The Limits to Prime Ministerial Autonomy: Cameron and the Constraints of Coalition

Bennister, M. and Heffernan, R. (2015). The Limits to Prime Ministerial Autonomy: Cameron and the Constraints of Coalition. Parliamentary Affairs, 68(1) pp. 25–41.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsu013

Abstract

In heading up a coalition David Cameron has had to confront two unusual constraints that prevent him from being a dominant prime minister. The first constraint, something unfamiliar to previous prime ministers, is his having to work with and through a coalition partner firmly placed to the Conservatives’ left. The second constraint, equally problematic but more familiar, is that Cameron has faced a restive Conservative parliamentary party in which a sizable minority of Tory MPs remained unreconciled to his political agenda. These two interrelated constraints mean Cameron has lacked the freedom of manoeuvre enjoyed by most past prime ministers. Two aspects of Cameron’s premiership help cast light on his predicament: first, his relations with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats and second, the nature of his dependency upon Conservative MPs. We look at these in turn and conclude by assessing Cameron’s effectiveness as prime minister.

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