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Politics

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Government & Politics Unit 2 * Constitution * Codified Constitution ✓ * Advantages & Disadvantages * Features * Uncodified Constitution ✓ * Advantages & Disadvantages * Features * Is Parliament Sovereign? ✓ * Arguments For and Against * Strengths and Weaknesses of the UK’s constitution ✓ * Constitutional Reforms – Coalition and 1997-2010 ✓ * What are they? * Are they effective?

* PM & Cabinet * Features & Functions of the PM ✓ * What must a politician be to becoming PM * What can a PM do? * Functions of Cabinet ✓ * Factors that affect promotion and resignation of a minister ✓ * Powers and Constraints of PM ✓ * Theories of Executive Power ✓ * PM V Cabinet ✓

* Parliament * Functions of Parliament ✓ * What are they? * How effective are they? * Powers of Parliament ✓ * What are they? * How effective are they? * Parliamentary Reform ✓ * What are they? * How effective are they? * Relationship between Parliament and Government ✓ * Factors that affect it * How the coalition affects it

Constitution:
2 Types of Constitution * Codified & Uncodified
Codified Constitution * Constitution where the rules are written down in a single document. Example could be the USA. Creates a series of checks and balances for government, and also a separation of powers. Creates entrenchment, and is rigid (difficult to amend), and this prevents the executive from changing the constitution for its own benefit. * Are judiciable, in that being a legal document, the judiciary has the ultimate authority to define the interpretation of constitutional reform.
Advantages – * Create clear rules. Creates less confusion about the meanings of constitutional rules, and greater certainty that they can be enforced. * Prevent elective dictatorship – by ending parliamentary sovereignty * Entrenches rights – despite 1998 Human Rights Act currently being in place – it could be removed at any time under the UKs – in measures similar to DORA. Under a codified constitution they could not be challenged. * Could be interpreted by senior judges ‘above politics’. But this depends upon how the constitution is laid out. This is not the case in the USA – where Supreme Court judges are decided upon by the president and congress. A favourable congress would mean a supreme court judge appointed that the president chooses himself.
Disadvantages – * Creates rigidity – which would mean it became out of date quickly, unlike the UK’s which is organic, and can therefore adapt to the environment * Judges are unelected and socially unrepresentative. Would not be accountable to public * Legalistic – hard to understand except by lawyers and judges eg – ‘From time to time, the president may be invited to report upon the state of the union’. Would ruin organic character of unwritten ones * Who would write it? Practical problem with creating one in that they become biased to represent one set of values. Can’t be above politics. * Most codified constitutions become very unstable very quickly with the exception of the US.

Uncodified Constitution
An ungrouped set of governing rules that comes from a variety of sources. The UK is an example of one; its sources of its uncodified constitution are as follows: * Books of Constitutional Relevance eg such as by A.V.Dicey * Statue Law (as made by Parliament) * Common Law (made by judges – eg Murder is wrong, or the Magna Carta) * Convention (eg elections on a Thursday or that a minister resigns after errors in their department) * EU Law and Treaties (eg the Lisbon Treaty)
They give Parliament sovereign power, and a flexible, in the sense that if Parliament wants to remove something from Statue Law it can. The only limitation is that Parliament cannot hold a future parliament to doing something. Not judiciable in that judges are by no means the highest authority in the land.
Advantages – * Flexible – means UK can adapt very quickly to any form of change that is needed eg Defence of the Realm Act or Anti-Terrorism Laws. * Organic – adapt to social standing at the time – eg removal of ability to carry guns in UK – struggling to do so in the USA. Issues that are issues in the US have already been solved in the UK. * Status Quo – why fix something that isn’t broken. * Creates more effective government
Disadvantages – * Hard to know what it says – conventions ignored, and also confusion easily created such as during aftermath of 2010 general election. * Elective Dictatorship – UK governments can more or less act as they please until they come up for re-election. * Centralisation – UK governmental system has weak checks and balances. * Weak Protection of Rights – no entrenchment of rights means that we can curb them very quickly and very easily.

