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Book Review On John Kingdom's 'government And Politics In Britain: An Introduction' Chapters 6,8,10,11,13,14,15,17. Marker Comments That Only Weak Point Was Lack Of Criticism For Kingdom

1579 words - 7 pages

Book Review on John Kingdom's 'Government and Politics in Britain: an Introduction'While politics remains a 'turn off' subject with the majority of the public, John Kingdom's publication provides a real insight into the workings of the establishment and institutions. It goes far beyond the simplistic and dull image painted for the masses in order to ensnare them into a lack of enthusiasm for the subject, allowing them to 'rest in their beds' (pg 381) with what could be claimed is a false sense of security. Presented in a logical layout, each chapter in this highly impressive book builds upon knowledge imparted to the reader in previous chapters, with cross-references and relevant snippets of ...view middle of the document...

This allows no room for dissent and forces total support for the Prime Minister - the only other avenue being resignation from the cabinet. Adding to this power, the Prime Minister is surrounded by an 'inner cabinet' of his most loyal cabinet ministers, used to take monumental decisions in which no compromise can be tolerated. Ironically, Kingdom describes this process as allowing Prime Ministers to 'encircle themselves with cronies' (pg 424), bringing connotations of dictatorship and tyranny, the very things democracy aims to replace around the world.Another incentive for MPs in the wider party context to tow the party line is ambition. In order to stand any chance of being considered when it comes to promotions, they must display their loyalty and obedience. This can be shown by following party guidance even on free votes, and asking the Prime Minister soft and easy questions in order to elevate his position and give him a chance to explain the progress of the government with relevant statistics (this can backfire if the question is seen to be too soft and convenient). However, if this 'carrot' of ambition is not enough, there is also a 'stick' in the form of a party whip, which in recent times has been seen to be merciless. This old age combination of 'carrot and stick' results in an elimination any risk of party members speaking their minds independently and thus undermining the wishes of the leadership and causing embarrassment. Kingdom tactfully includes mention of the 'iron law of oligarchy' which predicts that in any large party, 'sociological and psychological processes' (pg 319) would result in political domination by a small elite.In another criticism of the political system, Kingdom explains how the government can exercise control over legislative debate. The introduction of standing orders in 1902 allowed the government to decide what subjects could be raised and what amount of time was allocated for their discussion. Committees excluded the majority of MPs from detailed discussion, and only a limited number of legislative changes are discussed in debates, allowing the chair to 'hop' over others.Returning to the cabinet, critics would also claim that it itself is grotesquely large by international standards. The President of the US, a country much larger and much more powerful than our own, has an equivalent cabinet of only around ten colleagues. It is felt that the current size of cabinet, which has remained roughly static for the past hundred years, is too large for effective decision making. The larger the cabinet, the more prone it is to information leaks, the slower its operation, and the more it is open to factionalism. The larger cabinets results in ministers operating with 'departmental tunnel vision', reducing co-operation and smooth integration of government departments, as each minister competes for resources.The use of un-elected 'think-tanks' by the cabinet and Prime Minister began with Thatcher and has found continuity...

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