The Prime Minister and the Cabinet

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  • Created on: 02-04-18 14:21
what are the 4 sources of the PM's authority and power?
the ruling party, the royal prerogative, popular mandate and parl
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how does the ruling power provide authority for the PM?
Since the PM's party has won the right to govern, the PM carries his party's elective authority with them.
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how does the royal prerogative provide authority for the PM?
In a democracy we cannot allow an unelected monarch to exercise these powers and so the authority to exercise these 'prerogative powers' is delegated to the PM
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how does the popular mandate provide authority for the PM?
Although technically the voters are choosing the MP and a party, they are also conscious that they are electing a PM thus increasing the PM's authority.
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what are some examples of PM's who didn't enjoy the authority of the popular mandate?
Major- 1990 and Theresa May- 2016
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how does parliament provide authority for the PM?
The PM is the parl leader and as long as they have the support of the majority of the HoC they can claim parl authority
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What are some examples of PMs who enhanced the power gained with their own personal qualities to add to the 4 sources of authority?
Thatcher- enhanced her personality by becoming a dominating personality which was admired and respected and Blair- was seen as a charismatic figure thus increasing his authority and power
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what are some of the roles and powers of Theresa May?
providing direction for gov, political and policy leadership, making appointments to major public offices, chairing the Cabinet and steering its decisions, answering PMQs in HoC, representing gov in international affairs and communicating govsmessage
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what are some of the constraints of the PM?
possibility of sacked ministers emerging as rivals for leadership, requires cabinet support on major or controversial issues, support of party isn't unconditional, May becomes the focus of media criticism,unpopularity with the electorate undermine au
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Can the PM choose the date of the general election?
No, the PM no longer has this power as a result of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act
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what is an example of one of the organs of the executive described as being under control of the monarch
Her Majesty's Treasury (however in practice the executive branch is under the control of the PM)
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what is the core Executive?
the central hub of the gov in the UK- it is where key decisions are made and from which power is distributed to subordinate bodies.
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what are the main components of the core executive?
the PM and his/her closest advisers, the Cabinet, various bodies that feed info and advice into the Cabinet and to the PM, gov departments and civil servants
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what is the total number of people who have some direct influence over gov policy making ?
roughly 4,000
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what must laws be approved by if they are to be implemented and enforced?
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what much gov and policy decisions be by if they are to be considered as 'official policy'
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due to the lack of conflict and real disagreement, what is Cabinet often referred to as?
a mere 'rubber stamp'
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how many senior gov ministers make up the Cabient?
between 20 and 25
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what must all cabinet members be a part of?
the HoL or HoC
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what are some of the main features of the cabinet?
only members of the gov party are cabinet ministers- the only exception is with coalition gov, normally meets once a week, PM chairs meetings unless abroad or indisposed and members are bound by the convention of collective responsibility
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does the role of Cabinet ever change?
Yes, it is both changeable and unclear- often varying from one PM to another
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what are some examples of when the role of Cabinet varied?
Cameron and Major used the Cabinet as an important soundbo ard for ideas and policy issues wh ereas others such as Thatcher a nd Blair tended to use it to simply legitimise decisions elsewhere
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what are some of the functions of the Cabinet which are common to all administrations in the UK?
in emergencies the PM may revert to the collective wisdom of their cabinet to make decisions, Cabinet will discuss and set the way in which policy is to be presented to parl, MPs, peers and media, acts as a 'final court of appeal' to settle dispute
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what are some of the sources for decisions that are made outside of the Cabinet?
The PM, Cabinet coms, Chancellor of the Exchequer, individual ministers and groups of ministers
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Although there is no universal definition of the term 'gov'- we often define gov as an organisation that includes what members?
elected politicians (the PM, Cabinet and over 100 junior ministers) and unelected civil servants and other advisers (cabinet secretary, the Cabinet office, various policy units made up of civil servants and advisers and senior civil servants)
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What are some of the key functions of gov, often described as the executive?
to develop policies, draft legislation, manage the passage of legislation to manage the operations of the state (eg health education) and negotiate with and regulate relations with external organisations and states
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what are the 5 principles of collective responsibility?
ministers are collectively responsible for all gov policy, all ministers must publicly support all gov policies, if a minister wishes to dissent publicly they must first resign, if a minister dissents they can be sacked, any dissent is concealed
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how do these 5 principles enhance the gov's authority?
They won't experience open dissent from within the gov thus increasing their power
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what are the two occasions in recent years when collective responsibility has been suspended?
