The British Prime Minister: More Than First Among Equals

Heffernan, Richard and Webb, Paul (2007). The British Prime Minister: More Than First Among Equals. In: Poguntke, Thomas and Webb, Paul eds. The Presidentialization of Politics: A Comparative Study of Modern Democracies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 26–62.



Reviews a wide range of evidence to demonstrate three things. First, election campaigns have become more candidate-centered, with parties offering leaders greater prominence in their election campaigns and the media devoting greater attention to them. This development seems to have taken place since 1960, which coincides with the spread of mass access to television in Britain, and the erosion of class politics. Second, today’s major-party leaders are in significant ways more strongly placed to exert intra-party power than they were in 1980, much as we might expect of electoral-professional organizations. Third, and perhaps most important, it seems likely that the potential for prime ministerial power within the state’s political executive has been enhanced because of structural changes that have generated a larger and more integrated ‘executive office’ under his or her control since 1970.

Of course, these developments have occurred in the context of a highly partified form of parliamentarism. Thus, it is not contended simply that Prime Ministers have become completely indistinguishable from Presidents, but rather, that a number of changes have occurred that are mutually consistent with the working logic of presidentialism.

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