How powerful is the Prime Minister? 1. Introduction Before getting into the niceties of powers of a prime minister, let’s first get to know who a prime minister is. Eccleshall (1998:2) mentions Clayton Roberts in his writing and states that he was the one who provided the best definition of a prime minister…
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Thomas (1998:92) states that it depends on country to country and on many other factors what tasks will be undertaken by the prime minister and how much he will govern like a policy leader. Attlee and Callaghan were the prime ministers who worked mainly as political managers ensuring the implementation of the policies of parties rather than their personal agendas. Such prime ministers work to save their governments from collapsing. On the other hand, Churchill and Heath belonged to the category of prime ministers who wanted to lead the policy making and put forth their own agenda mainly while agreeing on others very often. This makes us believe that prime ministerial job is so flexible that can be adjusted between contradictory characters and the circumstances. 2. Powers of a Prime Minister In this section, we describe the powers of a prime minster and also the sources of power. 2.1. Power comes from the office The power of the prime minister is because of the office or position he is in rather than his personal characteristics. His positional power makes his subordinates follow him because his is not only the head of the government but also a party leader with a charisma attached to his seat. He has the power to give a significant lead in the policy making issues (Sapru 2010:181). If he does not use this power, he is talked about negatively in the media and the government loses its direction. One example is that of Jim Callaghan who lost the control over the situation (winter of discontent) and his administration fell apart. 2.2. Removing him is not easy It is a very difficult task to remove a prime minister from his seat especially in parliamentary systems because he is the most powerful person (Kavanagh & Seldon 2008). Since he is also a party leader, he is elected by a large charter and is supported by the leading ministers. This support and authority makes it quite difficult for the leading officials to oppose him like removing him from his seat. 2.3. Prerogative powers King (1985:231) writes in his book that there are two types of prerogative powers specific to the prime minister position: He can advise, and normally expects to secure, a dissolution of parliament before the end of its natural life span, even in the absence of a defeat in the Commons. He can also terminate the life of the whole government by the simple procedure of tendering his own resignation to the sovereign, which automatically carries with it the resignation of all his colleagues. This means that a prime minister has the power to take the dissolution or resignation decision without even consulting the Cabinet. 2.4. Involvement in every matter A prime minister is the only person in the government who has the right to take an interest in everything going on in the country and make decisions. He takes care of the country business, supervises the ministerial roles (Weir & Beetham 1999:129), and makes use of both his personal and managerial powers to hold the government together. 2.5. Appointing and dismissal power A prime minister has the power to appoint or dismiss someone from his position in the government. This power is initiated by the desire of many ministers and the backbenchers who are hoping to get on the prime minister’s shoes. He can also reshuffle the positions of ministers. This appointing, dismissal and reshuffle power is a unique characteristic of the prime minister. 2.6. Chairing the Cabinet No person other than the prime
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The author states that Prime minister is the party leader in the House of Commons because of rights accorded in selecting the cabinet, deciding agenda in cabinet meetings; hand out most of the departmental positions where he also chairs the parliamentary progress. He has power to direct and control policies for the government.
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Thus, the British Prime Minister and the cabinet head the government, and are accountable for all policies and actions that the government takes. They are answerable to the monarch, the British Parliament and by extension to the public at large. The position of the British Prime Minister is an appointed role, where by the Queen appoints one of the members of parliament that have been directly elected by the people, to serve as the Prime Minister (Bennister, 2012 p40).
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