Is Parliament sovereign?
Yes:
* Said to be legally sovereign * Source of all political power * Exercises power because that power is granted by Parliament * Parliament can take back any powers devolved as with the case of the Northern Ireland Assembly. * Parliament can make any law it wishes. There are no restrictions on the laws Parliament can make and which must be enforced by the Courts * Parliament is not bound by its predecessors, nor can it bind a future change * Means Britain cannot have a fixed, entrenched constitution as long as the current principle of parliamentary sovereignty remains.
No:
* Parliament is not and has never been, political sovereign – has the legal right, but not the political right. * Pressure Groups, and our international partners all restrict parliament’s political ability to act as it may wish * Shift from parliamentary to popular sovereignty as shown by wider use of referendum, creation of devolved assemblies, and more clearly defined citizen’s rights, particularly through the Human Right’s Act * Parliament may not longer be legally sovereign – this situation arises from the UK membership of the EU; also devolution which has created ‘quasi-federalism’

Strengths and Weakness of the UK constitution
Strengths:
* Flexibility * Constitution is organic – rooted in society not separate from society * So when society, needs and values change – the constitution can also change without undue upheaval. * Examples –authority of British monarchy gradually declined to be replaced by elected bodies – power simply shifted away from the Crown – to turn into the Prerogative Powers * Enabled us to respond after 9/11 much quicker * Quicker and easier to bring in a new Act of Parliament than it is to amend say the US Constitution * Democratic Rule * UK constitution is shaped by democratic pressures (changes in society) – eg give the vote to the working class in the 19th Century – reflected social and economic changes. Growing belief that elected institutions have legitimate power – led to the reduction of reflecting a growing belief that only elected political institutions have legitimate power. Furthermore, unelected judges have less influence over the UK than the Supreme Court in the US – who decides on constitutional matters. * Effective Government * Government seen as strong and decisive as the constitutional restraints are weak. Supporters argue that it is better to have a government that can deal with crises without too many restraints. This occurs for two reasons – the absence of a ‘written constitution’, government decisions that are backed by Parliament cannot be overturned by the judiciary as there is no judicial challenge * Elective Dictatorship (concentration of power) allows UK government to take strong and decisive action – best reflected in radical, reforming governments such as the Attlee government of 1945-51 which set up the NHS, and the Liberal Reforms of the early 20th Century. As well as this the Thatcher Reforms of the late 20th Century. * In contrast to the US – where both President and Congress are prevented from acting decisively by fear that the Constitution will prevent them. Eg battle against guns in the US. * History and Tradition * The constitution links present generations to past generations. It has evolved gradually over time and it is organic rather than having just been created – this brings a sense of continuity as it is based on custom and tradition, and has been able to prove itself over time.

Weaknesses/Criticisms * Uncertainty * Critics say it is difficult to know what the constitution says. * There is confusion around many because they are not fixed – especially around conventions * Eg – Ministerial responsibility – which says that a minister should take responsibility for blunders made in their department – yet not one resigned as a result of the DfT and franchising being screwed up. * Also – 2010 General Election – Gordon Brown stayed in 10 Downing Street for 2 days afterwards, while the Conservatives and Lib Dems thrashed out a coalition deal. * Elective Dictatorship * Once elected – UK government can more or less act as they please until they come up for re-election. This occurs through a combination of two factors – sovereign power lies with Parliament, and parliament is dominated by the government of the day * Concentrating the power in the hands of the executive allows the government to shape the constitution as it wishes. This creates the possibility that the government may become oppressive and tyrannical. * Centralisation * The UK has an over centralised system of government with weak checks and balances. A good liberal democracy requires that government is limited by internal checks and balances. This stems from the basic liberal fear that the government is likely to become a tyranny against the individual * UK government is more concentrated than fragmented. * Weak Protection of Rights * Provides weak protection for individual rights and civil liberties. This is because the elective dictatorship means that government can do what they want. Elections provide the only constraint. The fact that rights in the UK are not written down, but are protected by the view that we were free to act as long as there were no law to restrict us – gives us no protection to rights. * Human Rights Act 1998 has defined rights more clearly, but it falls well short of an entrenched bill of rights.

Constitutional Reforms
1997-2010
* Reform of House of Lords (removal of hereditary Peers) * Introduction of Human Rights Act * Greater use of Referenda * Devolution * Electoral Reform – PR systems for devolved assemblies * Abolition of the Role of Lord Chancellor
Good – * Greater Democratization * Greater Decentralisation
Bad – * No Clear Focus – piecemeal reform – not one big reform bill * Unfinished business eg – House of Lords Reform * Not fully thought out – did not anticipate consequences (devolution)

Coalition * Elected House of Lords * Fewer MPs and Equal Sized Constituencies * Labour said that it favoured the Tories and Liberals – and not themselves * MPs don’t want to lose their jobs – vested interest * Fixed term Parliament * Power to Recall MPs * Zac Goldsmith says that MPs should not be in charge of deciding whether an MP should be recalled * Referendum on changing voting system * Failed – 2011 * Statutory Register of Lobbyists * More Backbench MP control over Commons * Just 27 days in the parliamentary session given to Backbench MPs * E-Petitions * E-petitions debates have to be staged during the time reserved for backbench debates * Elected Select Committee chairmen * Still no subpoena power * Devolution & Scottish Independence

