Presentation on theme: "The Prime Minister and executive. What is the UK government? All members of the government must sit in Parliament, the vast majority- 90 are also elected."— Presentation transcript:
The Prime Minister and executive
What is the UK government? All members of the government must sit in Parliament, the vast majority- 90 are also elected MPs. MPs from the party which is in government are not members of the government and so are not bound by the same rules. PM appoints members of the government and he alone can dismiss them. All members of the government are bound by the doctrine of CMR. However the formation of the coalition has muddied the waters with the principle of agreement to differ e.g. AV.
Factors influencing ministerial selection Political reliability- although well known dissidents are appointed- Mo Mowlem, Robin Cook, Clare Short Potential- applies to appointment junior ministers Ideological similarity- however, the formation of the coalition has muddied the waters here Managerial skills- ministers will have a large body of civil servants, advisers and other bodies to manage.
Other forms of government Minority Coalitions in the UK. At Westminster, no coalition since However Scotland with Lab/LibDem , local government and Westminster Majority Coalitions- 2 parties to create a parliamentary majority Grand coalitions- 2 parties to create an overwhelming majority Rainbow coalitions- a larger number- this was suggested as a progressive coalition 2010 to keep the Tories out- this would have involved the nationalist parties and the greens!. National coalitions- all parties in times of crisis e.g and WW2
Arguments on coalitions For Coalition most common form government in EU- 20 of the 27 member states. Not true lack legitimacy- pre election pacts Republic Ireland and in Germany- also post election an investiture vote whereby a coalition secures parliamentary approval- Scotland and Wales. Stable coalitions in Scotland and Evidence from Yong and Hazel- How the Coalition Government Works- evidence from western Europe suggests that coalitions no more likely to break up over internal party conflict than single party governments. On Constitutional reform- Cons agree to referendum on AV- LibDems agree AV in place STV, LibDems agree on EU bill (referendum before agree to any new treaty transfer powers to Brussels) Cons agree to fixed term Parliaments and LibDems to reduction number MPs (they would lose out) and Cons agree drop manifesto pledge to scrap HRA in place of a Bill of Rights Commission which would look for an ECHR+ alternative not minus ECHR. Evidence from Yong and Hazell also suggest a high degree of cooperation at centre of government Present coalition formed speedily election on 6 th and formed on 11 th - five days in May Long term trends such as decline in support two main parties, rise in 3 rd party vote and decline in marginals suggests coalitions feature of future Against Deadlock after an election- Belgian coalition formed November 2011 after 18 months. Undermines CMR agree to disagree on four substantive policy areas in the Coalition Agreement. Historic hostility to coalitions- Disraeli England does not love coalitions. Difficulty of LibDems as junior partners to convince public of their distinctive contribution to the coalition- disastrous collapse in LibDem support following tuition fees.
Impact of the coalition on the practice of government Agreement to disagree on substantive policy areas. Formation of a Coalition Cttee- E.g. Wales established two each chaired and co chaired by first and deputy first minister (Coalition agreement and Presentation policy and Budget). At Westminster- Coalition. Operations and Strategy Planning Group and final arbiter Coalition Cttee- latter chaired by PM and deputy- each group equal membership both parties Use of watchdog ministers- ministerial twinning- junior minister from one party to department headed by minister from the other- LibDems appointed alongside Conservatives in all but five departments. A functional coalition depends on relationship PM and the deputy- involves joint decision making in terms of ministerial appointments, consultation on cabinet agenda, copied to all papers on significant policy issues- the good faith no surprises principle There has been a revival cabinet Government since its decline in particular the revival of the cabinet Cttee system as a forum for strategic and general policy discussion- in contrast there was a chasm between NO10 and NO11 under Blair and Brown ran NO10 as a bunker mentality. Formation of s substantial deputy PM office as he was required to have oversight over all areas government policy. Under the terms of the Coalition Agreement, Nick Clegg has the right to be consulted on all policy areas/decisions. Greater empowerment civil service- who are encouraged more to intervene in Whitehall policy debates and to give more evidence and advice, the Cabinet Secretariat which had been sidelined under previous PMs has been revived with revival of the Cabinet Cttee system. Aim was to reduce number of SPADS- two per Cabinet minister and none for juniors- to beef up resources to LibDems more were included.
