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Prime Ministerial or Cabinet Government
What is a Prime Ministerial Government?

The powers on the PM have expanded significantly since the 1970s. This is due to an increasing focus of the media upon the PM at the expense of other cabinet ministers and the public tends to approve of strong decisive leadership. Therefore, the results of a general election is greatly affected by voter’s perception of the party leaders which then strengthens the power of the PM especially if popular so are likely to win the next election. Ministers are also unlikely to challenge or undermine the authority of a PM that is popular to the public.

Growth in PM power has led to a decline in the length of Cabinet meetings. Where support of ministers were needed, Tony Blair invited them down to number 10 for an informal chat – more in common with a presidential system.

Does the UK have a Prime Ministerial or Cabinet government?

Cabinet Govt – executive power vested in a cabinet, whose members exercise collective responsibility

Prime Ministerial Govt – PM has become the dominant actor in UK government and is able to bypass the cabinet

Suggests a Prime ministerial Government

Suggests a Cabinet Government

  • PM appoints and sacks cabinet

  • Media focuses on PM, elections are over party leaders

  • PM chairs cabinet

  • Powers of Patronage

  • Sets up and Chairs Cabinet committees

  • Kitchen and Inner Cabinets

  • Has staff help who oversee the cabinet

  • Has no department to worry about, concerns self with overall policy

Prime Minister has control and others have little say.

  • Must satisfy all wings of the party

  • Big personalities and senior figures in government can influence, pressurise on certain policies

  • PM can’t chair all committees – there are too many!

  • The staff are not a proper PMs department

  • Only ministers really know whats happening in their department, can ally together to outmanoeuvre the PM

  • Cabinet can force policies

  • Senior ministers pushed Thatcher out when her style and power became a liability

PM doesn’t always get own way, Cabinet do have influence

How the coalitions changed everything

After the 2010 General Election the political landscape changed beyond all recognition. For only the second time since 1945 we have a hung parliament, but unlike in 1974 the Conservative party were able to do a deal with the Liberal Democrats to form the a Coalition government..

This has since changed the UK government structure as the two parties have to now work together to rule effectively. Below is a table showing the changes to Prime Ministerial power and the role of the cabinet following the Coalition agreement.

The Power of the PM / Role of Cabinet

How it was before the General Election

How it has changed

Ministerial appointment / dismissal.

Traditionally, prime minister are able to hire and fire ministers at will. They can choose who they want to serve in government as per their agenda.

Sometimes this has resulted in some minister become to important to sack and have left the prime minister powerless to remove them. Examples Alistair Darling and Lord Madelson in Gordon Brown’s government.

Since the Coalition the Prime Minister appoints his cabinet in discussion with the Deputy Prime Minister. As they are partners in the coalition government together.

If the Prime Minister is unhappy with the performance of any individual minister it is now harder to remove him from office as he now requires the support of the Junior Coalition parties support for their business to be done in parliament.

An example of this is Vince Cable who declared war on the Rupert Murdock empire despite been Business Secretary. This resulted in him losing some of the power of his office, although he kept his job.
In addition, the cabinet must be comprised by a number of Conservative and Liberal Democrats MP. Under the Coalition agreement this is current 4 Cabinet ministers are to be from the Liberal benches.

Controlling Cabinet business

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