To What Extent Does The Prime Minister Dominate The Political System In The Uk?

1317 words - 6 pages

To what extent does the Prime Minister dominate the political system in the UK?
Over time as the cabinet evolved, one minister became the monarch’s principle ally and advisor. After Sir Robert Walpole in the 1720’s they became known as the Prime Minister (PM). This comes from the Latin Primus Inter Pares, meaning first among equals. The Prime Minister evolved from a group of ministers appointed by the monarch, and used to rely largely on royal prerogative, meaning monarchical privileges are what gave the PM power. As well as that, the Pm has three sources of power. The ruling party provides support for the PM and follows their lead, while a popular mandate from the electorate gives ...view middle of the document...

The whip system can also be used to dominate the cabinet, and the use of three line whips can force cabinet members to comply with their policies. However, cabinet can sometimes bring about the downfall of a politician as it did with Thatcher and through this we can see the power of cabinet without prime ministerial support.
Cabinet can act as a constraint to the powers of the Prime Minister, and if they overrule their authority there is nothing that can be done. Cabinet can completely cripple the power of the PM, as cabinet is the source of government so can stop the PM’s ideas and policies passing through. Coalition cabinets or cabinets within minority government can be a hindrance to prime ministerial power, as there can never be a reliance on the PM’s motions and policies being passed through. This happened with John Major’s cabinet, as they were very adversarial and acted as an obstacle rather than an asset. Major tried to restore ‘collective’ decision making, following Thatcher’s domination and disregard of Cabinet. Surviving votes of confidence in the House of Commons, Major did not manage to restore cabinet government completely so more responsibility was on him as a Prime Minister. The cabinet after Thatcher was dysfunctional because of the warring factions within it, and it took over a decade for the Conservatives to repair this damage.
From this analysis, we can see that cabinet government can be as strong or weak as the Prime Minister deems it. This means that the PM can easily dominate cabinet, which could be seen as the main obstacle before total prime ministerial domination when they are in government.
The Prime Minister is usually the leader of the governing party. This means that this is one of their sources of power and authority, and it’s safe to assume that the PM has the support of their party both from parliament and from ordinary party members. Since that party has won the right to govern at the last general election, the PM carries all the elective authority. The legitimacy of leadership also gives the PM power, as they have been given the right to govern. Legitimacy is gained by the PM having a large majority and support from their party and the electorate. Having this amount of power, the PM can effectively dominate his party and guide the party line. We have seen this with David Cameron, where he has moved the Conservatives away from a more traditional line, as Cameron introduces his

The increased incidence of rebellion by backbench MP’s unwilling to follow the party line on controversial issues suggests that prime ministers cannot regard MP’s in their party as ‘lobby fodder’ who will vote for the government come what may. This proves that a party’s support for its leader is not unconditional, and party rules...

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