To what extent does the Prime Minister dominate the political system in the UK? (40 marks)
In recent years there has been an increasing debate over whether the executive, and within that the Prime Minister, dominates the political system due to the increasingly so-called ‘presidential style’ of leadership, as can be seen with the development of TV debates between party leaders, mirrored very much on the US debates. The Prime Minister can be seen to dominate due to ‘spatial leadership’, the use of the media, and the quasi-head of state thesis. A key argument is the supposed diminished use of the cabinet. Whereas previously they were meant to be a decision making body, they are now seen as being there just to rubber-stamp decisions. The pattern is now less frequent, cabinet meetings are becoming shorter, changing from biweekly and up to 90 minutes at a time to 40 minutes once a week. Blair in particular is famous for having bilateral (or ‘sofa’) meetings between himself and a cabinet member to discuss and decide on policy before reporting back to the rest of the cabinet, where it would be finalised. During the 1960s, the cabinet would have been seen as the most powerful body, as opposed to now where cabinet is seen to have diminished, leaving the Prime Minister to dominate both cabinet and Parliament, and therefore the system in general. The development of Number 10 can also be seen as an increase in domination as it is giving the Prime Minister, in essence, his own department. Within this department there are non-elected ‘special advisers’ such as, until recently, Andy Coulson for David Cameron. These special advisers often have far more control over the Prime Minister than cabinet. This not only diminishes the influence of cabinet further, but also creates a more presidential and therefore dominating style of leadership for the Prime Minister. This results in less reliance on the civil service and cabinet to form policy for the Prime...
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