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Prime Minister and the Cabinet

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1 Prime Minister and the Cabinet
Read and précis chapter 8 of ‘The Essentials of UK Politics’ by Andrew Heywood.

2 Ground Rules Raise your hand before you speak No food/drink
Turn off mobiles

3 The role of the Prime Minister
What is the role of the Prime Minister? What functions do they have to, or have the right to perform? In pairs, think of as many powers of the Prime Minister, both “official” and “unofficial”, and we will go through them together Leading the government at home Representing the country abroad Keeping watch on the political agenda/course of government Deciding the nature of the cabinet and who’s in it Deciding nature of cabinet committees and who’s in them Chairing cabinet committees (deciding who will speak/taking mins etc) Overseeing security services Managing relations between cabinet/parliament/media/other countries/international organisations Deciding what government information to release and to whom Answering PMQT Power of patronage (ambassadors/civil servants/C of E positions/judiciary/privy council/BBC/quangos/honours lists..) Dissolving Parliament/calling elections Managing the majority party Question: What does Primus inter pares mean? How does it relate to the Prime Minister?

4 The role of the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister is certainly powerful but what factors outside their control constrain the PM? In pairs, think of as many examples as you can of what can constrain the PM’s power. Also think about an example of when this happened, eg: media support – Major didn’t have this when the Sun opted to back Blair in the ’97 election 1)Size of parliamentary majority 2)Cabinet unity 3)Cohesion of back benchers 4)Length of time from last election victory 5)Opinion ratings 6)Competence/integrity of ministers 7)Consistency of policy direction 8)Media support 9)Economic situation 10)Response to international crisis 11)Effectiveness of oppostion

5 The Prime Minister’s Office
The PM does not have his own department, but he has an “office” with sections dealing with policy, communications and strategy The PM’s Office has grown in the last 20 years. Why do you think that is? What does it tell us?

6 PM Leadership Style PMs all have different leadership styles, as they are all different people living in different times. In pairs, prepare bullet point presentations on the styles of Thatcher, Major, Blair or Brown. What was more important to their leadership style, their personality or the circumstances surrounding their premiership?

7 PM Leadership style Compare the leadership styles of Gordon Brown and David Cameron’s. What factors shape a PM’s leadership style?

8 The Cabinet What is the cabinet?
Who are important figures in the cabinet? There are regular cabinet meetings. These are very busy people! Are all major policies decided in cabinet. Why should they meet so often? 1)Confirm – give formal approval to policy decisions that have often been taken in other committees 2)Coordination – helps ensure that policies are coordinated across departments, how one department’s policy might impact upon another. Minimises conflicts, ensures consistency 3)Conflict resolution – when decisions in other committees such as cabinet committees and sub committees are not unanimous or when one minister is upset with the decision in theory it could go to cabinet, but this is very rare 4)Informing – keeps ministers aware of what is happening, especially on issues like security/foreign affairs 5)Discussion about general strategy/policy direction. Do you think this happens much with Blair?


10 Presentations In pairs, prepare detailed presentations on either
The Cabinet Office and Cabinet Committees, how they work and what they do, OR Different styles of Cabinet Government, using terms such as collective responsibility, core executive, kitchen cabinet Produce as either PowerPoint or handouts so the rest of the class has a record of your presentation

11 Roleplay See exercise for details

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