To what extent has the Westminster Parliament been marginalised by an overly powerful executive?
Kate Doyle – 7637213
Who Runs Britain? Power, Politics and Beyond - 1718 POL1100M-1718
The legislative branch of the Westminister parliament consists of two chambers, The House of Commons and The House of Lords, the executive branch being The Government (the Prime Minister and the Cabinet). The extent to which the Westminister Parliament has been marginalised by an overly powerful executive is often a polarising argument amongst academics with many arguing that that the main function of parliament itself is to hold the government to account and check the executive power whereas others argue that many aspects of the political process in the UK, including what they consider to be an overly powerful executive in the form of leadership style, constrain the power and overall effectiveness of parliament resulting in parliament becoming ‘totally irrelevant’ (King and Crewe, 2013, p. 361). Whilst the extent to which the parliament of Westminister has been marginalised by an overly powerful executive largely depends on each individual election, parliamentary term and Prime Ministerial style, the evidence I will present in this essay overwhelmingly suggest that The Parliament of Westminister has in fact not been marginalised by an overly powerful executive.
When discussing the supposed weakening or marginalising of parliament many people refer to the style of leadership undertaken in the premierships of former prime ministers Tony Blair (1997 - 2007) and Margaret Thatcher (1997 - 1990). The style of leadership of both of these past leaders of government have been widely compared to each other and often referred to as ‘presidential’ or ‘Spatial’. Meaning that their personal and individual role as head of the executive and party became a large part of their style of leadership. This has recently come to be referred to as the ‘cult of personality’. Furthermore, they were seen to be dismissive of the advice democratically elected officials such as members of parliament and more closely, members of their own party and even members of the cabinet, which they themselves had selected, on certain issues, e.g. under Blair the cabinet rarely met more than once a week’ (Jones and Norton, 2014). For example, one policy introduced under (Blair’s) new labour’s vision of modernisation with regards to the commons was the grouping of the two 15 minute Prime Ministers Questions sessions held each week, on Tuesday and Thursday since 1961 (Guardian, 1998), to a single weekly half an hour slot. The reason this is a clear example of a more presidential style is that the policy and reform were ‘introduced by diktat rather than consultation and agreement’ (Cowley, 2001). This is often a consideration highlighted by those who believe that to a large extent parliament has been marginalised by a powerful executive because with a majority of four hundred and eight...