PM Government or Cabinet Government
There are three competing models of British government:
· Prime ministerial government This suggests that the prime minister is dominant, controls the cabinet and the whole policy-making process.
· Cabinet government This implies that the cabinet remains the centre of power and the main source of policy making. Though the prime minister is the senior member, ultimately the cabinet controls all policy. This relationship describes the PM as 'Primus Inter Pares' First Among Equals.
-Core Executive, this model sees power as much more fluid and shared between different parts of the government-Cabinet, Senior Civil Servants, PM, Ministers and their departments. In some areas the PM dominates and in others individual ministers have control.
The Cabinet Remains an Important Body
The Cabinet approves government decisions, so confers legitimacy on them in the eyes of Parliament and the public. A minister who cannot accept the agreed line, such as Robin Cook over the Iraq War, should resign from the Cabinet.
On important issues, the PM recognises the need for Cabinet support. After completing his renegotiation of the UK's membership of the EU in 2016, Cameron presented the deal to a full Cabinet meeting. The Cabinet is also important in times of national crisis, such as a military conflict, although (as in the Falklands War in 1982) day-to-day decisions may be taken by a smaller 'War Cabinet' of key ministers and armed service leaders, whose decisions are then reported to the full Cabinet.
The Cabinet is where the programme of government business in Parliament is discussed. In theory, it is where disagreements between government departments are resolved.
The UK does not have a 'presidential' system in reality, even if it has some characteristics of one. The fall of Thatcher demonstrates the continuing importance of keeping the support of the Cabinet
The PM is dominant
Decisions are commonly taken by Cabinet committees, hand-picked by the PM, or in small groups and bilateral meetings, such as the 1997 Blair/Brown decision to hand control of interest rates to the Bank of England. Cabinet 'rubber stamps' decisions were taken elsewhere. Blair was accused of 'Sofa politics' by making decisions informally in his flat. PMs have increasingly used bilateral decision making i.e meeting key ministers to make decisions rather than discussion in cabinet.
The PM controls the agenda and length of Cabinet meetings (less than an hour under some PMs). It only meets once a week, and then only while Parliament is sitting, unless an emergency occurs. Most ministers do not feel qualified, and are too immersed in their own departments, to be able to offer an informed view on the detail of matters outside their remit. Most are reluctant to challenge the PM, who has the power to dismiss or demote ministers..
In practice, disputes are usually resolved outside the Cabinet, in committees or by the intervention of the PM (for example, Cameron's settlement of the 2011 clash between Chris Huhne, Energy Secretary, and Vince Cable, Business Secretary, on the level of carbon emission targets to which the UK should sign up).
The Media focus heavilly on the PM. (for example, in the televised leadership debates in the 2010 and 2015 elections). Modern PMs tend to project themselves as national leaders, separate from the
institutions of government, and with a personal mandate from the people for action.
The Cabinet is formally responsible for policy-making. However, in recent times it has been more usual for decisions to be taken elsewhere, and it is often claimed that the executive is now dominated by the prime minister to an undue degree. Some commentators have argued that the result has been the rise of presidential government — the idea that leadership is becoming much more personalised, and that prime ministers are distant from, and much less dependent on, traditional institutions such as the Cabinet.