Functions of the Prime Minister
1. Chief Policy maker - sometimes shared with ministers, the cabinet and his party however the prime minister is superior in making the governments policies.
2. Head of government - The PM can create new posts and new departments, establish committees and policy units and merge existing ones. He is head of the civil service and can seek advice from its vast machinery. He chairs cabinet meetings, determining their agenda and controlling the system of cabinet committees. Finally and most importantly it includes the task of determining which individuals should hold posts as minister, senior judges and senior bishops and archbishops of the church of england.
3. Chief government spokesperson - PM is the ultimate source of government policy to the media.
4. Commander-in-chief of the armed forces - exercised on behalf of the monarch. PM's decision whether to commit british troops to battle or to any other role.
5. Chief foreign policy maker - function carried out by monarch. Can mean anything from negotiating with foreign powers, to negotiating and signing treaties, to chairing international meetings.
6. Parliamentary leader - PM leads the party. He decides who shall be a minister and is also in overall control of the governments strategy within both houses.
Sources of prime ministerial power and authority
1. The ruling party - since that party won the right to govern at the last election, the PM carries all the partys elective authority with him.
2. The royal prerogative - the traditional authority of the monarch to exercise prerogative powers is delegated to the PM of the day.
3. Popular mandate - PM can claim to enjoy the authority of the electorate because research suggests that the leader of a party has become a more significant factor in voting choices than ever before.
4. Parliament - the PM is a parliamentary leader, as long as he enjoys the support of a majority in the houseof commons he can claim to have parliamentary authority.
Prime ministerial power
- appointment and dismissal of ministers
- granting peerages and other honours
- head of the civil service
- appointing senior judjes and senior biships
- determining the date of the general election
- commanding the armed forces
- conducting foreign relations
- maintaining national security
- chairing cabinet meetings
Limitations on prime ministerial power
- size of the parliamentary majority is critical. When the majority is low or non existent the PM can never really rely on parliamentary approval.
- unity or otherwise of the ruling party is also critical. A PM who leads an ideologically united leadership group can achieve a great deal more than one who is constantly forced to try to maintain some kind of cohesion. eg. Margaret Thatched removed the 'wets' from her cabinet which left her with a tight froup that shared her convictions so her power increased dramatically.
- 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. In such cases the ruling party will become unwilling to accept their leadership. eg. this is what happened to margaret thatcher om 1990 when she was removed.
- PM's can survive only if they enjoy the confidence of the cabinet and parliament. This is the ultimate limitation on their power. If the cabinet overrules the PM, there is nothing he can do as cabinet is the ultimate source of government policy.
- finally there is the party of which the PM is leader. Today parties are less important than they used to be and little policy is made within the parties. But the PM draws most of his authority from the ruling party.
Arguments for the proposition of PM now presidenti
- PM performs most of the functions of a head of state
- PM now have extensive sources of advice of their own. 10 Downing street increasingly resembles the inner circle in the presidential white house.
- The media tend to concentrate on the PM as a personal spokesman for the government rather than a president.
- Foreign and military affairs have become more important. The PM dominates these.
- The importance of spatial leadership in the UK increasingly looks like the pesidents style of leadership.
Arguments against the proposition of PM now presid
- There has been no permanent change. The dominant role of the PM constantly ebbs and flows.
- There has been a change to a more presidential style but in substance the role of the PM has not changed.
- There are important forces which will rein in PM's. Most of these forces are absent for a true president.
- It should not be forgotten that, although the PM may appear so, he is not actually the head of state.