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Can Prime Ministers Govern?

The elusive search for executive power Patrick Weller Griffith University October 2013. Can Prime Ministers Govern?. The Handover.

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Can Prime Ministers Govern?

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  1. The elusive search for executive power • Patrick Weller • Griffith University • October 2013 Can Prime Ministers Govern?

  2. The Handover

  3. ‘He’ll sit here and he’ll say: ‘Do this, do that’. And nothing will happen. Poor Ike, it won’t be anything like the army. He will find it very frustrating… I sit here all day trying to persuade people to do things they ought to have sense enough to do without my persuading them…That’s all the powers of the Presidency amount to’. President Truman on Eisenhower

  4. He did everything alone…whilst those ciphers of the Cabinet signed everything he dictated…without the least share of honour or power…It was known that this minister, having obtained a sole influence over all our public counsels, has not only got the sole direction of all public affairs but has got every officer of state removed that would not follow his direction, even in the affairs belonging to his own proper department. (Samuel Sandys, House of Commons 1741) Britain

  5. A cabinet of cyphers and a government of one man alone’ (Granville on Pitt 1806) Britain

  6. ‘…sole Minister and decidedly superior to all…. Ministers dare not have an opinion, but must move either to the right or the left as this Dictator thinks proper’. (Duke of Wellington, PM 1828-30) Britain

  7. The discussion was lengthy and eventually became so wearisome that I interposed, informing my colleagues that they had made me sufficiently acquainted with their views, that the duty of decision rested with me, and that I would subsequently make them acquainted with my conclusion. (Robert Borden, PM, WWI) Canada

  8. The story went around that when Bennett was seen mumbling to himself he was holding a cabinet meeting; ‘he was not above asking the opinions of others, he was just above accepting them’. (R. B.Bennett, PM 1930s) Canada

  9. Who decided now? Why, that modern autocrat, the premier. Why should the direct representatives of the people delegate to one man that power and those responsibilities with which they have been entrusted by the people? (Australian Constitutional Convention Debates, September 1897) Australia

  10. Politics finds its sources not only in power, but also in uncertainty – men collectively wondering what to do….. Governments not only ‘power’, they also puzzle. Policy making is a form of collective puzzlement on society’s behalf: it entails both deciding and knowing. (Hugh Heclo, 1972) Governing

  11. There are lots of things people want you to do, and lots of things you should do, and any number of things you can do, but very few things you have to do. It’s up to you; you are the boss. (Bernard Woolley in ‘Yes, Prime Minister’) The job description

  12. Scheduling: the prerogatives • Choice: the priorities • Trust: limited • Information: uncertain, untested, ambiguous • Time pressures: often driven by external events • Assistance: PMO and APS, using modern technology The Challenges

  13. Cabinet: support, policy coherence and ambition • Party: nervous and ideological • Parliament: contested • Media: antagonistic • Electorate: intractable • States: uncooperative • Global community: the challenge of the middle(?) power The stages on which PMs act

  14. Non-sequential, can occur in any order • Defining • Trusting • Knowing • Deciding • Persuading • Selling PMs and Puzzling

  15. The image of prime ministers is one of great power. That picture is true if the individual has the powers of persuasion, the skills of manipulation, the vision to direct, the ambition to drive and the energy to work. Then, and only then, may the prime minister turn all that potential into results Almighty?

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