Core Executive Thesis

Core Executive Thesis-2
It is kept alive by the fact that the prime ministers authority is linked to the backing he or she receives from the ‘big beasts’ of the cabinet, some of whom may enjoy such widespread support within the government and party that they are effectively ‘unsackable’. Devolution, the HRA, the European Union and other developments such as the normalisation of the use of Referenda have limited the role of Cabinet.

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In any case, however, from the 1990s onwards a new approach to the study of the Centre of British Government was developed [particularly by Professors R. Smith ] known as the Core Executive Model of British Government.

The Core Executive is the network of institutions at the centre of British Government including the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister's Office, the Cabinet, the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Committees, the Bank of England, the individual Departments of State [among which the Treasury, the Home Office and the Foreign Office are the most significant], senior MPs and even, perhaps the representatives of major insider pressure groups.

One of the main things to remember is the George Jones ‘elastic band’ theory of power – that power resources change over time according to the particular circumstances of the time. Often, questions ask about extent to which Cabinet government is threatened…is relatively straightforward.

Yes – threatened because PM is helped by party discipline and control over party; because power resources are flexible – there is no requirement to consult Cabinet, there are only conventions; institutional innovations – creation of a mini PM department for instance – have strengthened PM; rise of independent power of the PM – presidentialism theory – through direct appeal to public via media it appears that PM is the most powerful political actor etc etc No – at certain times (of weakness) the PM requires the protection of collective cabinet government; authority based on support of ‘big beasts’ in cabinet; even though institutional supports have increased they are far smaller than ie the US president, so PM still relies heavily on Ministers who have their own departments and set of civil servants working for them; related to this is the idea that government is so complex that one individual cannot control the whole show; ultimately, while Cabinet government in the traditional sense ie of collective decision making around a table doesn’t really exist, Cabinet is still crucial because in the UK system government is still formally a collective enterprise There are related questions about whether PM power has increased There may well be a question also about the effect of coalition on PM power (p265-270). 22-24 Secretaries of State who each (with some exceptions) take charge of a government ministry or department.

Click here for some detailed resources from Ashbourne College and here for some links on the Premiership of Theresa May.

Click here for a short critique of the Presidentialisation thesis and here for a more detailed article Political scientists from the 1950s to the 1990s focused their attention on the range of factors which may have contributed to the transition from Cabinet Government to Prime Ministerial Government.Also given the major differences in the UK and USA systems of government it is not true to say that the UK Premiership is evolving into a US -style presidency but this is not the claim of Professor Foley's theory; note that his book is entitled "The British Presidency".Questions often revolve around power resources of the PM ie has PM power increased in recent years?However by the late 1980s she was subjected to increasing criticism as a result of here confrontational political style, the disunity within the Conservative Party over Europe, the declining success of her economic policies and the problems associated with the introduction of the Poll Tax all of which contributed to her resignation in 1990.It is here that we might refer to Professor George Jones interesting " elastic band theory of Prime Ministerial Power": a Prime Minister such as Mrs Thatcher may stretch her authority over the Cabinet but eventually the Cabinet may reassert its authority: the elastic band swings back and the PM is gone!Under coalition Clegg was allocated the chair of a significant number of cabinet committees.Smith (1999) – A complex theory of the distribution of power within central government.Each is appointed by the PM under the power of patronage, and each can be removed in a reshuffle.Cabinet as a whole endorses rather than creates theory that cabinet as a whole decides upon and co-ordinates policy. Cabinet debates, formalises and co-ordinates policy for the whole of the government. It provides a reminder that, despite the growth in prime ministerial power, no PM can survive if he or she loses the support of the cabinet. Cabinet discussion is often dominated by a dirigeste approach.According to Hennessey these are “the engine room of government”, the forum in which the real decision making power lies.According to former Chancellor Lawson (The View from Number 11) Cabinet is merely the forum for approving decisions “already taken elsewhere.” Blair chaired more than half of all Cabinet Committees during his premiership indicating a desire to tightly control policy formulation.


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