the first occurred in 2010-15 as a result of the coalition certain policy could be publicly criticised (eg the Trident nuclear system) and when it was decided to hold a referendum on UK membership of the EU in 2016 tory MPs were allowed to disagree.
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who is an example of a tory MP who publicly campaigned against to official gov line on Brexit?
Michael Gove
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what is ministerial responsibility?
each minister is individually responsible for matters that affect their department separately and are also individually responsible for their own performance as a minister and their conduct as an individual
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what are the main features of the principle of individual ministerial responsibility?
must be prepared to be accountable to parl for policies and decisions made by their department, if their department or they individually make a serious error of judgement they should resign and if their conduct falls below standard they should resign
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why have the second and third principles largely fallen into dissuse?
because although parl and its select coms can criticise a minister and call for their resignation- only the PM can dismiss a minister which is rarely exercised
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what do ministers often do when they/ their department makes a mistake instead of resigning?
they usually just publicly apologise for their mistake
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who was the last minister to resign as a result of an error?
In 2018, Amber Rudd resigned after denying that she knew of quotas for migrants to be deported, when it came to light that she did after the Windrush Generation Scandal
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what are the 5 main sources of power for the PM?
prerogative powers, their party, parl, patronage and collective cabinet responsibility
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what are some of the powers that the cabinet has, whatever the PM may try to do?
legitimises gov policy and interprets what gov policy actually is, determines the gov's legislative agenda, can effectively drive a PM out of power by refusing to support them in public (happened to Blair and Thatcher)
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what is an additional power of cabinet?
has the power to overrule a PM if it can summon up enough political will and sufficient support for an alternative policy- eg 2015 Cameron was forced to allow ministers to speak out against EU referendum
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when was the 'golden age' for cabinet gov?
during the 2015-15 coalition- after being marginalised and ignored cabinet was finally important again
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what roles did cabinet have during this period that it had never had before?
became one of the key places where inevitable disputes could be resolved, had to develop ways in which agreements between parties could be explained as presentation of policies became difficult, and inner groups or ministers became common (eg quad)
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what are the three ways that the PM has of constructing a cabinet?
to pack the cabinet with PM's own allies (used by Thatcher and Blair?, to pick a balanced cabinet that reflects the different policy tendencies in the ruling party (Theresa May) and to pick a cabinet of the best possible people (Harold Wilson)
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what is the power that allows PMs to reshuffle their cabinet at will called?
power of patronage
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what was the view of the relationship between the PM and their cabinet up to the 1960s?
the PM was seen as the 'first among equals', was the dominant member of cabinet but unable to command gov completely, so had to allow genuine debate among ministers
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what was the view of the relationship between the PM and their cabinet between 1960 and 2010?
PMs were expected to dominate gov completely. Cabinet body wasn't powerful as decisions were simply legitimised but not actually made by the cabinet
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what was the view of the relationship between the PM and their cabinet since 2010?
Since gov has lacked a decisive majority since 2010, the cabinet has become more significant and has had to seek concerns from within the gov
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What are the three ways which in theory the PM can use to control cabinet?
power of patronage, has a large machinery of policy-making support which they can use to support their own position against isolated ministers and the PM controls the cabinet agenda
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What are some of the external factors that determine how much power a PM can exercise?
Devolution- gradually erodes power of both PM and UK gov, policy can be implemented by EU (until March 2019), the UK's membership of NATO and close ties with the US limit foreign policy options and can affect how foreign policy is conducted (eg Iraq)
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When the PM has a large majority, is the cabinet stronger or weaker?
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what is an example of an event which significantly affected the power of the cabinet and PM?
after 2008 economic policy making was dominated by the problems of an economic recession
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In a democratic world, what are the 4 models of high leadership?
the US model, strong president model, weak president model and constitutional monarchy model
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what is the US model?
The president plays the role of both head of state and head of gov. He/she governs the country in a partisan way but he/she represents the US in a non-partisan way
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what is the strong president model?
The best example is France. Is elected and has considerable power, however isn't the head of gov as there is also a PM who runs the gov with other ministers on a day-to-day basis and agrees policy with the president
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what is the weak president model?
Germany and Italy are examples. President is often nominated by legislature and is a weak figurehead who only performs ceremonial roles but can occasionally become politically involved
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what is the constitutional monarchy model?
the UK, Spain and Belgium are examples. The head of state is a monarch but he/she is powerless and largely ceremonial. In such systems the PM plays all the roles of both head of state and head of gov
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what is prime ministerial gov?