Key features of Cabinet Government Textbook assumption for British government up till 1960s- that is the supreme decision making body in government Cabinet represented collective identity of the government. All important foreign and domestic decisions made in cabinet For a policy to be official required full cabinet approval Prime Minister considered primus inter pares. This means he had higher status but could be outvoted
Prime Ministerial dominance Harold Wilson was accused by Richard Crossman and Barbara Castle of operating a prime ministerial government… He set up the Kitchen cabinet- cab sec and a few advisors to discuss strategy at No.10. He controlled agenda of meetings and did deals before the Cabinet met. The first PM to understand the power of the TV. By 1983 Mrs T having won the Falklands and the 1983 election was able to pack Cabinet with supporters. Media focused on her. Ultimately, Mrs\T alienate colleagues and she was replaced by John Major. He promised a more collegial style- the Cabinet was less united than before, a battleground for the warring factions within the Conservative Party. Tony Blair combined Wilson’s manipulation government machinery, Mrs\T domination media with controlling the flow of information his style of leadership described as sofa politics which in itself a challenge to Cabinet. Blair style also described as presidential- charismatic speaker who spoke on behalf of nation- Diana death Queen of hearts…heavily involved foreign affairs- Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, committing troops to Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq adopting role of commander in chief…
Weaker PMs John Major’s Cabinet warring factions containing some of his deadliest enemies- ‘the bastards speech` Gordon Brown lacked electoral mandate. He did exercise high level control international affairs and a leading statesman in world poverty Action, Climate Change and in response to the global credit crunch but events outside his control credit crunch and recession undermined his authority as did the election that never was ‘Bottler Brown’ David Cameron limited by fact he is in coalition. He also faces considerable back bench dissent- 81 defy whips 2011 over vote on referendum on whether UK should remain in EU and 91 vote against Government proposed TT for the Lords reform bill just before the recess July He has tended to contract out reforms to strong ministers such as Gove and IDS. As a result key policies end up being associated with these men. A 2012 poll by YouGov shows only 17% voters believe he sticks to what he believes in. Professor King of Essex University sees power of the Prime Minister as overrated. Rather than being like the head of a corporation with a range of departments that report to you, it is more like being the Secretary General of the United Nations and having to get rival nations to agree on a particular course of action.
Marginalisation of the Cabinet Prime ministerial dominance Growth in complexity of government has meant a shift to Cabinet committees as cabinet is too unwieldy. These can decide on government policy. Meetings are shorter- rarely an hour and only once a week. Large departments are more independent. Rise of bilateral meetings Growth in Number 10 as a decision making body- rise in numbers of think tanks and special advisors working directly for Number 10 has marginalised cabinet.
Factors influencing appointment Cabinet- constitutionally limited to around 22 Single Party government Promises to political allies- Cameron and Osborne, Brown and Straw Those who represent key groups- Alan Johnson the unions, Theresa May the right To silence a potential rebel Identify men of talent Old personal friends- brown and Balls, Cameron and Denham Popular figures with media/public- Vince Cable Ideological coherence- IDS represent social conservatism which concerned with social deprivation Ability- Ken Clarke as justice secretary Coalition Consult with coalition partner about which members of his party to be included Balance of membership reflects balance of the two parties in Commons Coalition partner requires a prominent role- Nick Clegg appointed as deputy PM
Remaining functions of the Cabinet Settling ministerial disputes a key role in the Coalition Making decisions that cannot be made elsewhere- GB decision to replace Trident, Major on replacement poll tax with community charge. Dealing with domestic emergencies Determining presentation of policy- the united front for the media Legitimising decisions made elsewhere
Collective Ministerial Responsibility All ministers of the government are collectively responsible for government policy. Ministers who cannot defend it in public must resign Robin Cook over Iraq and later Clare Short following handling post war situation. Limits to CMR- reported disputes in media, publication of memoirs such as Alastair Darling and David Blunkett, also the coalition agreement to differ- renewal Trident, development new nuclear plants and AV where the parties supported the different stances on AV.
