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The Extent of the Prime Minister's Power and Authority

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The Extent of the Prime Minister's Power and Authority

In society today people think that the most powerful person in the

British government system is the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. However,

to what extent does he have power and authority? The Prime Minister

doesn’t govern the country alone; the Cabinet as a whole discuss most

matters. You could then say that we have Cabinet government as they do

supposedly collectively make decisions on matters. The position

however of power in one government may differ from that of another,

Margaret Thatcher for example rarely used Cabinet at all, John Major

on the other hand used it regularly and considered there opinions

vital in the decision making process.

Cabinet government can operate in a number of ways, depending on the

particular Prime Minister, the government, the nature of the policy

issues under consideration and the political circumstances. The

traditional view is that the Cabinet is the seat of power in terms of

policy initiation and decision-making. Cabinet doesn’t just decide

all-important issues; it also controls government policy as a whole.

Walter Bagehot regarded the Cabinet “as the crucial institution of

government” describing it as the “efficient secret”. The assumption

behind the traditional view is that Cabinet minister’s meet together

to discuss all major issues of policy before coming to a collective

decision, which then binds all members of government. Some critics

have argued that Cabinet committees enhance the power of the Prime

Minister; to Harold Wilson this was a simplistic view. Cabinet

committees make government more effective and prevent the Cabinet

being caught up in detail. Wilson said that it did not increase prime

ministerial power since it would be difficult to ignore a decision

made by a committee of Cabinet colleagues.

The argument that Cabinet government has declined in the UK is not

accepted. Arguments have been put forward to back this up. These are

that the style or character of individual Prime Ministers has a

bearing on the extent to which they wish to exercise plan or resort to
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