Essay on 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
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Given this climate of reform in the House of Commons, the extent of
the government's power over it is a particularly relevant topic for
consideration. Any explanation of this issue, based on the statement
contained in the title of this essay, should first seek to establish
its two main presumptions: the government's power over the executive
and rebellions against it. These analysed, it will be possible to draw
a conclusion on the government's ability to 'rely on getting its own
way,' that is, on the extent of its control.

Studies of British parliamentary government have identified four main
factors upon a combination of which governments must rely for their
power over the House of Commons. The first of these, and the most
basic, is a working majority. It is one of the very most basic
principles of the British parliamentary system that the majority party
in the House of Commons forms a government. A majority provides the
means by which a government may govern in parliament, assuring it of
at least a basic level of support upon which it may count to secure
the passing of legislation. It is a reflection on its centrality to
British politics that no election since 1945 has…

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