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Pm and Cabinet

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Submitted By swilly29
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How governments are formed

There are no codified rules in the UK to state how government is formed, in theory it is in the hands of the monarch – up until the 19thCentury this was largely a reality. However the monarch no longer plays any active role in this process. The party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons after a general election, its leader will be invited by the monarch to form a government.

2010 Coalition

* Conservatives were longest party in HoC but failed to win overall majority * Labour negotiated a coalition with LibDems and later the LibDems negotiated with both main parties for a coalition * Labour and LibDem did not make an overall majority * Gordon Brown later resigned and advised the Queen to ask Cameron to form a government either as a minority or in coalition with LibDems. * Cameron accepted and formed coalition with LibDem

‘The Government’

25 members are members of the HoL and 90 are MPs. MPs that are from the party that is in government ate not members of government! They are known as backbenchers and the members of government are known as frontbenchers. All members of government are appointed by the PM. The cabinet (22-23 members) meet regularly.

Ministerial selection

The PM must weigh up the qualities of individuals against the political consequences of appointing them.

Qualities that ideal ministers should possess: * Must be politically reliable * Must have potential * Should share their views * Managerial skills needed
Under coalition * How many cabinet posts do they have each? * Must discuss whom to elect together

Other forms of government

* Minority government – party forms a government without a parliamentary majority. Can never rely on getting legislation/financial budgets passed. It must therefore try to build a coalition of support from other parties. Therefore minority governments cannot attempt to do anything radical. * Coalition government – where two or more parties take part. There are two conditions that must be me: 1. Ministerial posts are shared between the coalition parties 2. There needs to be an agreement by all the coalition parties as to which policies can be accepted
There had been no coalition government in the UK from 1945 until 2010 – considered to be unnatural.

Different types of coalition: * Majority coalition – formed by 2 parties simply to create parliamentary majority. * Grand coalition – between 2 major parties – formed to create an overwhelming majority. * Rainbow coalition – between a larger number of parties, often of great varying philosophies. Normally one large party and several smaller ones. * National coalition – where all parties/selection of parties are invited to participate. Occur at times of national crisis and are designed to create unity.

Cabinet government in the past

Since the 1960s cabinet government has been gradually eroded and replaced by the notion of ‘prime ministerial government’

Cabinet realities that were taken for granted: * Represented the collective identity of government * Domestic and foreign policies made within cabinet * In order for a policy to be official it would need full cabinet approval * Disputes within government would have been resolved in cabinet * PM had a higher status than his/her colleagues but was often out voted within the cabinet

Cabinet government – A system of government where the cabinet is the central policy-making body.

Prime Ministerial domination

* 1960s PM became increasingly dominant within government, in the same period the role of media was becoming increasingly important. The media were choosing to centre on the PM alone as the spokesperson for the whole government. This caused the PM to be the presenter and the maker of government policy. * Thatcher took prime ministerial domination to a new level; after the election following the Falklands War (1982) Thatcher appeared to dominate the whole government machinery. She became to be either feared or respected by her colleagues. She was respected abroad almost as Churchill had been, and the media concentrated all their attention on her. Ultimately her own cabinet removed her in 1990 after her support for the highly unpopular poll tax. * She was replaced by John Major who brought back cabinet and collective decision-making. However the cabinet proved to be an obstacle in the way of Major’s attempts to improve our democracy. * Tony Blair 1997-2007 set about restoring personal control. He took prime-ministerial control to new heights. His style of leadership was often described as ‘sofa politics’; a form of practice of settling issues with individual ministers privately and informally. Blair’s style was also described as presidential; he often spoke on behalf of the nation rather than the head of government. His total domination of foreign affairs marked Tony Blair as one of the most dominant PMs. * Gordon Brown 2007-2010 could never dominate as Blair had done; he had a lack of media and public support and a gap in his legitimacy since he had never faced the electorate in the general election as a party leader. Commonly described as an ‘unelected PM’ * David Cameron 2010- faces domination within a coalition, where he must share power within 2 parties.

Prime Minister

Generally over the years the Monarch’s role has slowly decreased as more jobs have been put on the PM’s.

