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29 Cards in this Set

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Define 'cabinet government'

this refers to the idea that the cabinet is the central decision making body and lies at the heart of government. Many argue that it has been replaced by prime ministerial government.

Characteristics of the cabinet

- 20 to 25 senior politicians, appointed by the PM


- Members of the cabinet must either be members of the HOC or the HOL


- Normally, one party wins an overall majority of the seats in the Commons and so forms a government alone. In this case, all members of the commons will be from that governing party.


- cabinet normally meets 1x per week. can meet more often if there is a crisis etc


- PM chairs the meetings. W/ the cabinet secretary, the PM decides what will be discussed in the cabinet.


- a number of committees are created to deal with specific areas of government policy. small number of members (4-6?), chaired by PM/other senior ministers. e.g. defence


- minutes remain a secret for 30 years, large decisions quickly are public though


- decisions are effectively official government policy


- PM can dismiss/appoint ministers, create/abolist posts, reshuffle


- works on the basis of collective responsiblity

Define the 'core executive'

this is a name for the collective identity of central government. comprises the pm, cabinet, other ministers, senior advisers, senior civil servants

functions of the cabinet

- formalises and legitimises official government policy. policies can have their origins elsewhere, e.g from party ideas, but still need the stamp of approval


- can deal with disputes between govt departments and ministers when their proposals conflict or when there are problems allocating scare resources between different uses


- can meet in special session to deal with emergencies or crises. e.g. there were a series of meetings to create a good response to the 2008 banking crisis. Dramatic events and large amounts of public expenditure were involved so the cabinet needed to discuss.


- Cabinet is where the presentation of policy is decided. ensures that ministers co-ordinate the way in which policy is portrayed to the public.


- business of parliament is arranged in the cabinet, in conjunction with the party whips. Ministers must be aware of what is happening in parliament and when their presence is required.


- policy formulation rarely takes place in cabinet, but from time to time, the PM may invite the whole cabinet to discuss an important issue. e.g. whether to bid for 2012 olympic games

roles/functions/statusalarge number of ministers

- senior members of the governing party/coalition


- maange a govt department, be responsible for policies and decisions


- they preside over the drafting of legislation, and are responsible for managing proposed legislation through Parliament.


- advised by large numbers of neutral civil servants


- monst senior ministers are appointed to the cabinet and therefore become part of the central executive of the government


- cabinet ministers have a dual role, they manage their department and are part of the senior collective decision making body


- ministers not in the cabinet = junior ministers

define political leadership

this is a general term applying to all those who hold senior positions in government. applies mostly to party leaders, ministers and senior advisers

define prime ministerial government

the idea that central government is now dominated by the prime minister to such a strong degree that the PM is the main figurehead

main characteristics of the PM

- most senior minister in government


- derives his/her power from the monarch. These transferred powers are prerogative powers.


- the PM is head of GOVERNMENT not the STATE! However!: he/she acts in place of the monarch in most circumstances


- PM is leader of largest party in the HOC


- Not elected through any formal process, he/she is appointed automatically by the monarch as the leasder of the largest party after an election


- primus inter pares (first among equals). the pm is technically the same as any other minister, but he/she is the most senior and therefore leads the govt

what is collective responsibility

- the cabinet is collectively responsible for all official government policy


- all ministers must be prepared to defend official government policy, as legitimised by the cabinet


- They must support government policy in public, even if they disagree with it privately.


- any minister who fails to support faces dismissal


- ministers must resign if they intend to oppose govt policy publicly

why is collective responsibility important?

- maintains govt unity


- helps pm to maintain loyalty among his/her colleagues


- prevents opposition from dividing the government.

resignations over collective responsibility`

- Robin Cook (Foreign Secretary) and John Denham (Home Office Secretary) resign over the decision to support the US-led invasion of Iraq


- James Purnell (Work and Pensions Secretary) resigns over the general direction of policy under Gordon Brown

What is individual ministerial responsibility?

- a minister is responsible for all the decisions made by their department


- responsible whether or not he/she was involved in the decision making process


- if the error is serious enough, the minister is expected to resign or face dismissal.


- ministers are also expected to resign over cases of personal misconduct

examples of resignations over individual ministerial responsibility


- Peter Mandelson (Northern Ireland Secretary) resigns in 1998 over embarrassing questions about a loan from another party member.


-Estelle Morris (Education Secretary) resigns in 2002 over failure to make crucial decisions properly and effectively


- Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary) resigns in 2010 over allegations that she claimed expenses for videos for her husband.

Impact of coalition government

- PM had to divide cabinet seats


- has to negotiate policy w coaliton partners


- collective responsibility comes under stress because the govt is made up of 2 competing parties


- agreements to differ because some issues simply cannot be resolved


- power of the PM has been reduced because he does not lead a completely united government


- new appointments need to be agreed with the leader of the small coalition partner


- lib dem leader = deputy pm

What are the sources of pm power?

