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THE CABINET IN THE UK & US Comparative Politics

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1 THE CABINET IN THE UK & US Comparative Politics
What are the main differences between the UK and US? Which is most powerful and which most limited? Do they have much impact on policy or legislation?

2 Comparative Politics SIZE: traditionally around 22
Bush had 22 (Pres, VP, 15 heads of department and 5 designated as Cabinet rank) SIZE: traditionally around 23-25 Blair had 23 (Ministers plus 3 who attended without full Cabinet rank) CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION: The CABINET is a CONVENTION within the British political system. It has become part of British political life but there are is no legal basis to protect it CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION: The CABINET is NOT MENTIOED IN THE US CONSTITUTION. It has been in existence since the first Presidents and has grown more by necessity. To help the President govern Comparative Politics MEETINGS: Regular and weekly (usually 1 hr) Cabinet meetings have been reduced in length recently. However they are still considered a key part of the Political week and a chance to coordinate and agree policy. MEETINGS: Irregular and President dependent The Cabinet is summoned when it is needed and this may be dependent on the President and their time constraints. Cabinet members usually spend time in Departments

3 APPOINTING POWER: The PM has full power to appoint Cabinet members HOWEVER THERE ARE LIMITATIONS
They have to be chosen from within the Legislature (HOC/HOL) They will also usually have to be members of the PM’s party. A Coalition can further weaken a PM’s power as they will have to choose some member of their coalition partners in return for continued support. (There are 5 Lib Dem’s in Cameron’s Cabinet examples are Vince Cable & Danny Alexander APPOINTING POWER: The President has full power to appoint Cabinet members. They can choose them from a variety of backgrounds unlike the UK. They can choose specialists They can also choose people from rival parties ( GW Bush chose Norman Mineta – Democrat- in Transport) HOWEVER HERE TOO THERE ARE LIMITATIONS The President must make his choices carefully as they have to be CONFIRMED BY THE SENATE Comparative Politics ACCOUNTABLE TO PARLIAMENT They have to sign the Ministerial code and account for their actions professionally and personally ACCOUNTABLE TO PRESIDENT The Cabinet is accountable to the President.

4 Comparative Politics POWER OF PM OVER CABINET:
STRENGTHS The power to appoint gives the PM considerable power of patronage. Party members will want to be loyal to get into the Cabinet. This helps Party control. WEAKNESSES Prime Ministers have to be careful how they handle their appointments and dismissals. They also have to be careful how they make decisions. Some political heavyweights may cause continued problems on the backbenches ( Blair: Cook and Clare Short) (Thatcher: Howe and Lawson) POWER OF PRESIDENT OVER CABINET The President is a a separate power to the legislature so has no such political leeway to reward supporters. Serving Congressmen/women cannot serve. The Cabinet is purely there to help run the huge Government departments. It is less political than in the UK. If a President wants something done they will do what they like no matter what the Cabinet advises (Lincoln yays and nays example) Comparative Politics

In the UK Ministers are supposed to sing from the same Hymn sheet and support the Government if in Cabinet. Failure to do so should lead to resignation or sacking COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILIY There is no such thing as Collective responsibility in US cabinet – it is not as politically active in this respect POLITICAL IMPORTANCE: The Cabinet is a lot more important in the UK than in the US. Its members are generally politically known Reshuffles are watched carefully as a sign of political strength or weakness Even strong PM’s with good mandates can be brought down from within (Thatcher) POLITICAL IMPORTANCE: The Cabinet is not as well known or as powerful politically in the US It does have some powerful members such as the Secretary of State It is simply an advisory body The President has full control over appointments (Senate limited) As they have no mandate they are not politically powerful as rivals Comparative Politics

The Cabinet has been downgraded under some PM’s notably Blair who favoured smaller Cabinet committees (Kitchen Cabinets) This was seen as being Presidential EXOP: The EXOP has been considered the main Presidential policy advisor These are politically loyal and contains his main key staff members who advise him on a day to day basis Comparative Politics

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