A Level Politics

Improving your grade

The limits of prime ministerial power

Posted by Matt Walker on June 8, 2009

image These are torrid and fascinating times to start writing a politics blog. It is also a dangerous and risky time for those who wish to predict the outcome of current events. It is tempting to predict one way or another whether Gordon Brown will survive, and take a fifty-fifty risk on the future of this blog. But that would be foolish. Events have moved so quickly during the past week, not least because of so many Cabinet resignations, and two election thumpings for Labour.

Tonight the Parliamentary party will meet to discuss what should be done about Gordon Brown’s leadership. If there are sufficient rebels (70 is the number being widely touted), then this could force a prolonged leadership challenge, unless Brown decides to step down. If Brown can see off this challenge, he will seem much more secure then he did only a few days ago, having already seen off his Cabinet challengers. For now.

On the AS course, students will be familiar with the question of prime ministerial power and whether prime ministers are more like presidents these days. Perhaps the current political crisis should act as a warning that prime ministers are not all powerful in all circumstances. Prime ministerial power has its restraints, as even Thatcher and Blair discovered to their cost.

As former prime minister, Harold Macmillan once put it, “events dear boy, events”, and it is events which have really undermined Brown, both politically and economically. And unfortunately for Brown, he seems to lack the necessary charisma and public support to be able take events by the scruff of the neck.


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