The Prime Ministers of the last 25 years have been notes for deviating of what would be considered ‘Prime Ministerial’ into more of a ‘Presidential’ role. This is due to the expansion of a key power that the Prime Minister has, that of the Chief Executive, being expanded. The expansion of this power has led to many positive outcomes, for example, when Argentina invaded the Falkland Isles; Margaret Thatcher made the decision to send a naval task force to retake the Islands.
Due to the success of the war, and its relative shortness, Thatcher was praised for the executive position, boosting her position as an incredibly unpopular Prime Minister; to one of the most admired and strong ones in history. Tony Blair has also made his position as Chief Executive clear when he backed the United States in their invasion of Iraq in 2003 in response to the 9/11 attacks. Due to the early success, and the outrage over the attacks in 2001, Blair was given a boost in his power base, and found much support from the Parliament in the future.
David Cameron got involved in the response to the large scale flooding in the south of England, due to what he believe to be a lack of action by his Environmental minister, Owen Wilson. He committed ? 100, 000, 000 to the flood aid and personally took control of how it was handled, increasing his power base. Despite many strong decisions being made by the Chief Executive, there have been Prime Ministers that have mishandled the powers and responsibilities that come with it.
Gordon Brown, as during the crisis of the banks in 2008, he was criticised hugely for being indecisive, and despite stopping the UK’s economy from collapsing, he made it seem insignificant when he claimed he has saved the world. This shows that while Prime Ministers can make big decisions, their power base can be weakened by poor ones, which can stop them from making major decisions in the future, which differs from the role of a President. Legislation and policies are an important part of being a Prime Minister, as you need to convince the Parliament to pass your policy.
If it is successful, it can make the PM look smart, and will make it easier for him/her to pass more legislation in the future. However, if it fails, political abilities will be questioned, and the PM may find support lacking in the passing of future legislation. David Cameron shown his ability when the anti-stalking law was passed in 2012 this proved mostly successful in combatting modern stalking, which helped him garner more support for his legislation on State Pension. Tony Blair was also praised for delivering his election promise for the introduction for the National Minimum Wage in 1999, which increased his power base.
This allowed him to push for the Civil Partnership Act in 2005. Gordon Brown pushed for the Child Poverty bill to be passed, which it was in 2010, with its aim to wipe out child poverty quickly, this failed, as it is expected to succeed in 2020. This led to even further criticism of Brown from the opposition, making it difficult to pass legislation later on. This shows what can happen when the PM fails to satisfy his Parliament, and as Presidents don’t have a large legislative role, this doesn’t really affect them. Prime Ministers have the ability to hire and fire MPs.
They do this to assert their authority, however, too much of it can lead to MP’s thinking you were incompetent in your first choice, or simply tyrannical, which can lead to them weakening your power base or ousting you entirely from power, something a President doesn’t have to worry about. David Cameron asserted his authority as PM when he demoted Michael Gove from Secretary of Education to Chief Whip. This was due to Gove’s confrontational and aggressive nature towards teachers, which led to Cameron saying “There can be no place for a rogue elephant”.
This shown that Cameron was strong enough to get rid of one of the highest authorities in the cabinet as he believed him ineffective. Gordon Brown was seen as weak when he added Peter Mandelson, his sworn political enemy, to the cabinet. Many in Brown’s cabinet seen it as an admission of defeat and a “Stunning failure of judgement by the opposition. This, and many other similar misjudgements, led to David Miliband and many other MP’s attempting to remove Brown from government. John Major was also seen as weak by his cabinet when he was confronted by three members of his cabinet, Peter Lilley, Michael Portillo and Michael Howard.
He was recorded referring to them as “Disloyal bastards”, however, he did not fire any of them. This led to John Redwood standing against him in the party election on the 22nd of June 1995. Despite both these failing, it shows the power that cabinet and Parliament has over the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, while not the foreign secretary, has a critical role to play in foreign affairs. If they are successful in this, they will be able to extend their power base at home and overseas, however, if they mess up, their reputation will suffer in other countries, which could lead to Parliament and Cabinet becoming less cooperative with the PM.
Cameron shown his strength for foreign affairs when he got involved in the Libyan Civil War. Due to the success and the moral standing he had in the war, his status in foreign affairs increased. The confidence of this success led him to push for intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and after giving a few Polarizing speeches, he started a vote to decide whether or not to involve the British Armed Forces in Syria. This vote was not passed due to 30 of his own MPs rebelling against him.
This shows the PM doesn’t have the presidential power to declare war without his parliament. Something the head of state can do. This shows that, while the Prime Minister’s power has become somewhat more presidential, Parliament and Cabinet still have an incredibly tight grip on the policies and legislation of the PM, and even have the power to remove him from office. This means that the PM still does not have full Presidential Powers.