The Prime Minister
There are three requirements that the Prime Minister must fulfil. First the must be a member of parliament, it is convention that came about, as a result of the House of Commons being the dominant chamber, that they are a member of the House of Commons. Secondly they then must be leader of a political party. Finally, the PM must, usually, have a majority of seats in the House of Commons.
Role of the Prime Minister
The PM is in charge of directing the government, by setting priorities and a broad strategy. They are expected to, at least shape, policy, especially for high profile issues.
They are expected to provide national leadership in times of crisis, such as war or terrorist attacks. The heightened media focus has emphasised this in recent years, as it has increased the role as communicator in chief for the government.
Appointing the government
They determine the membership of their cabinet and are able to appoint or dismiss ministers.
Chairing the cabinet
They chair cabinet meetings and set the agenda for them, whilst also steering its decisions. They are able to make appointments to cabinet committees and bilateral meetings with cabinet members.
Managing the executive
They are responsible for the organisation of government and they are the head of the civil service. Therefore they can create and merge different government departments and reform the civil service.
Managing relations with parliament
They make statements to parliament and they answer questions in parliament, they are also expected to steer the legislative programme.
Representing the UK international affairs
They stand on behalf of the UK at EU meetings and international meetings with other leaders.
Powers of the Prime Minister
The PM is the only cabinet minister with the power of patronage; whish is to appoint an individual to an important position. The most significant of these is to appoint someone to be a cabinet minister. In recent years the PM’s other powers of patronage has been substantially reduced.
Judicial and ecclesiastical appointments. The Brown government reduced this power; the PM now has no role for judicial appointments and is only given one name for ecclesiastical appointments.
The Honours system. After the ‘cash for honours’ scandal, this was reduced, but Blair announced that the PM would accept the final list that was put forward by the independent honours committee.
Life Peers. They are able to appoint people to the Lords, and this may happen if they wish them to be a member of the cabinet. For example, in the Brown government, he gave portfolios and life peerages to 5 prominent figures that were not politicians, (such as Sir Digby Jones) although they made little impact in office. The PM nominates political nominations, such as Blair did just before the reform. Although, an independent appointments commissions makes non-party appointments.
Appointing cabinet ministers.
The PM has the power to appoint and dismiss the cabinet ministers, which is a crucial advantage over colleagues. The conservative party gives its leader a free hand in appointing members, although the labour party when forming cabinet after being in opposition must select them from the shadow cabinet. This tied Blair’s hands in 1997, but not after. Therefore in theory they can have an ideal cabinet but in practice this is not true, for example Cameron had to appoint 5 liberal Democrat ministers including Nick Clegg as his deputy Prime Minister. Furthermore they are unlikely to overlook senior party figures that may be rivals for their job. For example both John Prescott and Margaret Becket lost to Blair, although they were both appointed seats in his cabinet. As well as this, the PM will assure that there are ideological considerations from across the party in their cabinet. Thatcher had both economic ‘wets’ in her cabinet…