Individual Ministerial Responsibility Ministers are individually responsible to Parliament for their actions and for policies directly associated with them. Ministers resign if serious errors or in breach of parliamentary rules- expenses Scandal 2009 and 2010 David Laws over expenses claims and Liam Fox over access of a personal friend to foreign officials and governments whilst on overseas official visits with the minister
Functions of the Prime Minister Chief Policy maker- accept personal responsibility for policy John Major and the Get Back to Basics, David Cameron and the Big Society. Head of Government- can create new posts and abolish them- post of Deputy PM a floating appointment with differing powers, heads the civil service, chairs cabinet and decides on agenda, controls cabinet committees, decides on appointments. Chief government spokesman- Blair accepting responsibility for failure government to listen to concerns over Iraq following 2005 election. Cameron and the 2011 riots, Big Society Commander in chief- ultimate say in whether to commit troops. GB the first PM since Churchill to visit troops in ongoing warzone (Iraq). First act inside No10 is to issue instructions to commanders of nuclear fleet Controls national security. Chief foreign policy maker- signs treaties and acts as head of state abroad as the roving ambassador- Blair chaired G8 and UK presidency EU. Cameron is using the Olympics 2012 as opportunity to chair a host of international conferences with visiting heads of state Parliamentary leader, especially significant if he has an electoral mandate
Sources of Prime Ministerial authority The ruling party- the leader of the largest parliamentary majority The royal prerogative Popular mandate- electoral mandate Blair 1997 and 2001 especially, reduced 2005 and Brown never had this nor has Cameron Parliament- the leader of the largest party, TB especially
Limits to Prime Minister’s power The size of the parliamentary majority. This is especially a problem given the increased tendency of backbenchers to defy the whip- note Cameron's clashes with backbenchers- the Parliaments elected 2005 and 2010 the most rebellious ever. Unity of the ruling party John Major’s party split over Europe and the economy. Also sizeable rebellions against Cameron 2011 (EU) and 2012 (Lords reform). Media image- when TB announced 2003 he would not seek a fourth term his authority ebbed away. GB a poor media relationship- bottler Brown and from Joseph Stalin to Mr Bean. Cabinet support- MrsT lost backing of her colleagues 1990 and forced to resign, John Major and the bastards, John Redwood resignation to stand against him, splits and resignations in the Brown cabinet. The coalition is naturally divided. Events Dear boy events- premierships can get high jacked- Coalition announcement that the financial crisis was worse than thought, impact of the EUROZONE crisis on UK economy, GB premiership highjacked by the credit crunch and the recession which followed… GB is example of a PM whose power was destroyed by world events. The formal charging of Andy Coulson former PM director of Communications and Rebekah Brooks (both former editors NOW) and latter a personal friend of the PM has raised questions over his judgement for appointing Coulson in the first place and controversial issue of how much influence Rupert Murdoch exerts over government- the saga will not die down and has been subject to public hearings of the Media, Culture and Broadcasting Select Cttee, Leveson inquiry and the announcement of the formal phone hacking charges of 600 including Milly Dowler and John Tulloch (7/7) survivor coincided with Jubilee lunch hosted at No 10 attended by Queen and four of the surviving Prime ministers. Also consider the economy- July 2012 government under intense pressure from business, the City and opposition to reconsider austerity programme following evidence of deepening double dip recession in UK economy, even calls for replacement of George Osborne with Vince Cable. This follows on from U turns over tax increases in the budget e.g. the so called pasty tax… Unforeseen ministerial slip ups- forced resignations David Laws and Liam Fox forced a mini reshuffle- that of Laws was embarrassing as it was so early on in the new government and Liam Fox a potential right wing rebel who could no longer be silenced by ministerial office. The party- forced marriage with LibDems has created problems with hardliners in his own party who dominate the executive of the 1922 Cttee. Being in coalition means a huge drain on PMs chances of pleasing his party. To keep party on board, Cameron always meets groups of backbenchers in Commons after PMQs, regular drinks receptions No.10, invites to Chequers. Appearance of a weak/vacillating government- the budget U-turns Limit on tax relief charitable donations, VAT on pasty sales (pasty tax), tax on stationery caravans, tax on CofE restoration costs. Cameron won the vote on allowing ministers full voting rights on 1922 Cttee but was defeated in his choice for chair- wanted Richard Ottaway instead a known opponent Graham Brady
The case that the Prime Minister is presidential The effective head of state – the roving ambassador, chair of G8, international conferences, emergencies such as war, terrorist threats etc… Extensive network personal advisors, think tanks and working groups serve him alone like a US President. Growth of an unofficial Prime Minister’s department at Number 10- the Court of King Tony. Downing Street machine has shifted from serving government as a whole to serve mainly Prime minister, becoming ever more concerned with policy devlopment. Growing importance of the media helps to focus attention on the Prime Minister and his immediate family, especially true of Blair but wives of Prime ministers known as first lady- Cherie was leading public figure and ‘SamCam’. Growth of importance foreign and military affairs- Thatcher, major and Blair have all stood shoulder to shoulder with US President on White House lawn and all have led their nations into major foreign conflicts. Spatial leadership (Michael Foley in the Rise of the British Presidency)- Presidents are separate because elected separately, therefore a different source of authority. PM as role more dominant and appeals directly over government to the people- Blair post election 2005
