Limits of the Prime Minister Essay

Limits of the Prime Minister Essay

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Limits of the Prime Minister


The formal constitutional powers listed in the previous answer 'The
powers of the Prime Minister' are subject to a number of restraints in
practice, which means that the British PM is not as powerful as often
assumed, or as commonly alleged by critics. The large number of main
constraints are as follows:


Constraints on the power of patronage
-------------------------------------

Ø If the party has been in opposition, then the first Cabinet
appointed after a general election victory is usually the shadow
cabinet.

Ø Some MPs will have such extensive experience or authority that they
can hardly be omitted

Ø Some MPs have sizeable backbench followings. Omitting them from the
cabinet might lead to dissatisfaction on the backbenches, possibly in
the form of 'cabals' or factions which might eventually lead to a
leadership challenge. At the very least, disgruntled MPs might
withhold their support in parliamentary votes ('divisions') on the
government policies and Bills.

Ø The cabinet needs to be reasonably 'balanced', meaning that it must
include ministers from the different ideological sections of the
parliamentary party

Ø Some MPs are too young and inexperienced to include while others may
be approaching the end of their parliamentary careers or they might
indicate that they no longer wish to hold ministerial office.

Ø Frequent ministerial reshuffles are also likely to reflect poorly on
the Prime Minister, suggesting either a sense of panic or rising
doubts about their political judgement in appointing ministers who are
then rapidly (re)moved

Constraints on dealing with...


... middle of paper ...


...ave to be appointed to the Cabinet by virtue of their popularity and
stature in the wider party. Prescott is an example, again. So too is
Tony Benn who served in the cabinet in the late 1970s. Prime Ministers
Wilson and Callahan felt obliged to appoint him because of his
widespread popularity, even though they did not agree with his view.
Third, PMs sometimes decide that it is wise to offer a backbench rebel
a ministerial appointment in order to muzzle them. And fourth, on
occasion, an attempt to 'punish' an MP by refusing to allocate them a
ministerial post can ultimately prove counter-productive. Realising
this, a PM may be reluctant to take such a step.

So, however formidable the Prime Ministers formal constitutional
powers appear to be, they are, in practice, subject to a variety of
constraints and circumstances.

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