Key Concepts: PM & Cabinet
Anonymity• The principle that UK civil servants should be  able to conduct their business in private without  being held p...
Bilateral meetings• Meetings between the PM and a single cabinet  colleague. Also known as sofa government.• In the modern...
Bureaucracy• The unelected part of government and the  structures and processes that govern its  operation. Also known as ...
Cabinet Committees• A subset of the cabinet, chaired by the PM, or someone of his  choosing, and focusing on a particular ...
Cabinet Government• The traditional view that cabinet is the key decision-  making body within the government with PM acti...
Cabinet Office• The civil service body that supports and  coordinates the work of cabinet. It is headed  by the cabinet se...
Civil Service• The bureaucratic element of government comprising  the civil servants who work in government  departments a...
Collective Ministerial             Responsibility• The convention under which members of the UK cabinet are required to  s...
Core Executive• The network of high-ranking individuals, institutions and  advisory bodies that operate at the heart of ce...
Department• A unit of government concerned with developing and  administering policy in a particular field. Since the  198...
Individual Ministerial           Responsibility• A convention under which ministers are held  accountable to Parliament fo...
Permanence• the view that civil servants should not come  and go with governments but remain to serve  whichever party is ...
Prerogative Powers• constitutional powers resting with the  monarch but exercised in practice by the  prime minister.• The...
Presidentialism• The view that the prime minister has become a presidential  figure, both in power and in style.• This con...
Prime Minister’s Office• describing a collection of bodies supporting the work of the PM. It is located  in Number 10, tho...
Prime Ministerial            Government• A model of relations within the core executive  that sees the prime minister as a...
Primus Inter Pares• Latin for ‘first among equals’; the traditional  view that the prime minister is simply one  member of...
Sofa Government• Describing the way in which prime minister Tony  Blair was said to have directed government  through a se...
Special Advisor• a political appointee employed by and answerable  directly to a government minister or the prime  ministe...
Spin Doctor• a pejorative term applied to those employed by politicians to  manage the way in which the media report their...
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Pm and cabinet key concepts

