British Prime Ministers

"Claims that British Prime Ministers have become more presidential ignore that a UK 1Prime Minister already enjoys much greater domestic power than a US president. " Discuss. There are numerous pieces of evidence that suggest the rational role of the British Prime Minister is becoming more presidential Power can only be quantified or measured in relation to something. In terms of domestic power it is perhaps appropriate to define it in terms of ability to make more autonomous decisions.

It has historically been believed that the UK Prime minister has more domestic power than the US president based on documented rights due to his ability to dominate his part, legislature and to an extent, the executive branch. He has substantial power over his party with no clear separation of power. Something based on this belief may well be valid but with numerous pieces of evidence that suggest the traditional role of the British Prime Minister is becoming more presidential and modern society adhering less to written convention, it has become far less clear who wields the most domestic power outside of conventional parameters.

Both the UK Prime Minister and US president are the key figures in their countries politics. The UK Prime Minister has no formal written role but is rather a product of convention and historical evolution. His main powers include those of patronage, the control of the cabinet and its agenda, and the overall direction of government policy, both of head of government and leader of the party in power. In contrast, the US president has an official outlined role. His formal role involves a strategic capacity to set the nations political agenda by exploiting such powers that the Constitution grants him.

It can be said that the British Prime Minister is becoming more presidential in general but it has a lot to do with the style of governing that each individual Prime Minister decides to use and more often than not, their personality. For example, Thatcher was more presidential, Major less so, Blair more again. The characteristics of presidential leadership include, spatial leadership which implies the leader is acting 'outside' of party politics, and developing a sense of distance from their party.

'Designer populism' – claiming to articulate the hopes and fears of the electorate and dependence on the leader for popular support. Finally a reliance more on independent advisors rather than governmental organizations. Evidence that Blair is presidential – poor voting record in the commons through his first 5 years of office. Fewer and shorter cabinet meetings. Decisions are made by smaller groups of cabinet ministers and advisors. Blair has seized the prime Ministerial initiative on certain issues – Northern Ireland, Foot and Mouth, Welfare Reform, Juvenile Crime, and Foreign and Defense policy.

The US president used to be far from the epicenter of American politics. In recent decades a shift toward the position we know today took place. The major change in the role of the president came in 1933 with the election of Roosevelt. Prior to this, the president was the centre of political life on only a few main occasions, such as in response to foreign policy – British threats in 1812 (Madison), and war in Europe 1917-1918 (Wilson), imperialist policies towards Mexico in order to expand US territory (Polk), and lastly with the rebellion of the southern states during the civil war (Lincoln).

During Roosevelt's rain the economic collapse forced the public to look to the Presidency for a new domestic and economic agenda. Congress was slow and disordered in action, so there was a hope that the president could provide a strong, coherent plan and leadership to solve the problems in America. This was really a period of extension of federal power – but the president provided the leadership for this.

"The Presidency is an office whose occupants are expected to deliver successful economic, foreign, defense, environmental and educational policy, and to provide the country with a vision and purpose. "2 This newly expected role now implies the presidents role is far from limited to major political events. "Emergency is still a sufficient condition for Presidential domination, but it is no longer necessary"3