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Controlling the Parliament and the House of Commons

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Controlling the Parliament and the House of Commons 'The government controls parliament but it cannot always rely on getting its own way.' A tendency to ignore the protestations and activities of parliament in issuing central, top-down directives and 'memos' is a criticism often levied at Tony Blair's Labour administration. It is seen to signify a consolidation of executive power, often represented in the media as control-freakery on the part of the Prime Minister. Although any apparent increase in the power of the executive would be accentuated by the immense size of the 179 seat Labour majority, the present government is widely seen to have taken up a continuing trend towards centralised government, often revolving around Downing Street. It is perhaps largely the power of Blair's mandate in conjunction with the vice-like control of the party whips over MPs that has led to comments such as that of Lord Hailsham that we live under an "elective dictatorship." The power of the executive however, is based on long-standing constitutional principles and practise. The concept of 'Queen in Parliament' has long been used to describe the legislative sovereign created in the fusion of parliament and the executive. The executive has come to govern through parliament, requiring in effect its assent for legislation, while drawing from it, as the nation's chief representative body, the legitimacy it requires to sustain its authority. It comes as a surprise to many, given the ostensible thirst for power of the Blair administration, that since coming into power in 1997 it should have undertaken admittedly moderate reforms with the aim... ... middle of paper ... ... to hold the government to account - if it were able to tie it down to its mandate - but the government's domination of parliament has led it to control parliament's means of scrutiny and opposition. Among them, select committee powers, the time allocated to government scrutiny and the success of Private Member's Bills are all subject to the government's patience with them. Indeed it is largely due to governments' compliance with 'the rules' of British parliamentary government - the uncodefied conventions of our constitution that demand the ability of parliament to hold government to account - that parliament retains any real powers of scrutiny at all. The government is bound to constitutional moderateness by its need to keep the electorate onside: only in this context can government ever expect not to get its own way.
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