US President and the British Prime Minister

The office is what the holder chooses to make of it. Access the accuracy of this statement in relation to the US President and the British Prime Minister. This is certainly true of the British example; we only have to look at our present Prime Minister, Blair to see how he has moulded the office to suit himself, and subsequently been dubbed by the press as "President" Blair. However, the American example seems somewhat less malleable as under the US Constitution, many checks and balances are in place to prevent a President becoming too powerful.

Is the argument true that Blair's style of government is presidential? There is certainly substantial evidence to warrant such a conclusion. Blair's persona seems to be one that is well above that of the general image and public perception of the Labour party. Blair has an image of being a world statesman perhaps even more so than George Bush. This can be seen after the events of September 11th as we watched Blair travel the world to discuss its implications with world leaders.

This seems odd as should this not have been Bush's job since the attack was on the United States, not the United States, it is also arguable that Blair has been stepping on the toes of Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, in his actions. Blair certainly appears to be the main man of British government, but theoretically he is merely first among equals. Blair lacks the mandate that Bush has since unlike Bush he is not elected directly by the people. His constituents have elected him as a mere MP, it is the Labour party which have placed him in such a pivotal position, so he needs to keep his party happy or they will remove him.

An example of this is when the Conservatives removed Thatcher from her Prime Ministerial position in 1990, since they no longer supported her as party leader. Bush, on the other hand, is under no party obligation; his obligation is one directly to the people. Even so he cannot be removed before his four year term is up, unless by the legislature, for misconduct, through the impeachment process, though it is an extremely rare occurrence for a president to face impeachment.

In the British system elections take place when the Prime Minister says so, this usually is somewhere around a four/five year period. It gives him a significant advantage in the election since, he is most likely to go to the polls when his party are riding high in the popularity ratings. However, as long as Blair keeps his party happy they are of a huge benefit to him especially with the large majority they hold in the House of Commons, therefore he is able to get bills passed through the House with very little difficulty.

It seems rather absurd to completely agree with the argument put forward which claims Blair acts in a presidential manner. If he was really the "power-freak", as is often implied by the media, why has it been under his government that devolution has occurred? Clearly, as Rose argues these devolved governments reduce the capacity of the centre to control. This has a result means that modern Prime Ministers are forced to become more involved in management and overall coordination rather than concentrating on the development of policy.

A major difference between Bush and Blair is that Blair has to work with a core executive, the cabinet, or at least consult a smaller "kitchen" cabinet, Bush on the other hand is in a position where he is free to be completely single minded. Nevertheless, as I've previously mentioned Bush has the constraints of checks and balances that are in place under the Constitution. This prevents him from having the room to gain too much power or to act in a tyrannical manner.

These checks and balances provide a very clear picture of what specific powers the president has and what his limitations are, unlike with the British system where the job of Prime Minister lacks a clear job description. Due to the lack of a rigid description of the Prime Minister's role, it is subsequently up till him/her to interpret their role in whatever manner they see fit. Therefore it is perhaps easier for the Prime Minister to make something of his office than it is for the US President since the latter position, is much more rigid.

Even so the British Prime Minister too is accountable as he comes under scrutiny and has to answer difficult questions from knowledgeable people at Prime Minister's Question Time as well as twice a year in select committees. Cabinet is a very useful example in Blair's use of the Prime Ministerial office. Under his leadership, cabinet meetings have become brief and increasingly infrequent. Blair does not seem to feel the need to consult with cabinet; he appears to do things very much his own way.

An example of him doing this is when he went ahead with the building of the Millenium Dome when clearly the majority of cabinet were against this, cabinet is a mere talking shop under Blair. It lacks authority, especially since Blair prefers one on ones, as this way he is less likely to meet opposition, or as mentioned above he increasingly works in small "kitchen cabinets". Dennis Kavanagh feels that Blair simply regards Cabinet as a reporting body, and he finds it difficult to think of any other Prime Minister who has shown so little regard for the Cabinet.