Case against presidential thesis Peter Hennessy- the office of the Prime Minister is flexible depending on the style of the premier- Heath, Major, Callaghan. PMs seem more presidential due to media attention on them, but subject to same constraints- Mrs T lost Cabinet support over poll tax. Elastic band theory of Professor Jones- as PM tries to stretch powers further longer they are in office the greater become forces of constraint- Mrs T and perhaps Blair. Also GB hardly fits the presidential mould
Ministers and civil servants Ministers Appointed by the PM Top minister has title Secretary of State Minister of State Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Special advisers- political advice, conduct research, help ministers in relations with parliament, public and media- appointed by ministers Civil Servants PM appoints from short list provided by Senior Appointments Selection Committee- generally civil servants chosen by this but can choose outsiders. Top civil servant is the permanent secretary. Distinction between civil servants and ministers blurred by appointment special advisers. There is a high turnover in senior posts. According to Professor King (Essex University) once an incoming minister would be briefed by civil servants who had been in the ministry for years, now they are both likely to be new to the job… In the view of Professor King this is because the city and the law are more attractive professions for high flyers who previously contemplated a life in public service.
Tasks Minister Set the political agenda Determine priorities Decide between alternatives Obtain Cabinet and PM approval for policies. Steer proposals through Parliament Accountable to Parliament for policies Accountable to parliament for departments Civil Servant Gather information for policy making Provide alternatives Advise on consequences Draft legislation Provide briefings for ministers Advise on implementation Organise implementation policy Draft answers to parliamentary questions
Status Ministers Political Expected to make political decisions Temporary High public profile Publicly accountable Civil Servants No political allegiance to be displayed Expected to be anonymous and neutral in advice given Permanent Cabinet Office Minister Sir Francis Maude wants ministers given a formal input into annual appraisal of civil servants affecting their grades and bonuses and to be able to have a say in short listing of candidates for the position of permanent secretary.
Decline of the civil service Sonia Purnell- The Sunday Times 26/08/12 Danger: Kids are in the counting house- reference to the Treasury- what was once Whitehall’s praetorian guard is beginning to look more like a school cadet force. Figures obtained from the Freedom of Information Act show that the number of Treasury senior civil servants over the age of 50 has fallen by about half in just five years to ‘fewer than five’ at the very top level. The process began when Gordon Brown was chancellor because some mandarins felt excluded; others found working with him and his temper intolerable. The steam of departures has continued, encouraged by redundancy terms that persuaded some of the best economic brains to pursue careers elsewhere. Others departed because of what is described as ‘hamster-wheeling’: panic decisions taken without consulting senior officials, often followed by even panickier reversals as we saw after the budget (U turns pasty/granny/stationery home taxes…) and an overall ‘lack of a sense of direction’- staff turnover is 28% a year- reportedly higher than among the burger flippers at McDonalds’.
More on special advisors (SPADS) In the past a career in public or private sector seen as essential apprenticeship prior to a parliamentary career- however rise of SPADS who as young graduates enter politics via this route before taking up a political career- Ed Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne etc- spadocracy. The ease with which some then progress into Parliament and Cabinet has created a narrow and youthful British political class. Cameron as part of the coalition agreement promised to limit their number which had grown under Labour there were 74 and now 79. Most cabinet ministers a couple but best paid are in Downing Street- Andrew Cooper head of strategy and Craig Oliver director of communications. Nick Clegg has ten more than he did Ultimately ministers are responsible for their special advisors’ behaviour- but failure Jeremy Hunt as culture secretary to resign over behaviour of his adviser during News Corporation bid for BSKYB muddied the waters. Cost of the advisors risen from £4.5M to £6.2M Why special advisors- spads help a government implement democratic mandate over Whitehall resistance. This is, of course, problematic with a coalition which lacks such democratic legitimacy but Michael Gove who as education secretary struggled to manage a department staffed by people hired by Ed Balls was given wider discretion by No 10 to hire his own staff and the education department is one of the most radically reforming of the departments in the present government…. Depriving a cabinet minister of loyal ideologically committed aides has been likened to forbidding a corporate executive to hire his own staff