Role of cabinet?
- Legitimises official government policy.
- Deals with disputes between departments and ministers when their proposals conflict or when there are problems allocating government funds.
- Deal with emergency or crisis situations. E.g. a series of meetings were scheduled during the banking crisis in 2007-2009.
- It is where presentation of policy is determined. So ministers co-ordinate the way in which the policy is presented to the media.
Role of ministers?
- Senior members of governing party.
- Most have to manage a government department, being responsible for policies and decisions (Michael Gove secretary of state for education.)
- Preside over drafting of legislation - Owen Patterson was responsible for the Waste Prevention Programme 2013.
- assisted by many civil servants and advisors. (Guy Robinson is advisor to Owen Patterson)
- Most senior ministers are appointed to the cabinet so become a part of the central excecutive of government.
- Ministers not in the cabinet are known as 'junior ministers' and those MP's in gov party who arent ministers are known as back-benchers (Alan Duncan)
What is the PM?
- Most senior minister in government.
- Derive authority from the monarch. Effectively PM is monarch's representitive so has their powers known as perogative powers.
- Head of government, not head of state.
- Leader of biggest party in HOC.
- Not elected in any formal process and is appointed automatically by the monarch as the leader of the largest party following an election.
- Known as 'primus inter pares' which means first among equals. E.g. it is acknowledged that the PM is the most senior of the ministers and leads government, but is in the same position as any other minister.
Criteria for appointing Cabinet?
- May be a close ally (Osbourne to Cameron),
- may represent an important section of society (Theresa May represents right wing conservatives),
- may be a rebel that will be silenced through collective responsibility (John Denham for Gordon Brown)
- Individual may have potential (Oliver Letwin as appointed by Cameron)
- May be an old personal friend of PM (Phillip Hammond was a close friend of Cameron's)
- Popular in public eye (Vince Cable)
- Able to do a good job (Kenneth Clarke is known for being a safe pair of hands so was appointed Justice Minister)
Collective Ministerial Responsibility
People that had to resign due to Collective Ministerial Responsibility?
- Lee Scott 2010 - Conservative MP for North Illford, aid for transport secretary Phillip Hammond resigned as he abstained from the university tuition fee vote.
- Robin Cooke 2003 - abstained from vote to commit Britain to military action in Iraq, so had to resign.
In coalition government, if there is no agreement, they can vote on party lines, e.g. in 2010 the Trident Vote (regarding submarines) did this - Lib Dems votes against, Cons did so they decided to differ in their votes.
Also AV vote was free so party members were allowed to vote and campaign for either side of the policy.
Individual Ministerial Responsibility
People who had to resign for individual mistakes:
- Chris Huhne 2012 - Resigned as minister after he admitted perverting the course of justice over claims that his ex-wife took speeding tickets for him a decade ago.
- David Blunkett 2004 - Resigned over accusations that he used his position to fast-track a visa application for his ex-lovers nanny.
- Maria Miller 2014 - resigned as Culture secretary after being involved in an expenses scandal of using her expenses to pay for a home for family members.
- Lord Carrington (1982) - Was foreign secretary for invasion over Faulklands war. His department was blamed for the fact that Argentina went into Faulklands unchallenged, so he resigned to restore confidence in the government.
Sources of Prime Ministerial Power & Authority.
Popular Mandate - Electorate know the lader of the party that they vote for thus, know who they are electing as PM. Therefore the PM can claim they were elected by popular mandate. Exceptions: Gordon Brown in 2006, and Cameron/Clegg in 2010.
The ruling party - Since the party has won the right to rule through the general election, PM carries parties elective authority with him. E.g. in 2010 Cameron is PM as he had the largest majority but not parliamentary majority.
Parliament - As long as the PM has support from the majority in the HOC, he can claim to have parliamentary authority/elective authority as they are voted to lead the party by their own party. E.g. Thatcher was kicked out and in 2013 coalition was split over changing constituencies.
Prerogative power -Since the monarch has the power to carry out functions as head of state, but is not elected, it would be undemocratic. Therefore monarch's prerogative powers are delegated to the PM to give him control over civil service (tax)
Formal powers of PM
Chief Foreign Policy Maker - E.g. in 2003 the decision to go to Iraq was made ultimately by Blair as he had the formal prerogative powers. Also in 2013 Cameron went to China to try and get free trade. 2013 he headed EU meeting and wanted to end world poverty by 2015.
Commander-in-chief of armed forces - It is PM's decision whether to commit British troops to battle or any other role. E.g. in 2011 Cameron ordered a no-fly zone over Lybia during the armed uprising there.
Head of government - has the power to set agenda of cabinet meetings and choose cabinet. E.g. in 2012 Justine Greening was removed as Transport minister as she opposed a 4th runway at Heathrow.