Sir Robert Walpole was the first ever prime minister (1720), he became PM because the king decided to appoint someone under the unofficial title of ‘prime minister’. Prime (number one) minister (helper). Until the 19th century the king chose who should be appointed and were all from the House of Lords. However all the government really did up until the 20th century was have control over money and who defends our country etc as the majority of tasks that are in government now weren’t invented back then.

Late 1800’s PM’s started to be chosen from the House of Commons and in 1860’s today’s method of election for the PM came into place, decreasing the role of the Monarch yet again.

The role of prime minister

The prime minister is the head of the UK government. One of the prime minister’s main jobs is to appoint ministers to run the governments departments. Today the prime minister’s authority comes from being the leader of the political party with the MP’s elected to the House of Commons.


1. Chief policy maker – although this role is clearly shared with other ministers, cabinet and with his party, there is no doubt that the PM is completely pre-eminent in making the governments policy. – Different in a coalition. 2. Head of government – this is a function that covers a number of roles. The PM is in charge of the machinery of government; he can create new posts and new departments as well as abolish them, establish committees and policy units and combine existing ones. This also means he is head of the civil service and can seek advice from its vast machinery. He also chairs cabinet meetings, determining their agenda and controlling the system of cabinet committees that underpins it. But above all, he determines which individuals should hold posts as ministers, senior judges and senior bishops and archbishops of the Church of England. 3. Chief government spokesperson – the PM must be the ultimate source of the official version of government policy to the media. The definitive expression of policy must come from the PM (no matter what party). This can however create an illusion that the PM creates all policy; this is wrong however it does mean that the PM can place his or her own interpretation on all policy. 4. Commander-in-chief of the armed forces – this role is exercised on behalf of the monarch who is no longer permitted to become involved with suck matters except purely on a ceremonial level. It is the PM’s decision and his decision alone whether to commit British troops into battle or not. He may of course seek advice but he has the final say. Examples of this include: * Margaret Thatcher ordered a military task force to the Falkland Islands in 1982 to drive out the Argentine invaders. * David Cameron ordered the Royal Air Force to enforce a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya during the armed uprising there in 2011. This was later extended to missions to destroy the regime’s ability to carry out operations against the rebels and civilian populations. * We can also add the list of tasks and responsibilities of maintaining national security (controlling terrorism and emergency powers in emergency times such as a war) 5. Chief foreign-policy maker (international statesman) – this is a policy carried out for the monarch. Can mean anything from negotiating with foreign powers, to negotiating and signing treaties, to chairing international meetings. Tony Blair in particular concentrated on this role. The prime minister today must also conduct British relations with the EU. 6. Parliamentary leader – It is the role of the PM to lead his party in parliament. He must decide who shall be minister, but he is also in overall control of the government’s strategy within both houses.

Collective Cabinet Responsibility – all decisions are collectively supported by all members of the government in public for example; Claire Short and Jack Straw resigned from cabinet because they could no follow the principle of ‘collective responsibility’ when Tony Blair wanted to go to war in Iraq (2003)

Prime ministerial government – Prime Minister is at the centre of all policy making
Cabinet government – Cabinet collectively makes the decisions/policies

Sources of PM power and authority * The ruling party – power in parliament and country (members). PM has elective authority. When there is no overall majority, PMs authority comes from the largest party – e.g. Cameron in coalition and agreement with Nick Clegg * Royal Prerogative – Monarch retains power to carry out functions as head of state (theory+law) e.g. commands armed forces. Also appoints and dismisses ministers, decides general election date etc. However today these powers are delegated to PM. * Popular mandate – Party leader has become a significant factor in voting choices. Popular mandate causes stronger authority for PM. * Parliament – PM is a parliamentary leader. Has parliamentary authority with the support of the Hoc.

