Power of the British Prime Minister

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Power of the British Prime Minister The prime minister is that person who leads the majority party in the House of Commons, or who commands a majority of support in that house. PMs continue in office until they resign or concede a defeat after a general election. They also may reign after losing a motion of no confidence. In the 19th Century, Bagehot wrote (in the English constitution 1867), that parliamentary government had been superseded by Cabinet Government - that the theoretical sovereignty of parliament had been delegated to the executive for all practical purposes. The powers of government, and its cohesion under the convention of collective responsibility, ensured that the government could maintain a united front in the face of parliamentary opposition. Within such a system, the PM could be described as "primus inter pares" - first among equals - because, although he was the leading member of the government and its chief spokesman, it was the cabinet rather than the PM that dominated the decision making process. Almost 100 years later, when Richard Crossman edited "the English Constitution he was able to state that the doctrine of cabinet government had itself been replaced by one of prime ministerial government.. Later in his diaries Crossman was able to develop his original theory that the PM dominated the decision making process. The PMs powers have grown over the last 100 years for a variety of reasons: the growth of the franchise has placed the elected government in a position of greater authority; the development of national party organisations after 1870 has tended to exalt the position of party leaders a... ... middle of paper ... ...tion to his colleagues. A PM like Home may have been similar to the 19th century "primus inter pares", but mrs Thatcher has displayed a strength of personality that represents a growth in PM power. However any PM in a modern government faces limitations from every sector of the government, the public and parliament, and PMs can only do what's feasible - as RAB Butler said "politics is the art of the possible". Neither "parliamentary government" nor cabinet government has ever existed in a pure form and equally prime ministerial government has its constraints. If mrs Thatcher at the peak of her influence signified the outer limits of prime ministerial power, john major saddled with a small parliamentary majority and a party bitterly divided over Europe, equally signifies the very real limitations a PM can be subject to.
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