Grant peerages and public posts - Independent bodies make suggestions which Cameron then endorses. In 2010 he was under scrutiny as many peerages seemed to be Cameron's close allies, as the Conservatives Chief Fundraiser Andrew Feldman was granted a peerage.
Appointing judges and bishops - In 2012, Cameron told the church of england to begin appointing women bishops. There are usually 26 bishops in the Lords.
Informal Powers of PM?
Chief-policy maker for government - Though the role is shared with the cabinet, the PM is pre-eminent in the making of government policy. E.g. in 2013 Cameron decided to toughen the Welfare rules for EU migrants, by scrapping out of work benefits for the first 3 months for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants.
Government spokesperson - Expected that the PM must be the untimate spokesperson to the media and to the public. E.g. in 2014 floods he visited the flood victims and promised to do whatever is necessary to build homes and make the area more vigilant to extreme weather. However he was criticised as Prince Charles visited before hand.
Controls business of cabinet
Can make decisions to deal with short term emergencies - e.g. dredging overflowed rivers in the 2014 floods in a time of national crisis.
Limitations on Prime Ministerial Power?
Size of parliamentary majority - When the majority is low then PM cannot rely on parliamentary approval. E.g. james Callaghan was removed in 1979 due to a lack of public support from his party and parliament. However people with large majorities can still be kicked out as Thatcher was in 1989 over her support for poll tax, by her own party.
Unity or rulingthe ruling party/coalition - A PM who leads an ideologically united cabinet can achieve a great deal more than a balanced cabinet. E.g. Tony Blair hoped to bring britain into the Eurpoean single currency after 1997 but most cabinet insisted it must be delayed.
In coalition gov, PM must take into account demands of coalition partners. E.g. Cameron and Clegg both had differing views on AV vote so held a referendum. However cons have still gone against lib dems, (university tuition fees etc)
The lack of support from public media - Brown suffered as he had a weak image among the public due to lack of charisma unlike blair so was voted out at the 2010 election.
Increasing PM dominance?
- Media have treated PM as single spokesperson.
- PM have gradually exerted increasing control over their cabinets.
- Amount of advice availiable to PM has increased and has lead to a virtual 'Prime ministers department'.
- PM's have learned to make policy through bilateral (one to one) arrangements with individual ministers.
- Patronage powers have been increasingly used to create loyalt.
- Increased use of collective ministerial responsibility has created more government loyalty.
Reasons why PM is more like a president?
- The media tend to concentrate on the PM as a spokesman for the government - e.g. in 2014 Cameron was seen as a spokesperson by visiting flood victims which shows that he is seen as head of state. This is similar to Obama visiting Hurricane Sandy in 2013 to be the spokesperson for the US. However Prince charles also visited acting as HOS so may not be seen as presidential.
- Foreign and military affairs have become more important. The PM dominates these. E.g. No fly zone over Lybia seen as a policy made by HOS, and publicity around it was based on Cameron, not Clegg. This is similar to Bush's decision in 2003 to invade Iraq as he took responsibility.
- The importance of spatial leadership in the UK increasingly looks likle a presidential style of leadership - e.g. Blair had an ideologically united cabinet so this is similar to presidential cabinet appointment as Obama appointed Hillary Clinton in 2009. However Coalition cameron didnt appoint all so may not be seen as presidential.
- PM enjoys prerogative powers and performs most of the functions of a head of state - as monarch has delegated powers, PM is effectively head of state. Last time the monarch refused royal assent was in 1707 with Queen Ann. However Queen must sign all bills, and without that they arent passed so PM is not seen as HOS like Obama signing the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Bill.
Why PM is not a president.
- PM is not head of state even if he/she behaves like one - 2010 Queen delegated powers to Cameron and she must sign all legislation, whereas in America Obama signs legislation as head of state.
- The elastic theory suggests that as the PM tries to stretch the powers of office, the cabinet become stronger to contrain him - e.g. PM appears to dominate as powers are flexible, as Thatcher and Blair tried to squeeze as much power out as possible, but Thatcher was kicked out due to strong cabinet/opposition. However Callaghan did not exercise this and Clegg doesnt exercise the power as deputy PM.
- There has been a change to a more presidential style of leadership but the actual role of PM has not changed - Thatchers gov was seen as presidential as she set herself apart from the others. However she had the same PM powers. However as Cameron is in a coalition, he is seen as less of a head of state as he shares PM power with Clegg.
- not all PM's wish to or can adopt a presidential style of leadership. For example, Brown shows there is no right to a presidential role as he had a lack of personal popularity as he never faced electorate and was in charge of economic crisis so couldnt be seen as above others. However Blair was often seen as president as he visited Iraq in 2003 which was seen as a presidential role.