Unit 2, Government and Politics for Edexcel notes on PM and the Cabinet

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PM and Cabinet
What reforms have been proposed for the House of Commons?
The 2010 reforms:
Backbench Business Committee ­ controls debates in the main chamber [ACCOUNTABILTY]
Chairs of the departmental select committees are elected by backbench MPs ­ (takes power away
from party whips and leaders) [ACCOUNTABILITY]
The 2010 proposed reforms:
· House Business Committee to be set up [STILL BEING PROPOSED]
Constituency boundaries being redrawn [FAILED]
Constituents are to be given the power to recall their MPs [FAILED]
Reduce the size of the House by 10% [FAILED]
Other proposals:
Fixed term parliaments [IMPLEMENTED]
· Calls for select and perhaps legislative committees to examine proposed laws before they are debated
Reform the voting system to AV
Characteristics of Government:
All members of government must sit in Parliament ­ most if not all are MPs in the Commons
MPs also have a constituency to look after too
MPS from the party that is IN government are not members of the government. These are known as
back benchers. Government members are known as front benchers
All members of gov are appointed by the PM (he may seek advise but it is his decision alone) and he can
dismiss them too.
Full government would never meet together in one body.
Bound by principle of collective responsibility ­ must all take public responsibility for ALL policies
How does a coalition government work?
Needs to be agreement amongst coalition partners on which policies can be accepted ­ all need to
willing to give up policies and agree to rivals proposals
Must have managerial skills too ­ as many will head a government department or a section of a
Under coalition ­ they need to decide how many posts should go to each party ­ 2010 ­ 18 Con and 5
Lib Dem and discussions between the two parties about who to elect. DC ­ did not need to consult on
Conservatives but did on Lib Dem
Ministerial posts are shared between two or more parties (also means sharing Cabinet posts too)
How does the PM select ministers?
Must be politically reliable ­ do not have to agree on every issues BUT it does mean they have to accept
collective responsibility
Junior members ­ must have potential ­ need to show good debating skills, cope under pressure
Try and recruit a team of ministers who share their political views
Must have managerial skills

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Under coalition ­ they need to decide how many posts should go to each party
Types of coalition:
Majority Coalitions : Normally formed by just two parties such coalitions are formed to create an
overwhelming majority
Grand Coalitions: Coalitions between two major parties formed to create an overwhelming majority.
They would normally be considered in times of national emergency.
Rainbow Coalitions: Agreements between a larger numbers of parties, often of greatly varying
philosophies.…read more

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Functions of Cabinet:
Cabinet = a group of high-ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. The
Cabinet collectively decides the government's policy and tactical direction, especially in regard to
legislation passed by Parliament.
Formalises and legitimises official government policy
Special sessions to deal with crisis or emergency (e.g. 2007-2009 meetings to formulate response to
banking and financial crisis)
Policy formulation rarely takes place in cabinet ­ but PM can invite whole cabinet to discuss important
issues e.g.…read more

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Has potential power to overrule the PM or even
remove him/her
How does the PM choose his/her Cabinet?
Individual considerations:
Close ally of PM (e.g: Osborne)
Reward for support in the past
Representation of a significant section of the party
Coalition = key figures from coalition partners' party
Potential rebel (collective responsibility keeps them in check)
An effective minister
Team considerations:
Political balance (e.g: Major 1992-1997 left/right moderate sections in his cabinet)
Coalition ­ cabinet balance of both parties (e.…read more

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When personal conduct is concerned ministerial system ­ LD = oppose C= key element against climate
resignations are more common (e.g. 2012 Chris Huhne ­ change)
charged with misleading the police of a driving offence) PM often asks whether ministers are prepared to defend
Parliament cannot remove ministers from office, only the decisions to the public at the end of cabinet business ­ if
PM but parliament can apply pressure for a resignation. not individual is expected to resign (e.g.…read more

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MPs to other parties = loss)
The unity or otherwise of the ruling party or coalition is
also critical: A PM who has an ideologically united
leadership group can achieve a great deal more than one
who is constantly forced to maintain some kind of
The public and media profile of the PM is important: when
a leader loses the confidence of the public and of the
media, they become an electoral liability and the ruling
party will becoming unwilling to accept their leadership…read more

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Bilateral policy-making Policy success Keepers of the constitution
Do we have a core executive?
Suggested initially Cameron gave a lot of Cameron taking back power (e.g: NHS
power out to departments and cabinet reforms)
ministers (e.…read more

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The cabinet office has shifted from serving the government as a whole to serving mainly the PM
alone.…read more

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­ PMs seem to be more presidential now but in
fact they are subject to the same constraints that have always existed
professor George Jones: `the elastic theory' ­ as a PM tries to stretch the powers of the office
further, and further, (PMs who have been in office for a long time) the forces of constraint become
increasingly strong
a PM has no right to presidential status ­ Brown suffered a loss of personal popularity from the
charge that he had never faced the…read more


Old Sir

A very useful overview of the workings of cabinet government in the UK. many students might wish to use this as a starting-point from which to develop discussions about prime ministerial style and the relationship between the various limitations on PM power, with case studies in order to address AO2, (evaluation and analysis).


examples are fab, really helped me with evidence to back up my theoretical knowledge!

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