The PMs own personal qualities also effect the authority and power he/she holds; e.g. Margaret Thatcher

PMs ‘formal’ powers (enjoyable by all PMs) * Appointment and dismissal of ministers * Granting peerages and other honors * Head of civil service * Appointing senior judges and bishops * Commanding armed forces * Head of foreign relations * Maintaining national security * Chairing cabinet meetings

‘Informal’ powers vary according to circumstances * Making government policy * Parliamentary leadership * Controlling cabinet * National leadership

Limitations on PM power * Size of parliamentary majority – if it is low PM can never rely on parliamentary approval. Cameron enjoys a comfortable over other parties thanks to the coalition * Unity of the ruling party – If the PM can maintain a united leadership group then he/she can achieve much more than one who is constantly forced to maintain a cohesion * Public and media profile – when a good profile from the media is lost, the PM becomes a liability. Therefore the ruling party will be unwilling to accept their leadership * Enjoy confidence of cabinet and parliament – this is the ultimate limitation; if cabinet overrules PM there is nothing he/she can do. Policies of PM are meaningless until he/she secures parliamentary approval. Under coalition this becomes problematic * PMs may be hindered by own party opposition – PMs must always be careful not to lose the confidence of their own party (Margaret Thatcher) * Coalition problems – PM no longer in total control over policy. Cannot rely so much on parliamentary majority.

How PM loses power

Previously PMs have lost power by resigning for personal reasons or removed by the electorate

Prime ministerial vs. Presidential p61-266

President is head of state; prime minister is not (Queen). Prime minister does not have Presidents powers!! Just style is developing more like a president.

Ways in which we are more presidential now:

* Media image, very concerned of the media * Use of personal advisors * Effectively the PM is more like a president not legally! * Growth in the importance of foreign military affairs * Spatial leadership – PM’s believe to be ‘separate’ from the rest of the government (above gov)

Ways in which we are prime-ministerial now:

* Office of PM is flexible – what the holder wishes to make of it * Been a change of style rather than substance. Still subject to the constraints that have previously existed. * When PM try to stretch office powers to far, the constraints become increasingly strong * PM has no right to presidential status * David Cameron has been unable to dominate domestic politics

The PM IS now effectively a president | The PM is NOT effectively a president | PM perform most of the functions of a head of state | Has been no permanent change. | PMs now have extensive sources of advice of their own. 10 Downing Street increasingly resembles the inner circle in the presidential White House | In substance the role of the PM has not changed | Media tend to concentrate on PM as personal spokesman for the government | There are important forces that will rein in PM power. | Foreign and military affairs have become more important. The PM dominates these | PM is not actually head of state | Importance of spatial leadership in UK increasingly looks like a presidential style of leadership | |

Growth of 10 Downing Street - Foley

Was originally known as the cabinet office and did not directly involve themselves with policy until 1960s. Has since shifted from serving the government as a whole to mainly serving just the PM. It has also been far more concerned with development of policy. Effectively the PM has several hundred advisors who work for him.

Spatial leadership – PM separates themselves from its other members and so are able to act independently, but also to remain part of t he government itself. Thatcher and Reagan even criticised their own government.

President Blair – Tony Blair brought presidential ‘style’ to new heights. He dominated political agenda, but his preference was in foreign and international affairs. He appeared more comfortable in these roles, was more popular and gained serious respect abroad. However the British resented his presidential style, thus respect abroad was lost by lack of trust at home. The political opposition to him and his government was weak and so it can be said that Blair dominated not through his own efforts but through the failings of others.

President Cameron

Not as dominate as Blair: * Does not secure parliamentary majority * Not as ideologically united * More consensual politician than Blair * Constrained by the need to reduce government debt – unable to complete major reforms

Ministers and Departments

Examples * Treasury * Foreign Office * Department of Justice * Department for women and equality

Each department has two heads (minister + civil servant).
Minister = secretary of state and Civil Servant = permanent secretary.
Minister is normally a cabinet minister with junior ministers below him/her, normally known as ministers of state who do not sit in the cabinet. Private political advisors assist these ministers they help give political advise, etc. All secretaries and ministers of state are appointed by the PM, political advisors are appointed by the ministers themselves.

