There are no codified rules as to how this should happen.
With the decline in the power of the monarch the way elections usually turn out makes his intervention unnecessary…
As long as a party wins an overall majority of seats then it will form a government after a general election.
Despite being far behind the Conservatives in May 2010, there was a hung Parliament and there followed five days of negotiations during which Gordon Brown remained Prime Minister. A Conservative Lib Dem government was formed. A progressive coalition of the left attempted by Labour would have a majority of only 3 and would include a variety of parties whereas a Con/LibDem coalition had a majority of 76.
Why was a Coalition formed May 2010
No party had a clear majority.
A Labour led coalition would have been a progressive alliance of the left with a majority of only three and would probably be unstable. It would have also depended on Plaid and SNP support.
A Conservative minority government would be 20 seats short of a majority and dependent on Democratic Unionist support on key issues.
A Conservative Lib Dem coalition seemed the most stable option with a majority of 76.
Cameron told his backbenchers that the price was a referendum on AV as Clegg told him that Labour offered AV without a referendum- probably not.
What is the government
A total of 115 people.
As the government must have a clear presence in both houses, a number of peers will also be appointed.
All members of the government are also members of either House where they are required to sit.
All are bound by collective ministerial responsibility even though the vast majority have no say in determining the government line on policy.
Most members of the party/parties in government are not actually ministers i.e. they have not been appointed by the Prime Minister. Therefore, they retain a dual function of both supporting the government of the day and holding it to account.
Criteria for selecting ministers- the coalition
The formation of the coalition altered this as part of the coalition deal saw the creation of a more powerful position of deputy Prime Minister with Nick Clegg having a clear negotiating role. The coalition deal ensured that 25 posts including 5 in Cabinet went to Lib Dems.
General criteria for appointing ministers
Politically reliable and those who share the views of the leader but also the need to appease party factions and to silent potential dissidents.
Looking to the future- appoint as junior ministers those who look to have promising careers as senior ministers in the future.
Potential ministers must have managerial skills
The Coalition Government
The Coalition Government formed in 2010 was the first national peace time coaliiton fomed since 1939 and the first peace time national coalition formed since 1945. However coalitions have operated in terms of devolution in Northern Ireland and Scotland- the latter till 2007 and currently in Wales 2007-2011.
The Cabinet is the supreme decision making body in government.
The Cabinet is made up of the Prime Minister and the 20 or so senior ministers.
It serves as a place to decide on general outlines of policy.
The Cabinet is there to resolve ministerial disputes. Here, it played an important role early in the coalition in securing common ground on top up tuition fees. Earlier, the Cabinet consensus was deemed necessary in support of renewal of trident (Tony Blair) in face of expected back bench opposition. This function of settling disputes will become only more important as a direct consequence of the formation of the Coalition Government.
The Cabinet has the final say on policy.
It acts as a check on the Prime Minister.
Types of cabinet
The Cabinet meeting at Number 10 or elsewhere when Parliament is in session.
The Cabinet Secretariat- the civil service which keeps the Cabinet and its committees functioning.
The Prime Minister’s Office at Number 10.
Cabinet Committees- these deal with the bulk of Cabinet work and have the authority to decide on government policy without necessarily referring back to the full Cabinet.
This emerges during the 1960s, with the Kitchen Cabinet of Harold Wilson- a team of advisors to drive through the Prime Minister's agenda…
Sofa democracy- a term coined in the premiership of Tony Blair whereby policy was served precooked to a Cabinet after a bilateral meeting between the Prime Minister and a minister/s.
Gordon Brown’s government was compared to that of an 18 th century or Pittite administration whereby the Prime Minister relied on 4 close colleagues.
Decline of the Cabinet
1960s onwards, Harold Wilson with a few trusted private advisors met in No. 10 to discuss policy therefore allowing the PM to control the political agenda.
Harold Wilson also manipulated the minutes of cabinet meetings to suit his own conclusions.
