The Prime Minister

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  • The Prime Minister
    • The Role of the Prime Minister
      • De facto head of state
        • As such, they represent Britain on the world stage
        • As  part of this role they attend/chair summits of the EU,G8 etc.
        • In theory,the Queen is Head of State, in practice, the PM is
      • Chief Government Spokesperson
        • They answer  questions at Prime Minister's Questions
        • Blair started weekly press conferences which was followed by Brown and Cameron
    • Key PM Powers
      • Power of patronage
        • can appointment ministers to cabinet
        • Appoints the Head of the Civil Service
        • Appoints peerages and honours
        • And can also appoint senior  levels of the judiciary and clergy (Church  of England)
        • Tony Benn described the power of hire/fire as key because the PM can use it to exert control over the parliamentary party
      • Power to declare war
        • When Blair  held a vote on the Baghdad Invasion, this was not needed. He just wanted moral support.
        • They are in Commander-in-Chief of the military
      • Main source of powers- the royal prerogative powers- technically the Queen's powers but he   uses them
    • Personal image
      • The PM  is far most well known politician in Government
        • Their persona; stature, allied with a good media image, can give a personal mandate
      • PMs often exploit the media- staging photo ops with foreign leaders
        • Magnifying their profile and spinning their personal story via ever expanding No 10 communications
        • Blair took this further with weekly press conferences, focusing on him
        • Brown/Cameron have also done, by flying to Afghanistan, and spending a few hours with British troops
      • Charismatic leaderships
    • Parliament
      • Constitutionally,the PM is the person who can (or should) command a majority support in the Commons
      • As the leader of the largest party, the combined influence of patronage and the party whip ensures that the PM can exert a strong influence in the legislature
        • Party whip,ensures members vote with the party line, most sever is the three line whip
      • When a PM  enjoys a comfortable majority, it is possible to argue that that some MPs own their place to the popularity of the leader
        • It was  claimed that Blair told Parliamentary Labour Party that the 1997 landslide was achieved on his coat tails
          • They won  because of his popularity
    • Constraints on PM Power
      • Power of the PM is variable between as well as within premiereships
        • Whilst it can be argued that Thatcher is was more than Major, it can be equally argued that both their powers waxed and waned during both of their tenures in No 10
        • The elastic nature of office is not only dependent on the way which PMs use their powers,but also due to the wider political climate
          • International scene, the economics of the country
      • "The Way The Wind Blows"
        • The power of the PM is not unlimited, as some would argue
          • PMs can be kicked out of office by the party
        • Happens to PMs who are in power too long
        • Happened to Blair, Thatcher. Leading figures of the party getting rid of them.
      • Events
        • How they deal with unexpected events
        • Blair  became a liability to Labour because of Iraq
          • Had events followed differently post-invasion, maybe more voters would have been more forgiving of Blair when he joined with Bush
        • Likewise,  Brown and the Economical Crisis he walked into - blamed for the crisis
      • Cabinet colleagues
        • Cabinet colleagues need to be considered, as PMs cannot avoid them forever
        • Thatcher's exit= a PM who rides "roughshod" over the Cabinet will pay the ultimate price
        • After the failure to find weapons in Iraq, Blair tried to consult the cabinet more
        • Brown ended bilaterals and tried to be more collegial  after finding several ex-ministers were plotting against him

Comments

Old Sir

Students looking for a quick reference to PM powers and the limitations on them might find this a useful starting point from which to begin their research of case studies. It highlights a number of important issues which will need to be exemplified in order to address assessment objective 2, (evaluation and analysis).

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