This chapter offers a clear introduction to the history, constitutional structure, and powers of the modern executive in European countries. It provides an overview of the constitutional position of the political executive in parliamentary and semi-presidential democracies, then charts variations in the powers of key actors (including prime ministers, cabinets, and presidents) and their political implications for conflict within government, cabinet stability, and policy processes. The text complements its coverage of the political executive with an analysis of the civil service and the political challenges of controlling it, and concludes with a comprehensive assessment of the rise in executive autonomy and its political implications in the twenty-first century.
Wolfgang C. Müller
This chapter examines the decision-making modes of governments and their capacities to govern, with particular emphasis on bureaucracies that support governments in their tasks of ruling and administrating the country. It first presents the relevant definitions before discussing different modes of government that reflect the internal balance of power: presidential government, cabinet government, prime ministerial government, and ministerial government. It then considers the autonomy of government, especially from political parties and the permanent bureaucracy, along with the political capacity of governments, the relevance of unified versus divided government, majority versus minority government, and single-party versus coalition government. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the bureaucratic capacities of government, focusing on issues such as classic bureaucracy, the politicization of bureaucracies, and New Public Management systems.
UK Politics gives an introduction to this subject, providing the foundational understanding, critical perspectives, and historical knowledge needed to make sense of politics in the UK today. Part I looks at the way people are governed in the UK. This includes an analysis of the Cabinet and the Prime Minster, parliament, and the UK and human rights. Part 2 looks at how people participate in politics through examining the party system, elections, and voting. It also considers the issue of referendums. The third part is about how society affects UK politics. This part of the text examines communication and public opinion and considers identity, equality, and power. The final part is about the UK relates to the rest of the world. The key concepts here are devolution, local government, the nations and the union, and the outside world.
This chapter examines two closely connected institutions that lie at the epicentre of UK politics and these are the Cabinet and the Prime Minister (PM). The chapter considers the basic characteristics of both. It describes the way in which they operate, including policy, the functions of the Prime Ministerial role, the supporting staff, and the place of both in the UK constitution and system of government. The principle of the collective responsibility of ministers is touched upon. The chapter gives some practical examples of how selective PMs have worked with their Cabinets to demonstrate how these theories can play out in practical terms. The chapter also provides historical material to illuminate the background to the issues it considers. Finally, the chapter asks: is collective government, that is, government by a group rather than a single leader, the right approach for the UK today? The chapter also touches on the issue of Brexit and questions what we have learnt from the Brexit experience in terms of the UK political system.
This chapter examines the normative question of what kind of organization the College of Commissioners, the European Commission’s most political level, should be: a policy entrepreneur, an honest broker, a manager of decisions taken by others, or an engine of integration. It first traces the origins and history of the College of Commissioners before discussing its structure, focusing on the President, the college itself, and the cabinets. It then considers the Commission’s powers and its influence over most ‘history-making’ decisions about the broad sweep of European integration. The chapter also explores the politics underlying the Presidency by looking at the case of two controversial presidents of the Commission, Jacques Santer and Jean-Claude Juncker. It argues that the Commission and most of what it does have always been highly politicized despite its ambitions to be an honest broker between national interests and an independent guardian of the European Union’s Treaties.