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Pm and cabinet key concepts

  1. 1. Key Concepts: PM & Cabinet
  2. 2. Anonymity• The principle that UK civil servants should be able to conduct their business in private without being held publicly and personally responsible for the work they do.• Anonymity is one of the three traditional principles of the UK civil service, the others being impartiality (neutrality) and permanence.• It is linked to the role responsibility aspect of IMR, i.e. the notion that the secretary of state is directly responsible and accountable for all that goes on in his or her department.
  3. 3. Bilateral meetings• Meetings between the PM and a single cabinet colleague. Also known as sofa government.• In the modern era, decisions have increasingly been taken in such meetings and in kitchen cabinets as opposed to cabinet proper. This is one of the factors that is said to have undermined cabinet government.• Bilateral meetings were used extensively by Tony Blair during his time in office (Bank of England interest rates).
  4. 4. Bureaucracy• The unelected part of government and the structures and processes that govern its operation. Also known as the civil service. The term ‘bureaucratic’ is also often used in criticism of processes that are overly long or requiring excessive volumes of paperwork.
  5. 5. Cabinet Committees• A subset of the cabinet, chaired by the PM, or someone of his choosing, and focusing on a particular area of policy.• The PM has considerable control over the number, scope, composition and operation of cabinet committees. Some cabinet committees are permanent others are ad hoc .• John Major was the first PM to publish details about the structure and composition of cabinet committees as part of his commitment to open government.• The cabinet committees that operate on a permanent basis are grouped together into categories such as foreign and defence policy, domestic/home affairs and economic policy. An example of a permanent committee would be the Energy and the Environment Committee (EE). Ad hoc (or miscellaneous) committees are established to deal with specific issues or concerns, e.g. the Olympics Committee (MISC 25).
  6. 6. Cabinet Government• The traditional view that cabinet is the key decision- making body within the government with PM acting only as primus inter pares (first amongst equals). See also collective responsibility. Walter Bagehot described cabinet as the ‘efficient secret’ of the English constitution.• A decline in the number and length of cabinet meetings under Tony Blair, along with his willingness to make key decisions outside cabinet in bilateral meetings (e.g. the decision to hand control over interest rates to the Bank of England), led some to question the notion of cabinet government.
  7. 7. Cabinet Office• The civil service body that supports and coordinates the work of cabinet. It is headed by the cabinet secretary, a senior civil servant. Sir Gus O Donnell has held this post from 2005 - present.• The reorganisation of the Cabinet Office and the ‘Prime Minister’s Office under Tony Blair led some to herald the rise of a de facto prime minister’s department.
  8. 8. Civil Service• The bureaucratic element of government comprising the civil servants who work in government departments and other agencies established by the executive. It is often referred to simply as Whitehall.• The civil service is said to be based upon three core principles: anonymity, impartiality and permanence.• A process of ‘agentification’ has seen many tasks previously discharged by the core civil service placed under the control of executive agencies (Next Steps Programme).
  9. 9. Collective Ministerial Responsibility• The convention under which members of the UK cabinet are required to stand publicly by those decisions made privately within cabinet.• Those who do not wish to operate under this convention are expected to resign their cabinet posts and argue their case as backbenchers.• Collective responsibility is intrinsically linked to the idea of collective decision making.• In March 2003, the Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook, stood down from his seat in cabinet in order to speak out against the decision to go to war in Iraq. Clare Short also opposed military action but was persuaded to stay in cabinet with the promise that she would be involved in the reconstruction after the war. This is an example of an ‘agreement to differ’, where a prime minister keeps a minister in cabinet in spite of their dissent.• A prime minister can also suspend collective responsibility. Harold Wilson suspended collective responsibility in 1975 so that cabinet ministers could be involved in the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns that accompanied the nationwide referendum on continued UK membership of the EEC.
  10. 10. Core Executive• The network of high-ranking individuals, institutions and advisory bodies that operate at the heart of central government, developing and overseeing the execution of government policy.• R. A. W. Rhodes saw the core executive as ‘the complex web of institutions, networks and practices surrounding the prime minister, cabinet, cabinet committees and their official counterparts, less formalised ministerial “clubs” or meetings, bilateral negotiations … interdepartmental committees [and] coordinating departments’ such as the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Foreign Office, the law officers, and the security and intelligence services.• Some argue that changes made to the PMO and the Cabinet Office under Tony Blair created a prime minister’s department in all but name. Such changes, when taken alongside the rise of bilateral meetings and so-called sofa government, marked a significant shift in power within the core executive.
  11. 11. Department• A unit of government concerned with developing and administering policy in a particular field. Since the 1980s, much of the work of government departments has been transferred to semi-independent agencies).• In July 2009, the Home Office was headed by Alan Johnson MP, a leading cabinet member. There were also five other ministers working in the department below cabinet rank: two ministers of state (David Hanson MP and Phil Woolas MP); and three other ministers (Alan Campbell MP, Meg Hillier MP and Lord West of Spithead).
  12. 12. Individual Ministerial Responsibility• A convention under which ministers are held accountable to Parliament for their own personal behaviour (personal responsibility) and the conduct of their departments (role responsibility), requiring them to resign in the event that they fail in either sphere.• Some argue that the process of agencification ushered in with the Next Steps Programme has undermined the role responsibility aspect of this convention as it is difficult to hold ministers responsible for decisions that have been taken by a quasi-autonomous executive agency .
  13. 13. Permanence• the view that civil servants should not come and go with governments but remain to serve whichever party is returned to office. The view is also held that civil servants should not be held accountable and sacked for failures within government departments. Permanence is one of the three traditional principles upon which the civil service was said to operate, the others being neutrality (impartiality) and anonymity.
  14. 14. Prerogative Powers• constitutional powers resting with the monarch but exercised in practice by the prime minister.• The prerogative powers include the power to dissolve Parliament (i.e. call a general election) as well as the power of patronage.
  15. 15. Presidentialism• The view that the prime minister has become a presidential figure, both in power and in style.• This concept was developed by writers such as Michael Foley with his work on spatial leadership.• Both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were criticised for adopting a presidential style because of their powerful positions, their aloofness, their dismissive attitudes towards Parliament and their lack of consultation with cabinet (see bilateral meetings and sofa government ).• The concept of a presidential prime minister also reflected the increasing concentration of power around the premier within the core executive .• There is some debate, however, over how far comparisons with the USA can be taken, as they underestimate the limitations imposed by both the influence of political parties in the UK and the power of some cabinet ministers .
  16. 16. Prime Minister’s Office• describing a collection of bodies supporting the work of the PM. It is located in Number 10, though it is not a room in the sense of the US president’s Oval Office. Populated by a blend of appointees, career civil servants and special advisors, the Prime Minister’s Office has expanded in recent years to employ well over 150 staff. It traditionally comprises bodies such as the Private Office , the Press Office, the Political Unit and the Policy Unit. See also prime minister’s department.• The Prime Minister’s Office was reorganised by Tony Blair in the wake of the 2001 general election:• The Private Office was merged with the Policy Unit to form the Policy Directorate.• The prime minister’s press secretary , Alastair Campbell , was given a new title: Director of Communications . Two civil service deputies took over the management of press briefings.• The post of prime minister’s principal private secretary was abolished and replaced by a policy advisor.• Three new bodies, the Delivery Unit, the Office of Public Services Reform and the Forward Strategy Unit were created.
  17. 17. Prime Ministerial Government• A model of relations within the core executive that sees the prime minister as a dominant figure. It is closely associated with the ideas of Richard Crossman, a Labour cabinet minister in the late 1960s and author of Diaries of a Cabinet Minister . Contrast this concept with cabinet government .
  18. 18. Primus Inter Pares• Latin for ‘first among equals’; the traditional view that the prime minister is simply one member of a cabinet that operates as a collective decision-making body.
  19. 19. Sofa Government• Describing the way in which prime minister Tony Blair was said to have directed government through a series of informal and unminuted bilateral meetings conducted on the sofas at Number 10. Contrast with cabinet government .• In a similar vein, Blair’s biographer, Anthony Seldon, used the term ‘denocracy’; a reference to Mr Blair’s preference for making decisions following informal meetings in the ‘den’ at Number 10.
  20. 20. Special Advisor• a political appointee employed by and answerable directly to a government minister or the prime minister.• They are often seen as being similar to spin doctor.• It is common to draw a distinction between such special advisors and career civil servants.• An increase in the number of advisors under Thatcher and Blair led to accusations of politicisation in the civil service .• Chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson cited Margaret Thatcher’s over-reliance on her economics advisor Sir Alan Walters as the reason for his resignation from cabinet in 1989.
  21. 21. Spin Doctor• a pejorative term applied to those employed by politicians to manage the way in which the media report their activities. It is generally applied to those working in bodies such as the Press Office but also to those individuals employed on a consultancy basis by political parties. The former are commonly paid for by taxpayers because they are employed as civil servants.• The highest profile example of a spin doctor is Alastair Campbell , prime minister Tony Blair’s press secretary (1997–2001) and Director of Communications and Strategy (from 2001). Transport Secretary Stephen Byers’ spin doctor Jo Moore provoked controversy on 9/11 when she circulated an e-mail suggesting that it was a ‘good day to bury bad news’.• The rise of such spin doctors after New Labour’s election to office in 1997 proved controversial because they appeared to be serving a party-political function, even though they were in many cases paid for by the taxpayer.

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