PM & Cabinet
Features & Functions of the PM * What must a politician be to become a PM * Leader of his Party * MP (could technically also be a Lord, but this has not happened since the 1890s * Have majority control in the commons (can also have minority control such as James Callaghan’s government) * Functions of the Prime Minister * Making governments (power of patronage) * Direct Government Policy * Manage the cabinet system – chairs meetings, determines number and length * Organising government – setting up and reorganising government departments * Control parliament * Provide National leadership at times of crisis, war or in response to events.
Function of Cabinet * Provide formal policy approval * Policy co-ordination * Resolve Disputes * Provide a forum for debate * Manage the party * Provide collective government
Factors that affect promotion and resignation of a minister * Ideological Views * Political Threat/Big Beasts * Personal Ties * Bridge Factions * Talented * Gender, Race, Disability (Quota Cabinet) * Education

Powers and Constraints of PM (Are British Prime Ministers as Powerful as is sometimes claimed) * Depends upon the Prime Minister’s own personality, and also factors at the time such as events, size of party majority, and popularity of party leader. However there is a conventional view of power which includes the following issues: * Power of Patronage - Ability to hire and fire who they want, when they want. Makes backbenchers loyal too as they want a shot at the ‘big time’. * Cabinet – PM can manage cabinet as its chairmen, and harness the decision making authority that arises from it. He can decide, who speaks, when they speak and for how long. Can also control length and date of meetings. * Party – is leader of the Party, and thus can control the party MPs and typically the HoC. Can also increase PMs authority in cabinet as a double-whammy approach for Members * Parliament – able to dominate parliament due to Elective Dictatorship * Electorate – seen as figurehead of party, in that he receives an almost personalised mandate through personalised election campaigns and the debates. Voters vote for the PM not the MP. * Media – PM is over the heads of cabinet. Media attention primarily on him. Can use Spin Doctors to maintain power – by controlling government communications eg Release of bad news at times of more important events/low awareness * Events – allow the PM to have credit at good times, and be stoic and statesmen like at disasters – good for public image. * BUT – while the above may all be handy powers for the PM – they can have their disadvantages and their constraints. This applies especially at the moment under the coalition, which adds a new taste to the issue. * Patronage – Some are irreplaceable (Big Beasts) or (Ideological divide crossers). Power of Patronage watered down at present by coalition * Cabinet – Resignations damage PM’s credibility. If measures PM are unpopular – cabinet can ‘gang up on them’ * Party – can weaken the PM. If a party becomes split – then he loses a considerable chunk of his power base. EG John Major and Euroskpeticism and now DC * Parliament – if parliament loses confidence in PM then a VoNC can be passed. May also rebel against bills (eg House of Lords reform). This parliament has had most rebellions since 1945 a study by the University of Nottingham has discovered. * Electorate – while it can be his strength, also his biggest weakness. If the electorate don’t like him – he loses his personal mandate. * Media – likes to hype bad news for dramatic style – makes things worse than they are (eg Daily Mail sensationalism) * Events can be bad in that they reflect badly upon a PM (Brown & Recession)

Theories of Executive Power – Is the Prime Minister presidential? * Presidential in Spirit * Can’t be president as the constitution doesn’t have a system of presidential government eg No separation of powers. And a president has an independent legislature and sounding board cabinet and a formal, personal department
Yes:
* Growth of Spatial Leadership * Tendency of PM’s to distance themselves from their parties and governments by presenting themselves ‘as outsiders’ or by developing a personal ideological stance (eg Thatcherism/Blairism) * Tendency towards populist outreach * Tendency of PMs to reach out directly to the public by claiming to articulate their deepest hopes and fears – speaking out in crisis/news stories ie Cameron and Aston Villa. Blair + Diana. Text Tony and Web Cameron * Personalised Election Campaigns * David Cameron Posters. Become the brand image of their parties meaning personality and image become determinants of success/failure. TV Debates * Personal Mandates * Tend of PMs claiming popular authority on the basis of their electoral success. PMs have become the ideological consciences of their party/government, their chief source of conviction and policy direction * Wider use of SPADs * PMs increasing rely on hand-picked political advisors rather than on cabinets, ministers and senior civil servants. These advisors often have a personal loyalty to the PM rather than to the party or government – Alistair Campbell, Andy Coulson and Ed/David Miliband * Strengthened Cabinet Office * Size and administrative resources available to the cabinet office have grown, turning it perhaps into a small scale prime minister’s department responsible for co-ordinating with Whitehall
No:
* Coalition means that cabinet government returns – David Cameron himself has said that he is the ‘Coalition’s Chairmen’ * Constitution says he can’t, so he can’t possibly be. * Core-Executive Model suggests that actually it is PM v Cabinet v Civil Servants v Coalition. No one is an independent actor and they all merely exercise influence through a network of relationships. Suggests Power is not monocratic. Follows the Yes Prime Minister view – with Thatcher saying it is ‘remarkably accurate’ * Primus inter pares still applies * Is not the head of state, and does not have a legitimate personal mandate.