gov where the PM is dominant in terms of the executive
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what are some examples of this type of gov?
Blair and Thatcher
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what are the 6 examples of evidence for PM gov?
decline in the power of the cabinet, foreign policy, the increasing frequency of international summits (EU, G8), Media, Growth in Downing street machine and growth in number and power of special advisors
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how has the decline in power of cabinet caused PM gov?
PM has become more powerful as he/she can hire and fire cabinet ministers, holds bi-lateral meetings with ministers to decide policy, simply announcing these policies in cabinet,) cabinet meetings were shorter (blair's were only 1 hour, used to be 3)
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what is an example of a decision where the cabinet was informed rather than consulted?
the power to change interest rates to the bank of England under Blair
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how has foreign policy caused PM gov?
PM has become more powerful as the UK is represented abroad more often than not by the PM (eg May in the Brexit negotiations) and this allows the PM to dominate some aspects of foreign policy (eg Blair invading Iraq despite warnings)
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how has the increasing frequency in international summits caused PM gov?
This has given the PM more prominence in foreign affairs in particular, PMs are now routinely perceived to have more influence over foreign policy than the Foreign Secretary
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how has the media caused PM gov?
The PM is now the centre of media attention in domestic and foreign affairs which has caused media attention to be shifted away from other members of the cabinet towards the personality of the PM
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who is an example of a PM who used the media to great effect?
Blair- would often time important gov announcements to meet newspaper and TV deadlines and would often make these announcements to the media outside Downing street instead of in the HoC
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how has the growth in the Downing street machine caused PM gov?
The PM's power has increased due to the size and importance of institutions within Downing Street who are directly answerable to him/her and due to the growth in the number and power of Special Advisers
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how has the growth in the number and power of special advisers caused PM gov?
They have often given the PM different advice to that of their cabinet and have on occasion undermined cabinet ministers- eg Blair's education adviser Andrew Adonis argued in favour of the intro of uni fees against the wishes of Estelle Morris
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what is the theory that cabinet gov rests on?
'Primus inter pares'-the PM is "first among equals"
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are ministers allowed to develop policy within their own departments?
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what is an example of this?
Blair allowed Brown to dominate economic policy, in fact Blair was often excluded from discussions over the budget
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how is the PM interfering with the running of gov departments a double-edged sword
The PM can become personally associated with unpopular policies and this undermines their authority, eg in 1989 Thatcher became personally associated with the poll tax and this contributed to her downfall in 1990
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how is the PM's power of patronage in the cabinet limited?
needs to maintain unity in the party, eg Theresa May needs to keep a balance between Remainers and Brextiteers
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who is an example of a PM who failed to maintain unity of the party?
Thatcher- failed to keep important the suppoort of important figures like Heseltine, Lawson and Howe which led to her downfall
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Can the PM be defeated by Cabinet on some issues?
Yes- eg Thatcher was defeated on spending cuts in 1981 and membership of the European exchange rate in the late 1980s
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The PM attracts media attention, how is this attention a two edged sword?
When the gov is facing problems the media's onslaught is relentless and can undermine the authority of the PM, eg Gordon Brown and his slow response to the MPs expenses scandal
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who is an example of a person who was seen to be a weak Pm?
John Major
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does popularity wax and wane with how the economy is performing?
Yes, eg economy grew consistently between 1997 and 2007 and Blair reaped the benefit, however after the economic recession in 2008 Brown's popularity suffered
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what are some of the examples of the terrible luck that Gordon Brown faced?
credit crunch, consequent economic recession and the MP's expenses scandal
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what is a recent example of bad luck for Theresa May?
Having a cold during an important speech in 2017 making her look weak and feeble
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what are the 3 main reasons as to why ministers resign?
policy disagreements, individual responsibility and ministerial blunders
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what is an example of a policy disagreement?
Robin Cook who was Foreign Secretary over Blair invading Iraq, 2003
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what is an example of individual responsibility?
Damien Green over pornographic images, 2017
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what is an example of a ministerial blunder?
Priti Patel who was International Development secretary over visiting Israel officials without PM knowing, 2017
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which 4 ministers were part of the 'quad' duringthe coalition gov?
David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander
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Card 2


how does the ruling power provide authority for the PM?


Since the PM's party has won the right to govern, the PM carries his party's elective authority with them.

Card 3


how does the royal prerogative provide authority for the PM?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


how does the popular mandate provide authority for the PM?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


what are some examples of PM's who didn't enjoy the authority of the popular mandate?


Preview of the front of card 5
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