.

The fourth and most important factor in explaining how Cabinet Government has been marginalised is the dominance of recent Prime Ministers. Thatcher as aforementioned when asked about her Cabinet Ministers said ‘I don’t mind how ministers talk, as long as they do as I say’ showing her clear domineering attitude. Blair wasn’t much different in his approach and Clair Short said of his meetings that ‘occasionally people would express concern… but only in a mild way and others rarely took up such comments’ . Blair was known as an ‘Oscar winning’ convincer...

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