PM V Cabinet
PM is more powerful: * Power of Patronage – controls the careers of their cabinet * Wets and Drys * Personal Mandates – allows him to direct policy and have a personal ideological stance * Blair & Olympics Bid. Cameron and 2018 World Cup Bid * Leadership Debates. Blairism, Thatcherism * Manage Cabinet * Time, Length, Duration, Frequency and Agenda * Ready Steady Cook * Sofa Cabinet * 9:45 Am Starts * Personalised Election Campaigns * Vote for PM not MP * Cameron’s posters * I agree with Nick * SPADS * Blair – Campbell * Brown – McBride * Cameron – Coulson * PM has access to the media and can speak for the county during important national events * Spin and News Management – turn a crisis into an opportunity
Cabinet is more powerful: * Coalition * Primus Inter Pares * Cabinet Resignations make PM look weak * Lawson and Howe * Cook and Short * Divided Cabinet makes governing difficult * Major * Big Beasts * I.D.S, Hague, Osborne, Gove, May * Cabinet Members are experts in their specific policy area

Parliament
Functions of Parliament:- * Legislation * The power to make laws * Debate legislation * Scrutinise it at the standing committee stage * Suggest amendments * Agree on its final stages * Representation * MPs represent their constituents and other interest groups * The traditional Burkean view of representation suggests MPs use their own judgement in acting on behalf of others. However, given the rise of political parties, this view is outdated * The doctrine of the mandate, in contrast, suggests that the MP serves the constituents by toeing the party line. * Scrutiny and Oversight * Check and constrain government * Call the government to account – force ministers to explain their actions and justify their policies. It does this by scrutinising and overseeing what government does. * Recruitment and Training of Ministers * Parliament acts as a major channel of political recruitment for ministers * Legitimacy * Parliament gives legitimacy to the actions of the government * As in a sense it stands for the public, when it approves a measure, this makes it feel as if the public have approved it. * Parliament’s approval is based on the assumption that the government’s actions have been properly debated and scrutinised and any problems exposed.

How effective are they? * Legitimation * Effective * Parliament is respected by the government and all policies require approval of the Commons - Proof of this respect is demonstrated by the need to recall parliament in times of major crises such as the Iraq War. * Reserve power to defeat legislation, e.g. Sunday Trading Bill * Not effective * The process of approval is only a ritual meaning little – since the government is so dominant. Although there is ‘appearance’ of conflict, the result of nearly every vote is inevitable * Media often knows things before Parliament eg demonstrated by… * Ensuring government accountability * Effective * Select Committees have become influential and even feared by ministers and officials. * They undertake investigations on the world of all government departments, eg Department of Health * Have wide powers and research facilities and are fairly free of the influence of the whips * Ineffective * MQT – ritualised, and little information is extracted * PMQT has increasing become a political slanging match, instead of asking the PM about policy and other issues * Select Committees find it difficult to obtain information from civil servants, who hide behind their constitutional anonymity * In many cases only official government policy – already known * Committees have no subpoena power – can’t force witnesses to appear and also – unable to know what information has been ignored/lied about. * Representation * Effective * The House of Commons is geographically representative * MPs spend a good deal of their time and effort caring for the interests of their constituencies - 1 MP for 1 Constituencies * Many of the major interests in the country are represented by both MPs and active peers in the Lords * Ineffective * The commons does not accurate represent the strength of support for some parties because of the lack of proportionality of the electoral system * Liberal Democrats and other small parties are under-represented * Socially neither the Lords nor the Commons is representative * There are relatively few women or members of ethnic minorities * The commons is dominated by middle class professional groups and the lords is dominated by older and wealthier members * Hereditary Peerage is a denial of democratic principles * Law Making * Effective * The Commons can block and amend bills * Can also pass some PMBs eg abortion and homosexual law reform * Ineffective * Government dominates the parliamentary agenda and so is able to block legislation to which it is opposed * Government uses its elective dictatorship to secure a majority to support its legislation * HoL finds it virtually impossible to introduce legislation with any success * Safe Guarding Rights * Effective * Although parliament rarely exercises a veto on legislation that might threaten rights and liberties, the very fact that it does have the power to do so might affect the Government’s deliberations * Ineffective * The Whips have great powers to ensure loyalty among the governing parties MPs * While there is a large government majority in the Commons, rebellions are easily defeated. In situations where the Government might be defeated, the strength of party loyalty and executive patronage usually wins the day
Powers of Parliament * Power to Veto Legislation * Remove a government by a vote of no confidence * Is the Sovereign Power of the UK * HoL * Delay bills passed by the HoC for up to one year (Veto Powers) * No powers over money bills or manifesto promises (Salisbury convention)

