Who has power in the Executive


Who has power in the executive

In the UK, the executive, judiciary and legislature are formed by a fusion of powers, as opposed to the US where they are formed by a separation of power.

The theories of executive power (who runs the country) include:

  • Cabinet Government
  • Prime ministerial Government
  • Presidentialism
  • Core executive model.
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The Cabinet Government

In the cabinet government:

  • Power is collective and is not personal.
  • This is due to collective responsibility and 'primus inter pares.'
  • However, in a formal sense, this has been outdated because many PMs have changed the way their cabinet operates:
    • E.g. Tony Blair's cabinet was known as 'sofa cabinet' because he had one to one meetings with his cabinet members. 
    • Wilson's was known as 'kitchen cabinet' as he held meetings in his kitchen. 
  • It has also been outdated because the PM cannot survive without the support of their cabinet. 
  • Some cabinet ministers are seen as 'unsackable', which links the PM's authority to the banking of the cabinet 'beasts'.
    • E.g. Michael Gove is not popular due to his unpopular policies in Education. As a result, he was removed from his position as Minister of Education, but has become the Chief Party Whip and the Minister of Justice. 
    • Whereas Iain Duncan Smith was forced to resign from his position as Minister for Works and Pensions, as he openly disagreed with Cameron's proposals to cut disabled benefits. 
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Prime ministerial government

Prime ministerial government:

  • The power of the Prime Minister has grown, during the 20th Century. 
  • Crossman (1963) had the view that Parliament and the executive is dominated by the Prime Minister (not the cabinet).
  • This is because the Prime Minister is the:
    • Head of the civil service
    • Leader of the largest political party in the HOC.
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Foley (1993-2000) argued that UK Prime Ministers have become increasingly more like Presidents because:

  • The prime ministerial model relates to this because PM's have made decisions independent from the HOC. 
    • E.g. Tony Blair went ahead with his decision to join the Iraq War, with only consulting Gordon Brown- not consulting the HOC. 
  • There has been an increase in 'spatial leadership', which means 'leadership based on the people.' 
    • This is where PM's have become more independent from the cabinet. 
  • There is a tedency towards 'populist outreach', where it becomes more about personality instead of the politics, as many people's votes are based on who they would rather become PM. 
    • E.g. The EU campaign, as the invidual basis is to remain in. 
  • This also leads to personalised election campaigns, such as Cameron Vs Miliband. 
  • Ultimately, PMs are becoming more like Presidents, instead of being them.
  • This shows that there is more of a direct link between the people and the PM. 
  • It also signifies how significant the mass media are in affecting power. 
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The Core executive model

The Core executive model:

  • Goes beyond the 'cabinet Vs Prime minister' debate.
  • It also recognises a 'core executive' (Smith 1999).
  • This means that neither the PM or cabinet is independent. 
  • The balance of power in the cabinet is affected by the resources available, such as:
    • Funding
    • Civil Servants
    • Spin doctors (these controls and spins the media, by turning negative press into positive. 
  • Therefore, power is never in one person's hand. 
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