• Revision:The Prime Minister

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Powers and Limitations of the Prime Minister


Main spokesperson for government - well publicised

Link between Queen and Parliament -GB meets the Queen weekly

Appoints senior civil servants -civil servants try to get on his good side

Appoints government ministers e.g. Jacqui Smith, David Blunkett

Reshuffle government ministers -e.g. Jack Straw took over from Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary

Chairs cabinet meetings and draws up agenda -can push issues he wants

Responsible for Cabinet minutes -decides what goes in them e.g. could choose to put in only good things about retiring ministers like Claire Short

Derives power from his party, who will support him - try to get on his good side, promotion

Controls timetable of government - gets parliament to deal with things when he wants e.g. ID cards

Controls the Honours System -Blair made 150 peers in his first five years

Represents the country internationally - e.g. G8 summit

Decides timing of general election - Thatcher called soon after Falklands war to capitalise on popularity

Benefits from the Whip System - party is strongly encouraged to vote how the Prime Minister wishes


General election every five years - John Major forced to call in 97 even though it would be very difficult to win

Whip system - MPs can pass concerns on to the Whips, or even vote against the government e.g. tuition fees

PM’s Questions - poor performance can mean loss of support and damaged reputation

Balance of opinion - PM is “first among equals” and his cabinet may not always agree with him

Size of majority - By 97, Major had a small majority and therefore had to keep own party happy to get bills through

House of Lords can delay bills - e.g. fox hunting ban

Mass media - e.g. Mandelson forced to resign over passport scandal

Unexpected events - e.g. 9/11, foot and mouth, fuel protests, must be dealt with, government can sometimes appear divided if ministers disagree

Party chooses leader, who can be challenged - Heseltine challenged Thatcher in 1990

Parliamentary committees - scrutinises government and can call the PM to give evidence


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