Presidentialism In Britain And Australia Essay

2249 words - 9 pages

Presidentialism in Britain and AustraliaExamine the "presidentialisation" of parliamentary electoral politics in Britain and Australia. What are the implications vis-a-vis party politics and party-oriented politics?A large proportion of what is called politics in both Australia and Britain is identified with political parties. The system demands it; you can not be Prime Minister without your party having a majority in the Lower House. However, popular and media views identify the prosperity of the respective country, various events and the achievements of a National government all upon the success or failure of the Prime Minister. Hence, there are a great many people who discuss the so-called 'presidentialisation' of Australian and British politics. Since the introduction of television, Prime Ministers and Opposition Leaders have been used to represent their whole party in order to get their message across in the shortest possible amount of time. Thus the term 'presidentialisation' refers to this increasingly common phenomenon, whereby the importance of the political party is moved to the background in favour of a single figurehead - the Prime Minister. In this essay I plan to examine and discuss the "presidentialisation" of parliamentary electoral politics in Britain and Australia by looking at what is accountable for this 'phenomenon': both why it is occurring and how parties are carrying it out. I will also be exploring the implications of this in regard to the traditional party-oriented politics.Britain and Australia's parliamentary systems require that parties are made responsible for their actions to the voters and 'it is therefore parties that should be either rewarded or punished by the electorate for their performance.' (McAllistair 1992 p.187) The "presidentialisation" of Australian and British politics can clearly be traced back to the introduction of television. 'In the 1950s, most researchers regarded the party and its leader as virtually indistinguishable in the popular mind.' (McAllistair 1992 p.188) However by the late 1960s when television was available to the vast majority, this notion quickly changed. Wattenberg (1998) although writing in relation to American politics is still relevant to both the Australian and British situation. 'Whereas candidates were once dependent on the party organisations to get their message out, now they can appeal directly to the electorate via the media… They are free to craft their own individual appeals tailored to the pressing (as well as trivial) issues of the day.' (p.21) Television is regarded as the leading means by which a party can convey its message and 'shape their popular images.' (Bean & Mughan 1989 p.1166) And by using and focussing on one solitary figure to represent the ideals and principles behind a political party this is done easily and quickly. For the majority of the electorate, politics is a complex process and the "presidentialisation" of Australian and British...

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