Limits Of The Prime Minister Essay

1237 words - 5 pages

Limits of the Prime Minister

The formal constitutional powers listed in the previous answer 'The
powers of the Prime Minister' are subject to a number of restraints in
practice, which means that the British PM is not as powerful as often
assumed, or as commonly alleged by critics. The large number of main
constraints are as follows:

Constraints on the power of patronage

Ø If the party has been in opposition, then the first Cabinet
appointed after a general election victory is usually the shadow

Ø Some MPs will have such extensive experience or authority that they
can hardly be omitted

Ø Some MPs have sizeable backbench followings. Omitting them from the
cabinet might lead to dissatisfaction on the backbenches, possibly in
the form of 'cabals' or factions which might eventually lead to a
leadership challenge. At the very least, disgruntled MPs might
withhold their support in parliamentary votes ('divisions') on the
government policies and Bills.

Ø The cabinet needs to be reasonably 'balanced', meaning that it must
include ministers from the different ideological sections of the
parliamentary party

Ø Some MPs are too young and inexperienced to include while others may
be approaching the end of their parliamentary careers or they might
indicate that they no longer wish to hold ministerial office.

Ø Frequent ministerial reshuffles are also likely to reflect poorly on
the Prime Minister, suggesting either a sense of panic or rising
doubts about their political judgement in appointing ministers who are
then rapidly (re)moved

Constraints on dealing with the cabinet.

v Certain items always appear on the Cabinet agenda as a formality
(for example, a report on forthcoming parliamentary business and

v Some items may be needed to be included due to their urgency

v A group of ministers might occasionally insist on the inclusion of a
particular item on the cabinets agenda. Continued refusal to permit
this lead ministers to wonder what the PM is afraid of is afraid of in
seeking to avoid discussion of the issue.

v Although formal votes are not normally taken in cabinet meetings,
PMs need to be careful in 'summing-up' the overall view of the
ministers present. They cannot declare that 'policy X' has been agreed
upon if the overwhelming majority of other ministers have expressed -
and heard each other express - their preference for 'policy Y'

Costraints on the appointment or chairing of Cabinet committees

* Membership is usually 'functional', meaning that the ministers
serving on a Cabinet committee are usually those whose department
has an input into a proposed policy.

* Prime Minister's work load is...

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