The Cabinet

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  • the Cabinet
    • What is the Cabinet?
      • A committee of senior ministers who represent various government departments or ministries
      • PM makes decisions with the Cabinet
      • Without a Cabinet a government can be viewed as a personal tool of the PM
      • In Britain, the Cabinet is the apex of the Executive
      • The principle of a Cabinet government
      • PM forms part of the Cabinet
      • However,it is considered that the position of PM has now subverted the Cabinet
    • Cabinet organisation
      • Consists of between 20 and 25 members
      • Controlled  by the PM through powers of patronage
        • PM also sets the agenda for meetings, which means they can leave off anything they don't like
      • Cabinet committees
        • Generally chaired by the PM
        • Members drawn from the Cabinet as appropriate  they have experience in the area
        • Typical caterogies
          • Foreign and Defense
          • Economic
          • Home Affairs
      • All Cabinet decisions have to be agreed by full Cabinet- rubber stamped
      • The Cabinet Office
        • Coordinates activity
        • Strenghtened  by Blair in 2001
        • Comprises over 2000 staff
        • Offices are in and around Downing Street
        • A minister, cabinet Secretary and 4 secretariats
        • Seen as a virtual PM's department
    • Roles
      • Coordinating departments
        • Coordinates the  activities of government departments
        • Secretaries of State report on the activity  of their departments in Cabinet meetings
      • Forward planning
        • Addresses problems arising from policy and/or events
        • A talking shop
        • A place to raise serious concerns
      • Decision making
        • Bageshot described the Cabinet as the efficient secret of the government
        • However, the rise of prime ministerial power overshadowed its role
        • Some decisions are presented ready made-  a fait accompli
    • Cabinet Government
      • Where the PM is primus inter pares- first among equals
      • Cabinet operated under the doctrine of collective responsbility-have to support all cabinet decisions publically
      • Departments had control and autonomy but  were held responsible for their actions
    • Kitchen Cabinet
      • Emergence of a clique of advisors-
      • Membership  is fixed
      • Cabinet merely rubber stamps decisions
      • Started in Wilson's era, but really utilized under Thatcher
    • Prime Ministerial Government
      • PM dominates the cabinet
      • Dominates certain areas of policy (like economics)
      • May dominate the whole structure of government
      • Common examples are Thatcher and Blair
    • Advantages/Disadvantages of Cabinet
      • Advantages
        • Encourages full and frank policy debate within the democracy of cabinet meetings, subjecting proposals to effective scrutiny
        • It guratees the unity and cohesion of government, since the makes decisions collectively and stands by them
        • Discuss, debate and refines policy
        • Genuinely irons out problems
      • Disadvantages
        • It acts as a cloak from Prime Ministerial power because it forces dissenting ministers to support agreed government policy in public
        • Hides the fact that the PM and kitchen cabinet are pulling the strings
        • The government policy becomes incoherent and inconsistent, as decisions are based on compromisesbetween competing ministers and departments

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