In the UK, there is hot debate as to whether the Prime Minister is actually a President. Tony Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq is one of biggest examples in recent history of this theory as he did it because he thought it was right. However, some still say that the Cabinet is where the true power lies. One example of the growing tendency of the UK Prime Minister’s to be more ‘Presidential’ is how the growth of spatial leadership has become more prevalent in recent years. Prime Ministers now tend to distance themselves from Cabinet and be their own ruler of government.
They also tend to get entire ideologies named after them such as Thatcherism or Blairism (after Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair). Prime Ministers also tend to be more ‘with the people’ than with their party. In conjunction with this, personalised election campaigns are becoming more common during General Elections. More and more focus is heaped upon the party leaders (for example, David Cameron versus Gordon Brown rather than the Conservatives versus Labour) and they become a sort of brand image.
Closely related to this is the fact that Prime Ministers are now claiming personal mandates on their own personal election success rather than a party mandate. However, Cabinets still hold an enormous amount of power over their Prime Minister. Prime Ministers require the support of their ministers or they risk a party revolution and replacement. For example, Margaret Thatcher lost the support of her Cabinet in her third term and was eventually replaced by John Major. This shows how much power Cabinet can wield over Prime Ministers.
Also, the Prime Minister’s power is linked to the backing of the so-called ‘unsackable’ ministers in Cabinet. These ‘unsackable’ ministers are ‘unsackable’ as they have their own little faction in the party behind them to support them in any issue over their ability. For example, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did not have the best personal relationship but Gordon Brown had a cadre of support behind him and his skills as Chancellor of the Exchequer was respected so he was an ‘unsackable’ minister.
This continues to show that the Cabinet has power over the Prime Minister and can sometimes force their hand on certain matters. Overall, Prime Ministers do tend to have more power than before. This does coincide with the theory of Presidentialism but it would be wrong to say that the UK is a Republic and not a Parliamentary Democracy. The Cabinet still wields power over government proceedings and the Prime Minister. Therefore, there is a certain extent of ‘Presidentialism’ but not enough to call it decisive at all.
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