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Role of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

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1 Role of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
From sofa government to cabinet government From Prime Ministerial to Presidential Week 4 Joy Johnson

2 Andrew Marr (part of his documentary series)
Powerful Prime Minister brought down by her own Ministers and MPs – she had become an electoral liability Europe was the catalyst but it was the unpopularity of the poll tax and subsequent riots in the streets of London that spread fear among her MPs that they would lose their seats.

3 Reading Key texts Morrison Essential Public Affairs for Journalists ch 3 Anthony King The British Constitution Andrew Rawnsley The End of the Party Steve Richards Whatever it Takes Tony Wright, Doing Politics (former Labour MP – acknowledged expert on Parliament and its institutions. Hugo Young One of Us

4 Royal prerogative (PM has authority by the sovereign)
Appoint cabinet members and fellow ministers Chair Cabinet meetings Keep the sovereign informed Declare war and peace Recommend passage of Bills to Royal Assent Recommend dissolution and prorogation of Parliament Draw up Queen’s speech (usually from contents of the manifesto) Recommend appointments Recommend honours Answer for policies at PMQ’s, make statements to the House

5 Power of the Prime Minister and the relationship with the cabinet
Prime Ministers are ‘inter pares’ – first among equals No 10 Downing Street Official residence Chequers Elected as MP with the responsibilities that entails Leader of the party Becomes Prime Minister (we don’t elect a PM) Recent powerful (but still limited) PMs have led to the accusation that the system has become more presidential

6 PM other roles Has the distinct title of Minister for Civil Service (serviced by the Cabinet Office) First Lord of the Treasury

7 Role of the PM Appoints a cabinet (Political juggling acts)
Is coalition making the juggling harder (?) Chairs meetings of the Cabinet

8 Tony Blair stands down Tony Blair leaves to cheers from his Ministers and MPs but he was forced to stand down before his time

9 Margaret Thatcher & her Cabinet
Broke with tradition Respected tradition, Parliament and cabinet government “She suffered defeats in early years of her premiership, but, once the Tory wets and other tiresome dissidents were out of the way, her style became progressively more imperious and less collegial”. King p 324. Thatcher unlike Blair took her seat in the Chamber and stayed to hear ‘personal statements’ even those who were hostile

10 Thatcher’s style of governing
According to one of her most fervent admirers Nicholas Ridley; “She was Prime Minister, she knew what wanted to do, and she didn’t believe her policies should be subject to being voted down by a group she had selected to advise and assist her”. King p 325

11 British Prime Minister flanked by his Chancellor and Deputy PM

12 Margaret Thatcher Forced out of office by her own side

13 Tony Blair – decisions made outside Cabinet
Blair’s first Cabinet secretary Robin Butler said; “From the start the proceedings were very informal. Tony Blair wasn’t interested in setting an agenda and working through the items...cabinet ministers were not encouraged to raise issues themselves.” Rawnsley p 64

14 Collective responsibility
Ministers bound by collective responsibility if they disagree traditionally resign i.e. Robin Cook former Labour Foreign Secretary over the war in Iraq

15 Cook’s resignation statement

16 Chilcot inquiry – evidence from Lord Prescott – Blair’s sofa government

17 Trusted confidantes as opposed to collective responsibility
Kitchen Cabinet Sofa government Not always Ministerial colleagues i.e. For Blair, Alistair Campbell (Press Secretary), (had to leave when he became the story); Jonathan Powell, Chief of Staff (played significant role in Good Friday agreement) Thatcher , Charles Powell Foreign Adviser; Bernard Ingham, Press Secretary (close but not as close as recent communication chief Alistair Campbell)

18 Trusted confidantes Cameron, Andy Coulson, Press Secretary (had to leave when he became the story), Craig Oliver new Press Secretary; Steve Hilton, Director of Strategy up sticks and went to the States (still in touch) Not restricted to these positions

19 Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues
Blair/Brown turbulent relationship but both architects of ‘New Labour’ Cameron/Osborne closer and friendlier than Blair/Brown (but mutterings from the side lines) Oliver Letwin policy chief Cabinet Office Minister Close to Hague Theresa May (being talked up as a successor)

20 Spin doctors becoming the story
Campbell – dodgy dossier Coulson former News of the World editor – phone hacking scandal Cameron’s judgement called into question over Coulson’s appointment

21 Tensions can exist

22 Presidential style By-passing and or downgrading the role of the Cabinet in devising policy Announcing policies to the media before announcing them to Parliament Ignoring popular opinion and protest Grandstanding on the international stage

