The Prime Minister

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The relationship between the Prime Minister and th

The Prime Minister's relationship with the core executive:

  • The PM is the head of an elected govt, and is the principle minister of a sovereign or state. 
  • The core executive is the committee of senior ministers who are responsible for controlling govt policy. 
  • The groupings of the core executive is designed to take the pressure off full cabinet and to provide a lower level forum for decision making, consideration of current issues that relate to govt, and resolution of inter departmental disagreement. 
  • The Exchequer is the govt department responsbile for developing and executing the British govt's public finance and economic policies. 
  • There is a collection of over 100 senior officials and political advisors, who advice the PM about:
    • Policy and implementation
    • Communications
    • Party management
    • Govt relations. 
  • The cabinet system is resonsible for coordinating policy across Whitehall departments and ensuring effective policy delivery.
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Hiring and firing

The key power of the PM to hire and fire is through PATRONAGE:

  • This is the power to grant favours, and is gained from royal prerogative. 
  • Therefore, the PM can promote loyal supporters, which means that MPs who disagree with the PM can be kept out. (sycophantic).
    • E.g. Thatcher transformed her cabinet in the 80s, into 'drys' who were economic liberals or thatcherities. Whereas before, the cabinet were formed of 'wets' who were one nationist. 
    • Currently, the Tories are little more centre. 
  • However, the PM still needs to consider that:
    • All ministers must be MPs or peers. 
    • The cabinet must provide ideological and political balance, to achieve party unity.
    • The cabinet govt has an impact on who is a minister.  (reshuffle). 
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Cabinet Management

The PM has the power to control the cabinet and the cabinet system because:

  • They chair cabinet meetings and sum up decisions.
  • PMs decide how long meetings last and when they happen
  • Since the 1950s, the number of cabinet meetings has declined.
  • Tony Blair preferred 'sofa government' where he would hold his meetings on a one to one basis. 


  • The support for the PM is based on their popularity. 
  • Under a coaltion, the process can become entangled in coalition management, as the PM has to compromise. 
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Party leadership

Party leadership sets the Prime Minister apart from all the other ministers:

  • It also gives them more leverage through:
  • The fact that the PM is the party leader
  • The PM can command a disciplined majority in the HOC, controlling Parliament as a result. 
    • e.g.  Blair was able to control the govt has he had a huge majority in 1997, which is how he was able to introduce HOL reform. 


  • The PM has to deliver electoral success, and if popularity wanes, party loyalty can evaporate quickly.
    • Blair's popularity decreased. 
  • Also, no PM can survive without the support of the party. 
    • E.g. They can be defeated by a vote of no confidence (James Callagham).
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Access to the media

The growth of media has reordered the power relationships within the political executive. The mass media has:

  • Given the people 'political celebrity', which has led to the growth of 'spactial leadership.'
  • An obsession with personality and image of politicians, which guarantees that the media focuses on the political leaders. 
  • A growth of 'spin doctors' who manipulate the presentation of politicians, to gain a distorted result. 
    • This is where information is 'vetted' before release to the media, and where key newspapers back certain politicians. (Sun-supported Blair).
  • However, 'bad' news stories are often 'hyped' by the media and turn problems into crisis.
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