Ministers | Civil Servants | Appointed for political reasons | Appointed because they have specialist/administrative skills (politically neutral) | Temporary – appointed until PM says so | Permanent – expected to stay | Expected to hold political views and may have their own political agenda | Must have no political agenda, whatever their private views might be | Are politically committed to one party | May only suggest alternatives in a neutral way | Expected to make political decisions | Identify possible outcomes in a neutral way | Have to use judgments about the outcomes of decisions | Cannot be held publicly accountable for what they do | Have a high public profile | Will remain in position even if there is a change of government | Are publicly accountable for the performance of their department | | Will lose office if their party loses power | | TASKS | Set the political agenda | Gather info for policy making | Determine priorities for action | Provide alternative courses for action | Decide between political alternatives | Advise on consequences of decisions | Obtain cabinet and prime-ministerial approval for policies | Draft legislation | Steer proposals through parliament | Provide briefings for other ministers | Be accountable to parliament for policies and their implementation | Advise on implementation methods | Account to parliament for the general performance of their department | Organise implementation of policy | | Draft answers to parliamentary questions |

Open government

Refers to a policy of attempting to allow more access by the media and public to decision-making processes in government.
The freedom of information act 2005 has caused an opening up in the process of government, but progress has remained limited.
The requirement for civil servants to be neutral and anonymous has caused a lot of secrecy in government. So the concept of open government remains more of an aspiration than a reality.

Cabinet committees

A cabinet committee is a small group of cabinet ministers who meet and discuss a specific area of government policy, however most important decisions need wider approval. Some committees are permanent e.g. economic matters and some are temporary e.g. Olympic games. Larger areas of policy making also require specialised sub-committees. Examples of committees are: home affairs, foreign affairs and public expenditure. Over the years committees have effectively taken over the work of the full cabinet. The cabinet in full session does not have the time or information to be able to deal with most matters. The growth in the importance of committees has had an increasing effect on prime-ministerial control as the PM controls the creation of the committees. It is much easier for a PM to control a small group of ministers than the whole cabinet.

Cabinet today 1. When a dispute between ministers cannot be resolved, the matter may be brought to the full cabinet 2. There may also be circumstances where the PM decides that an issue should be resolved by a full cabinet session 3. In times of national emergency it is often seen as desirable that the whole cabinet should back government policies 4. It has become increasingly important for government to present a united front to the media and parliament and to ensure that policy is seen in the most favorable light possible 5. Just as parliament must legitimise all proposed legislation, so too must cabinet legitimise policy proposals and key decisions.

Cabinet under coalition government

Similarities | Differences | Remains dominated by PM | ‘Agreements to differ’ between coalition partners | Meetings are secret | LibDem leaders are to be appointed to cabinet/moved within cabinet | The collective identity of the government | Rules of collective responsibility are now weaker | All members are expected to defend publicly all cabinet decisions | There is a greater risk of conflict so the PM has to take more account of differing opinions |
Cabinet formation – single party

1. Will he chose a ‘balanced’ cabinet, containing all shades of political opinion or will he chose a team that is ideologically united? 2. Which individuals/who should fill the 22 posts that are available in modern cabinet?

What a PM would take into consideration when choosing individuals:

* Political allies from the past * Individual who can represent an important section * Great ability and widely respected? * Great potential and successful? * Old personal friends * Popular figures within public and media? * Political identity of the new government * Extremely able people – ‘will do a good job?’

Cabinet formation – coalition

1. PM must consult with coalition partner 2. Balance of party membership mirrors party strengths in HoC 3. PM must give a prominent role to the leader of the coalition partner

Individual ministerial responsibility

The convention that a minister should resign if their department makes a serious political/personal error. In practice, this usually means that a minister is responsible to parliament and must face questioning and criticism.

* PM must be prepared to face criticism from parliament * Resignations on the grounds of errors/excessive parliamentary criticism have been absent – ministers are much more likely to hang on to their jobs, even in the teeth of criticism * Parliament itself does not have the power to remove an individual minister from office – only the PM can * PM hardly takes responsibility anymore

2011 – immigration scandal – Theresa May blamed
1997 – Michael Cameron refused to resign
2002 – Steven Buyers did resign

Collective responsibility

In the UK all members of the government must collectively support all cabinet decisions, at least in public. It also implies that the whole government stands or falls, as one, on the decisions made by the cabinet.

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