Power Of The British Prime Minister

946 words - 4 pages

Power of the British Prime Minister

The prime minister is that person who leads the majority party in the
House of Commons, or who commands a majority of support in that house.
PMs continue in office until they resign or concede a defeat after a
general election. They also may reign after losing a motion of no

In the 19th Century, Bagehot wrote (in the English constitution 1867),
that parliamentary government had been superseded by Cabinet
Government - that the theoretical sovereignty of parliament had been
delegated to the executive for all practical purposes. The powers of
government, and its cohesion under the convention of collective
responsibility, ensured that the government could maintain a united
front in the face of parliamentary opposition. Within such a system,
the PM could be described as "primus inter pares" - first among equals
- because, although he was the leading member of the government and
its chief spokesman, it was the cabinet rather than the PM that
dominated the decision making process.

Almost 100 years later, when Richard Crossman edited "the English
Constitution he was able to state that the doctrine of cabinet
government had itself been replaced by one of prime ministerial
government.. Later in his diaries Crossman was able to develop his
original theory that the PM dominated the decision making process.

The PMs powers have grown over the last 100 years for a variety of
reasons: the growth of the franchise has placed the elected government
in a position of greater authority; the development of national party
organisations after 1870 has tended to exalt the position of party
leaders as leaders of mass parties and government itself has increased
in both size and complexity. Whilst executives in most industrialised
countries have tended to increase their powers , legislatures have
relatively declined, and an important factor in Britain which has
aided this has been the growth of party discipline. The PM heads the
cabinet which comes from the majority party, and through party
discipline the leadership can usually ensure that their backbenchers
support the governments policies. In this way the government has
virtual control over parliaments theoretical legal sovereignty.

The powers of the PM are formidable, they cover the cabinet itself,
the wider cabinet system and the party organisation: the PM is not
only the head of government and its leading spokesman, but also the

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