Parliamentary Reform
There is concern over the relationship between the government and parliament, mainly relating to the growing power of the government, and the declining ability of parliament to effectively check the government; and although supporters of the present system claim it creates strong and effective government, there have still been reforms to the parliamentary system * Blair Reforms * PMQs – one 30 minute session on a Wednesday * Critics claim it was to reduce exposure to MPs * Could also be used as part of Blair’s style of governance (sofa cabinet) * Great deal of time/resources devoted to the event * Liaison Committee Scrutiny * PM appears twice a year before the Liaison committee – made up of select committee chairmen. This has the advantage over PMQs of experts asking the questions, and is away from on-going electoral battle between government and opposition * But weaknesses in Select Committee’s still apply * FOI act 2000 – give people greater access to information held by many public bodies * Could use law to access government information * There are some exemptions to the laws though which limit access, and civil servants could claim that files are ‘missing’. A common joke in Yes Prime Minister is that the floods in 1972 meant great deals of documents were damaged – based on accuracy claims made by Margaret Thatcher – could be true. * Wider Constitutional Reform – not specifically parliamentary reform, but the introduction of devolution limits some of its powers, Human Rights Act and use of referendum * Modernisation of the House of Commons Select Committee set up to suggest reforms * Working Hours of the Commons changed * Brown Reforms * Give up some prerogative powers – government has to consult or gain approval of the commons on declaration of war, to dissolve and recall parliament, to ratify treaties and choose bishops and appoint judges. BUT elective dictatorship remains. * Coalition Reforms * Fixed Term Parliaments – removal of further prerogative powers. * Elections can only be triggered be VoNC or by a motion supported by 2/3rds of parliament * Fewer MPs & Equal Sized Constituencies * 50 Less MPs * Evenly sized constituencies to around 70,000 people. Parliament should decide final composition by October 2013 to be put into place by 2015 * HoL * Smaller size – 300 80% - elected ,20% appointed, Rejected by Clegg & Lib Dems Relationship between Parliament and Government Factors that affect it * Party Unity * Reached a peak in mid 20th Century * Since then has been an increase in MP rebellions over things like Uni-Fees and the Iraq War * A united party means that Parliament is weak compared to the executive. * A disunited party means that government becomes more unstable * Size of Majority * Larger the government’s majority – the weaker the backbenches will be. * Labour – 1997 – would have taken 90 Labour MPs for Blair to be defeated. * But - 2005 – would be done by just 34 * Lords * Although lacking the formal powers of the Commons, the lords can be a more effective check on the government, and the Blair government suffered serious defeats by the Lords over terrorism legislation, delays over the ban on hunting with dogs, and the introduction of foundations hospitals. This recent increase in its effectiveness is due to a number of factors eg – removal of hereditary peers, a lack of a majority party in the Lords and greater legitimacy
How the coalition affects it
Coalition typically means that parliament government is stronger – why? As they have to work at maintaining unity across multiple parties through inter-party debate. This means the Commons can take a more influential role in policy. * Single Party government benefits from ideological and tribal loyalties * Coalition does not
Current government concerns: * Lib Dem MPs – unwilling to support government policy * Have least to gain * Most to lose from coalition * At threat from losing identify and taking all the blame * Issues have divided the parties – eg Uni Tuition Fees, NHS reforms, HoL reforms, Electoral Reforms * Could also lead to a weak parliament because 42 Lib Dem/Conservative MPs would have to vote against the government in order for a defeat – but this could be seen as easier because ideological difference are likely going to be one party against, or the other.
BUT
* Considerable agreement on policy +Use of independent body on areas of policy disagreement No real differences in ideology * Over-representation of Lib Dems in cabinet, and Both parties need it to work

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