23 Holding the PM to account
PM have great power and need to be held to account Public (elected as an MP) Press (allies and foes) Parliament (question time) also twice yearly Commons Liaison Committee made up of chairs of the select committee question the PM – Blair’s backbenchers frequently rebelled (the official opposition was weak) Votes of No Confidence (James Callaghan Labour PM was defeated in 1979 on a no confidence vote) (fixed terms P’ment (would still allow for vote of no confidence but highly unlikely) unforeseen consequence – rebellions hold little fear of a vote of no confidence Party (Thatcher always had the support of her party, Blair did not)

24 PM power – support and constraints Dorey – Policy making in Britain
Enhancing power Large parliamentary majority Unified cabinet Recent gen election victory High opinion poll ratings Competence and integrity of ministerial colleagues Clear objectives and strategy Supportive media Strong, stable economic situation International crisis, well handled Weak, ineffective Opposition Constraining power Small parliamentary majority Divided cabinet Division among backbenchers Mid term blues Low opinion poll ratings Incompetence or scandals involving ministerial colleagues Limited grasp of policy details Recession/economic crisis International crisis, poorly-handled Strong, credible Opposition Party Press public

25 Variables of PM power “His or her power varies from time to time according to the extent their Cabinet colleagues permit them to have that power, depending on whether the Cabinet is split, depending also on the strength of the Government majority in the House of Commons and also popular opinion in the electorate and attitudes in the Party”. (Sir Richard Wilson former Cabinet Secretary giving evidence to the Public Accts Committee 2002 as quoted in Dorey)

26 TV debates during general election
Adds to Presidential style

27 Cabinet ranking Cabinet – 3 great offices of state:
Chancellor of the Exchequer; Foreign Secretary; Home Secretary Deputy PM (Thatcher made Howe Deputy PM but this was demotion from Foreign Secretary; Blair had Prescott as link to the Labour Party; Cameron and Clegg perhaps more meaningful but Clegg very much the junior partner) Cabinet ministers generally referred to as Secretaries of State

28 Relationship that matters
Prime Minister and his Chancellor

29 Chancellor and his Chief Secretary
Cutting the deficit the coalition partnership – Osborne and Alexander

30 Government Gordon Brown brought in outsiders and made them peers to join the government Peter Mandelson peerage – Business secretary in the cabinet Others commonly known as GOATS government of all the talents!

31 Government departments
3 great offices of state as before Ministry of Justice (Kenneth Clarke - Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice) Education Business and Industry Defence Health Work and Pensions and so on

32 Cabinet & Ministers Ministers without Portfolio
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Leader of the House Chief Whip Ministers of State Parliamentary Under Secretaries (Parliamentary Private Secretary PPS unpaid )

33 Civil Service Professional civil service serve the government - political neutrality - non partisan, does not change with change of government Cabinet Secretary Permanent Secretaries – serve his/her secretary of state Collective term for the administrative structure Also known as ‘Whitehall’ Permanent Secretaries

34 Civil servants relationship with PM and ministers
Need to work together but the relationship can be tense New Labour suspicious of the Civil Service Wary of civil servants who had prospered under the preceding Conservative government (British Constitution, King p 222)

35 interdependency Civil servants resources Minister’s resources
Anonymity Experience Expertise Knowledge Permanence Time Whitehall network Access to Cabinet Access to media Alternative source of advice Authority Political alliances Political support/legitimacy Prime Ministerial backing

36 Close to the Prime Minister and Secretaries of State
Special advisers (SPADS) - Blair Spads – party animal Head of Policy Devolution Economy Foreign Affairs Health and Social Services Home Affairs Inequality and social exclusion Trade and Industry Transport Welfare (inc. Children, the elderly and women) Spads have loyalty to their boss – party appointment If the Cabinet minister resigns or is sacked the Spad goes as well Civil servants permanent – non partisan

37 Executive Agencies Delivery not policy formulation Examples
Single biggest agency – Jobcentre Plus HM Revenue and Customs Criticism is that Ministers don’t accept responsibility (when HMRC lost data the Chief Exec resigned not the Chancellor of the Exchequer) (Morrison Public Affairs for Journalists p 115/116)

38 Quangos Quangos are often confused with executive agencies
Quasi autonomous non governmental organisations (hence quangos) Examples Arts Council, Primary care trusts and strategic health authorities (being abolished re Health and Social Care Bill)

39 Bonfire of the quangos


41 Draft cabinet manual Looks at monarchy, government, parliament, devolved institutions Written by Sir Gus O’Donnell House of Lords select committee hearing evidence – January/February 2011

42 Issues Tensions within the Coalition Draft Cabinet manual
Written constitution Return to Cabinet government Wholesale reform of the government departments for example Health, Education, Justice, Home Office

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