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The Sources of Prime Ministerial Power

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9 The Sources of Prime Ministerial Power

The Prime Minister has a wide range of both formal and informal sources of political power, but which are the most significant and important? Among the most significant are the following:

 Prime Ministers have significant powers of patronage, particularly in terms of appointing, promoting and demoting all ministers and members of the government, including Cabinet members.

 In their role as party leaders Prime Ministers normally enjoy the broad loyalty and support of party members in government, Parliament and across the wider country as a whole.

 Prime Ministers receive various institutional supports and sources of expertise, the most important of which are the Prime Minister's Office and the Cabinet Office. In recent years this has led to a significant increase in spin-doctors, policy experts and special advisers.

 Due to their high profile position, Prime Ministers have direct access to the media and can control and influence government communication and news management. Their role is increasingly the focus of the media and its 24 hours news focus which increasingly emphasises personalities in politics.

 Prime Ministers are in a position to manage and control the Cabinet and the Cabinet system. This position is achieved through the chairing of the Cabinet setting the agenda, summing up Cabinet decisions, the creation and appointment of Cabinet Committees using the Cabinet through bilateral, informal meetings ('sofa government') and so on.

 Prerogative powers are a key source of ministerial power, particularly the Prime Minister's pre-eminent position in foreign policy and representing the country in international relations, a key role that has been inherited from the monarch. Prime Ministers have also gained enhanced power from their charismatic leadership and relationship with the electorate that can be viewed as having a personal mandate. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair have been credited with this kind of appeal.

There are no right or wrong answers to this task. Decide which you think are the most significant sources of Prime Ministerial power and give your reasons for each.

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