Core Executive Thesis

In another recent theoretical development surrounding the powers of the PM some theorists [and especially Professor M.Foley in his study "The British Presidency {2000 have focused on particular dimensions of Prime Ministerial Power to suggest that the British Prime Minister is becoming increasingly "presidential".Rejects simplistic notions of Prime Ministerial power in favour of the idea that power is a variable distributed amongst a number of key actors at the heart of government and that power flows variably over time between the PM, the cabinet, cabinet committees, PM Office, Cabinet Office, party and parliament. || In another recent theoretical development surrounding the powers of the PM some theorists [and especially Professor M. ]]

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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.

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.

According to Hennessey these are “the engine room of government”, the forum in which the real decision making power lies.

Core Executive Thesis

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.

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.

The Coalition Agreement for Stability and Reform in 2010 was necessitated by the failure of the Conservatives to obtain a majority in the 2010 General Election. He was forced to share power with his Deputy Nick Clegg (who had a veto over Lib dem appointments to the government and cabinet). (Cameron, Clegg, Osborne, Alexander)supports the Prime Minister and ensure the effectives running of government.

Term was coined by Bagehot in 19th Century but the theory is seen as largely outdated. Took the idea of PM dominance and further developed it into his presidentialism thesis.

Under this thesis there has been a growth of ‘spatial leadership’, a tendency towards ‘populist outreach’, increasingly personalized election campaigns, the adoption of personal mandates, wider use of special advisors. This partly means that Prime Ministers have presented themselves as “outsiders” to the main thrust of government, Thatcher reminding us that she was a grocer’s daughter, and Major emphasising his more humble background and limited formal education.


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