UK Politics PO206 (Summative).docx - WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CABINET IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UK AND HOW HAS THIS CHANGED SINCE 1945 By 1941579 PO206

UK Politics PO206 (Summative).docx - WHAT IS THE ROLE OF...

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WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CABINET IN THEGOVERNMENT OF THE UK, AND HOW HASTHIS CHANGED SINCE 1945?By 1941579PO206: Politics of the UKMuireann O'DwyerUniversity of WarwickWord Count (excluding cover, in-text citations and reference list): 3100*Date: 30thMay 2020 (extension applied for)
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INTRODUCTIONThis essay charts the changing nature of Cabinet since 1945. This subject is of central importance as it animates a central question of UK politics: where does power lie,and where are decisions made? The modern Cabinet system that emerged after 1916 has undergone significant change over the years: the purpose of this essay is to offer insight into the different roles Cabinet has played after World War 2. Owing to the uncodified nature of the British Constitution, the Westminster system has afforded individual Prime Ministers great leeway in personally shaping the workings of the Cabinet system. The main argument of this essay is that, since 1945, Britain has developed from being governed by theCabinet to a Cabinet system, comprising an increasingly vast and complicated network of committees and sub-committees. It is also argued that the way the Cabinet System operates has passed through four major phases between 1945 and 2020—namely ‘Cabinet government’, ‘Prime Ministerial government’, ‘Presidential government’ and, more recently, ‘core executive governance’—which distinguish between the varying degrees of Prime Ministerial dominance over executive decision-making. The Institution of ‘Cabinet’In the UK’s parliamentary system, executive power is exercised by the supreme decision-making body of Cabinet (Griffiths, 2018: 127). In 1867, Walter Bagehot described Cabinet as a “board of control chosen by the legislature…to rule the nation”(Bagehot, 1867 cited in Foster, 2004: 753). It is, in other words, the heart of government where key decisions are made (Hennessy, 1986; Jennings, 1959; Mackintosh, 1968). Formally a committee of the Privy Council (Simon, 1999: 3), the Cabinet is the collective body drawn from parliament that ultimately determines public policy (Norton, 2018: 451). By convention, the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons following an election is invited to be Prime Minister, who then forms a government by distributing governmental positions to parliamentary colleagues(Buckley, 2006: 29). While the government will have over 100 members ‘in office’—representing between a quarter to a third of the parliamentary party in the Commons (Griffiths, 2018: 135)—the Cabinet is the “apex” tier within government comprising around 22 senior Ministers (Norton, 2018: 447). It is governed by collective cabinet responsibility: a solidarity principle that all ministers are “equally and jointly
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responsible” for collective decisions made by Cabinet or Cabinet committees, which requires ministers to resign if they disagree with government policy (Simon, 1999: 6).
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