What helps the PM to retain power?
The PM can retain power through:
- Royal prerogative.
- A strong majority of seats in the HOC.
- Patronage, which enables PM's to hire, fire or reshuffle ministers.
- Sycophancy which means that politicians who seek higher status, will be close to the PM and will agree with everything he does.
- The Uncodified constitution does not entrench PM's powers, like America does.
- PM can manage the cabinet system.
- The PM can also pass short amendments.
Limitations on Prime Ministerial power
However, there are limitations on prime ministerial power, which includes certain bodies:
- The Cabinet
- The Party
- The Electorate
- The Mass Media
The cabinet is seen as a constraint on prime ministerial power because:
- The 'big beasts' are able to dominate the cabinet.
- This is determined by their:
- Seniority of office, such as Osborne, Theresa May and Michael Gove.
- Standing within the party. (Gove is the chief whip of the Conservatives).
- Public profile.
- Cabinet disunity could limit the PM's power.
- E.g. During the 1980s, Thatcher's cabinet was disunited.
- During the 90s-2000s, Blair's relationship with Brown.
- Currently, Cameron's cabinet is disunited because Cameron and Theresa May wants to remain in the EU, whereas Gove wants to leave.
Political parties limit the PM's power because:
- They depend on the PM's leadership, to maintain party unity.
- Also, parties believe that the PM's leadership ensures electoral success for the party.
- This is done through collective responsibility, where Ministers cannot publicly disagree with the PM.
- E.g. Iain Duncan Smith showed internal division as he disagreed with Osborne's pledge to cut disabled benefits, and therefore resigned.
- Failures to agree with the PM or party unity, could bring be cataosrophic.
- E.g. Thatcher failed to win support from MPs in the leadership election, which led to her resignation.
- After Blair's independent decision on the Iraq War in 2003, there was the biggest backbench rebellion in over 100 years.
- Most recently, Junior doctors strikes shows discontent with Hunt
Even though the PM's increasingly direct relationship with the public is a major strength, is can also create vulnerability:
- This happens when they are popular in the polls, a party is strong and when it is not the opposition.
- Examples include:
- In the 1980s, Thatcher recieved declining poll ratings.
- In 2005, Tony Blair's huge majority (from 1997) was reduced.
- Brown was unpopular due to his standing with the global financial crisis.
- David Cameron has decided to stand down in the next election, therefore he is seen as a 'lame duck' prime minister.
- Vulnerability is also created by media coverage of the PM's relationship with his cabinet and the people.
- E.g. The EU referendum will be a test of Cameron's popularity with the public.
The Mass Media
The mass media really showcases the image of the PM:
- This is because they can be extremely critical and negative when portraying the PM and ministers.
- E.g. The Daily Mirror, Sun and Daily Express etc.
- In addition, media coverage is now more difficult to manage because:
- The media tends to 'hype' information, where they turn simple problems in crisises.
- Many blur the facts and interpretation of events, instead of defining them.