Power of the Prime Minister

Power of the Prime Minister

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Power of the Prime Minister

In the last twenty five years England has had three Prime Ministers.
The first was Margaret Thatcher, who came into power in 1979, and
resigned in 1990. Then came John Major in 1990, and lost the vote in
1997. Tony Blair became Prime Minster in this year and has
successfully stayed in power for two full terms so far. These Prime
Ministers all have very different leadership styles. Having said this,
the radical policies of Margaret Thatcher, were still continued
through Major and Blair.

Margaret Thatcher made less use of her cabinet than her predecessors.
Detailed policy work was done in cabinet comities or bilateral
meetings with the head of a department. Cabinet meeting were begun
with the announcement of the government policy, and some issues were
also kept from her cabinet. She was accused of paying greater
attention to her advisors than her cabinet. Thatcher was able to
construct a cabinet of ideological allies, through the unwillingness
of ministers to fight back. By 1990 Thatcher had few loyal allies in
the cabinet, which led to her eventual downfall. Within weeks Thatcher
had failed to win on the first ballot of the conservative party
leadership election. Her unpopular policies, a massive division in the
cabinet and low opinion poll ratings lead to her forced resignation.
By ignoring the concerns of ministers and bypassing cabinet, she had
not strengthened her position, but weakened it. She had an innovative
leadership style. She was prepared to risk unpopularity in order to
achieve a future goal. Her goals were purely selfish and individual
therefore bared a strong imprint. Thatcher appeared to have a lot of
power within her time in office. She was able to pass through her
radical policies, of course not without opposition, but not enough to
make her take a step back.

John Major adopted a more collegiate style. Cabinet played a greater
role in the implementation of government policy. This was what had
lacked under the reign of Thatcher. Major appeared to be a weak Prime

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Minister, both physically and politically. He failed to let the people
and his cabinet know what he wanted to achieve and was unable to set a
political agenda. Major saw the limitations of his authority and
managed his Cabinet in a way that ensured he stay in power for more
than six years. Although he made mistakes he was tactically astute.
Major used cabinet meeting to bind both pro-European and Euro sceptic
ministers to government policy on Europe. In general he did not have a
lot of competition for his job within his party. Major had a different
leadership style to Thatcher and Blair, he was the balancer. He had to
bring together the two divisions in his party. He had to make policies
through compromise, that is, he had to ensure both sides of the party
were happy with his policy. This shows that John Major’s power within
his party, did not give the impression of being the one ruling
authority, like that of Thatcher.

Tony Blair is seen as a more dominant Prime Minister than Major. He
even seems to be more powerful than Thatcher. Tony Blair’s era is seen
as being rather presidential. Blair makes the key decisions in
government, as well as having the political and media spotlight firmly
placed on his every move. Tony Blair is the most important man within
government, and the chief communicator to it, and the public. Blair is
seen to have more power, because he is not under pressure form the
cabinet, to conduct more meeting with them, on political issues. He
prefers to have bilateral meetings with individual ministers, where
policy objectives are resolved. The office of the Prime Minister has
been strengthened and more of the cabinet has fallen under the control
of the Prime Minister. This shows increasing power for the Prime
Minster. Blair has had an easier time in office that Major. He has
enjoyed large parliamentary majorities, a strong position within his
party and a largely silent cabinet.

We can see that as we have moved down the list of the last three Prime
Ministers, the power they have had has generally increased. Tony Blair
has been the most powerful Prime Minster so far, this was due to the
lack of opposition he faced when he came to power. He was a new Prime
Minster, with a well educated background. He was young with fresh
ideas, and therefore was favoured by the old style Labour Party. He
had a new economic policy, which was less radical. The Labour party,
given the name, attracted working class workers, but with a Prime
Minister from a Middle class background, he attracted more Middle
class voters. The party had been a very left wing one, for many years,
with socialist policies. Tony Blair was trying to move the party to
the right. For these reasons he was favoured in generally by the
majority, therefore with no opposition, he was able to develop a
powerful presidential style in office.

Margaret Thatcher represented a powerful position within her cabinet,
but she was facing pressure from the beginning. The Conservative party
is seen to be full of males. Her being a female would have faced
slight grudges due to her gender. The fact she never listen to her
cabinet, or went to her cabinet for advice, meant that lost the
confidence of her party. She exercised the power that was available to
her well, but this was also the reasons that lead to her downfall.
Tony Blair exercised his power, but not with radical left wing
policies. Major in general did not have any power; he was left to pick
up the pieces after the terrible reign of Thatcher. She destroyed the
image of the party, and Major had to try his best to socialise the
party into high public ratings, and stop the members within the party
from going to war. Therefore he had no time to think about his
position, and the power available to him.
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