- many of the powers are prerogative powers. these are the monarch's powers which have been delegated to the PM


- the PM is the head of the governing party, that party is a another source of his/her power


- leader of governing party in parliament = derives authority from parliament


- head of cabinet, derives power from that body


- tradition is a source of power (the tradition that the leading cabinet minister is the PM).

Formal powers of the PM i.e. ones that are present no matter what

- negotiate foreign treaties


- command the armed forces


- appoint/dismiss ministers


- determine the structure of government and the responsibilities of ministries


- be head of the civil service and determine its structure


- grant peerages and appoint people to important public posts

Informal powers i.e. vary according to the political circumstances of the PM

- chief policy maker for the government


- represents the nation to foreign powers


- controls the business of the cabinet


- can make decisions that are required to deal w a short term emergency situation

Limits to PM power

- must maintain the support of his/her party. if the party turns against the PM, he/she will lose a great deal of power. (e.g. thatcher lost support over her support for the poll tax, voted out of office by her mps in 1990. Major lost support of large minority over europe)


- strength depends on the size of the parliamentary majority. small = the pm will have difficulty in retaining the support of parliament (john major lost his large majority after the 1992 election, and therefore lost authority)


- PMs who lose public and media support will have weakened authority (e.g. Gordon Brown developed a weak image as the 'unelected' PM).


- Events beyond a PMs control could weaken them (financial crisis hurts Brown).


- weakened if confronted by united cabinet opposition ( tony blair wanted to join the single currency in 1997, but the cabinet forced delays).


- coalition

How does the PM control the cabinet?

- patronage: pm hires and fires, most ministers are very loyal.


- pm control cabinet agenda, able to manipulate what is discussed


- sofa politics: discussions w senior ministers outside cabinet, decisions made and presented as a fait accompli to the cabinet.


- can manipulate the membership of cabinet committees, and so influence policy formation.


- pms use 'inner cabinets' of senior ministers to conduct government and so marginalise the cabinet. often happens during war


- in recent years, the pms have drastically reduced the length and frequency of cabinet meetings.

individual considerations for appointing cabinet ministers

- close ally of the pm = advantage. can be relied on for support (George Osborne)


- promotion could be due to a reward for support in the past (Oliver Letwin)


- an individual could represent a certain section of the party (Theresa May)


- Coalition government = key figures from the other party (Nick Clegg)


- Rebels, collective responsibility will silence them (Vince Cable)


- PM simply trusts a person to effectively run a department (Jeremy Hunt)

Team considerations for appointing cabinet ministers

- most pms prefer an ideologically united team


- some pms select a politically balanced cabinet. this means that members will be members from different sections of the party. john major did this.


- coalition = need to balance between the parties


- Social balance = women or ethnic minorities

examples of increasing pm dominance

- media treating the pm as the single spokesperson for all of government


- increasing control over the cabinet.


- more personal advice, 10 downing street is now like a prime minister's department


- increasingly, the pms make decision through bilateral meetinngs w ministers


- patronage increasingly used to create loyalty


- increased use of collective responsibility to silence rebels

define presidentialism

theory that the british pms are effectively presidents, even if they aren't head of state

Arguments that British presidentialism exists

- prerogative powers are very important, especially as foreign relations and military matters have beome more importants than before the ned of the Cold War. The PM's role as commander-in-chief and foreign policy leader makes him appear presidential.


- a theory known as spatial leadership has developed. This suggests that the PM is increasingly separated from the government and is seen as a lone figure, much like a president.


- As explained above, there is effectively a 'Prime Minister's Department' which looks very much like a president's establishment


- The media increasingly treats the PM as if they were a president

Arguments against the existence of British presidentialism

- PMs are not head of state and so cannot claim to speak for the whole nation


- Important limitations on govt power which presidents do not have to face


- the pm does not have a separate source of authority from the rest of government, while presidents are accountable directly to the people.


- Some 'weaker' PMs certainly have not had a presidential image or style.

Presidentialism and Margaret Thatcher

- Positive: she dominated the political system between 1982 and 1989, she developed a dominant ideological position, led the mission to liberate the Falklands in 1982, admired abroad as a powerful spokeswoman, often claimed to represent Britain (especially regarding relations w Europe).


- Negative: Ultimately removed by her party colleagues, not the people.

Presidentialism and John Major

- Positive: He led foreign policy in relation to Iraq


- Negative: not a dominating personality, preferred to govern by consensus, no strong ideological position, limited by a divided and factional cabinet, w/o a comfortable parliamentary majorty his mandate was weak, little international profile.

Presidentialism and Tony Blair

- Positive: led a new political movement (New Labour), Large policy making machine was built up for him personally, committed the armed forces to four major actions (Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan), significantly weakened the cabinet and developed much policy personally.


- Negative: ultimately driven out by his party colleagues, lost authority after the Iraq War.

Presidentialism and Gordon Brown

- Positive: Assumed a dominant personal leadership during the financial crisis after 2008, well respected abroad for her handling of the crisis.


- Negative: Personal standing began low and steadily declined, limited by a divided cabinet, did not adopt a presidential style.