Limits of the Prime Minister Essay

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Limits of the Prime Minister

The formal constitutional powers listed in the previous answer 'The powers of the Prime Minister' are subject to a number of restraints in practice, which means that the British PM is not as powerful as often assumed, or as commonly alleged by critics. The large number of main constraints are as follows:

Constraints on the power of patronage -------------------------------------

Ø If the party has been in opposition, then the first Cabinet appointed after a general election victory is usually the shadow cabinet.

Ø Some MPs will have such extensive experience or authority that they can hardly be omitted

Ø Some MPs have sizeable backbench
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Continued refusal to permit this lead ministers to wonder what the PM is afraid of is afraid of in seeking to avoid discussion of the issue.

v Although formal votes are not normally taken in cabinet meetings, PMs need to be careful in 'summing-up' the overall view of the ministers present. They cannot declare that 'policy X' has been agreed upon if the overwhelming majority of other ministers have expressed - and heard each other express - their preference for 'policy Y'

Costraints on the appointment or chairing of Cabinet committees ---------------------------------------------------------------

* Membership is usually 'functional', meaning that the ministers serving on a Cabinet committee are usually those whose department has an input into a proposed policy.

* Prime Minister's work load is such that they can only chair a few Cabinet committees and, therefore need to delegate the chairing of the rest to other senior ministerial colleagues. For example, during his second term as Prime Minister, Tony Blair chaired six out of forty four Cabinet committees, while the home secretary chaired nine, the deputy

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