The growing importance of TV and radio from the 1960s allowed the Prime Minister to act as the spokesman for the government. The transfer of power towards the PM seemed to reach a new height with Margaret Thatcher.
Even more significant was the style adopted by Tony Blair which seemed presidential- both he and his successor Gordon Brown exercised a great deal of control over the direction of British policy in international affairs.
In short, there has been a progressive marginalisation of the cabinet as an institution; meetings rarely last beyond 45 minutes, however ( SEE PREVIOUS SLIDES ) the Cabinet can still play a crucial role in resolving disputes.
How has the formation of a Coalition Government changed the formation of a Cabinet?
The Prime Minister must consult more widely- here with Nick Clegg his Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister.
The Coalition agreement has guaranteed 5 Cabinet posts out of 22 for the Liberal Democrats.
The post of Deputy Prime Minister is now more prominent a role as the leader of the junior partner in the coalition must be given a clear role. Nick Clegg has overall responsibility for driving through constitutional reform including a final stage reform for the House of Lords.
However, as before all ministers are bound by the rules of collective ministerial responsibility, although there was speculation that some Lib Dem ministers might abstain on the vote on tuition fees yet this did not materialise. All ministers are bound by individual ministerial responsibility . This means they are personally responsible for policy they develop and pilot through Parliament and for their personal conduct. They are directly answerable to Parliament. David Laws was forced to resign following adverse publicity over his expenses claim three weeks into the Coalition.
The Cabinet plays a very important role in resolving disputes. For each cabinet Committee there is a deputy chair held by a member of the alternative party to that of the chair.
Functions of the Prime Minister
Chief policy maker
Head of Government- can create new posts, departments, abolish them, establish committees and policy units, head of civil service, chairs Cabinet, wide powers of patronage.
Chief government spokesman
Effective Commander in Chief
Chief foreign-policy maker- the roving ambassador abroad, chairs meetings G8/10, chairs UK presidency of the European Union
Power of the Prime Minister
Head of Civil Service
Appoint senior judges and bishops
Commander in Chief
Chair of Cabinet
Government policy- depends on personality, support in party, party unity, single party or coalition
Parliamentary leadership- depends on party unity and size of majority or PLP.
Controlling Cabinet- depends on whether powerful adversaries in Cabinet, unity of Cabinet, whether he is secure as party leader
National leadership- depends on personal popularity, media profile, standing abroad.
Sources of Prime Ministerial authority
The ruling party- he is the leader
The royal prerogative
Effective head of state- along term drift towards seeing PM and not monarch as head of state.
Extensive back up in terms personal advisors, think tanks, policy groups to advise PM and which are not available to other ministers. An effective PM department Number 10. Increasing role of Downing street in coordinating government policy as a whole- measures to combat crime, drugs, child poverty and homelessness have all been coordinated via Number 10.
Growing importance of the media- PM personifies government.
Growing importance of foreign and military affairs- Thatcher, Major and Blair all led UK into foreign wars.
Spatial leadership- separation of the PM from the rest of government- holding a mandate directly from the people. Tony Blair in terms of foreign affairs, Northern Ireland and health dominated the political agenda. Also consider Gordon Brown in his response to the credit crunch 2007 and David Cameron April 2011 whilst on tour of the north speaking out against Oxford University admissions’ policy- disgraceful that only one Black student secured a place for current academic year.
Against the presidential thesis
Hennessy- the office of the Prime Minister is flexible- it is what the holder wishes to make of it. He argues the powers and limitations have not changed a great deal- cites powerful PMs such as Thatcher and Blair but weaker ones such as Callaghan and Major.
A change of style rather than substance- due to media attention and the growing importance of foreign policy. Prime Ministers are still restrained- note role of party in bringing about fall of Thatcher 1990.
Professor George Jones- ‘elastic theory’. The more a PM seeks control the greater the counter pressure for the reining in of those powers.