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Until about thirty years ago, analysing the U. K executive was fairly straightforward. The executive was based in London and the vast bulk of its business was conducted in Westminster and Whitehall.


The core executive is the heart of the U.K state and the key driving force in U.K politics. The executive is not a government department, like the foreign and commonwealth office or the department of health, and it is not even a government office like the prime ministers office. Instead, it is a concept developed by political scientists to mark out those parts of central government that are not involved in one particular policy domain, or in supporting one specific part of government, but instead and possibly directing government policy across the whole range of business. Adopting a functional perspective, the U.K executive may be defined as cabinet (including the prime minister), Cabinet committees, major government law offices and those central elements engaged in managing the governing party’s parliamentary support base.


Parliament has ceased to be an important part of the policy process. It served merely to rubber stamp policies presented to it by the executive. Despite the low esteem in which the existing legislators are held a central part of labours package of constitutional reform was creation of more legislatures and assemblies. There are four new such bodies in the U.K operating alongside, and sometimes in competition with the Westminster and European parliaments. The four new legislatures and assemblies are; The Scottish parliament, The Northern Ireland Assembly, the national assembly for Wales and greater London assembly. It is better to see three of the new institutions, those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as legislatures that are bodies that have the ability to give assent to measures of public policy. The Greater London assembly lacks the ability to legislate.


The British constitution was widely perceived as a glorious example, to be envied by less fortunate nations, of a flexible and adaptable method of governing a modern democracy with the consent of the governed. The principle role of the monarch had already become almost entirely a ceremonial and symbolic one as head of state, the king or queen reigned but did not rule. The post Victorian monarchy was required to act on the advice of the prime minister and maintain a political neutral stance in public.


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For two decades or more after 145 it was believed that the flexible, unwritten British was infinitely superior to the rigid written constitution of the United States and Western Europe. The unitary, centralised British system of parliamentary democracy with strong cabinets well served by a permanent independent civil service recruited on merit and directly accountable to a sovereign parliament appeared far preferable to systems with strict separation of powers.


The constitution flows from five sources, royal prerogative, statutes, common law, conventions and authoritative opinion.


The royal prerogative is a set of privileges enjoyed exclusively by monarchs since medieval times. Political prerogative are the most important to the efficient constitution and include the right to declare war or make peace, pardon criminals, dissolve parliament, appoint ministers and assent to legislation. The statue is ordinary law passed by parliament. It is acceptable that a law intended to change the constitution it is not required to undergo any special procedures, as is usually the case under written constitutions. Common law accounts for the greatest part of the constitution. Common law is formed on the basis of precedent, from an accumulation of decisions made by judges in specific legal cases throughout history. Two great virtues claimed for the common law of the constitution are its reflection of the wisdom of the past and its independence from the political process. Conventions have no legal basis and are not enforceable in the courts. All states must evolve convention to breathe life into their constitution to make them flexible. Conventions are important in Britain as they regulate the key processes of government.


I will now discuss the role of the cabinet and the prime minister.


The modern cabinet is able to trace its origins back to the middle ages and the Privy Council, a group chosen by the monarch to give him advise on affairs of the state. In the eighteenth century the cabinet gradually freed itself from the domination of the monarchy. After 18 it was increasingly chosen to reflect the preferences registered at general elections and the mood of the House of Commons; in effect, elections rather than the wishes of the monarch decided the government of the day. During the nineteenth century the rise of organised political parties and the emergence of a dominant prime minister influenced the character of the cabinet. The cabinet is a committee, which has both political and executive functions. The functions derive from the fact that cabinet ministers are usually the head of the major government departments as well as being political heavy weights. Although they are united by membership of a political party, some at least are rivals of the prime minister for the leadership. References to British government being an elective dictatorship pay tribute to the dominant position of the cabinet and prime minister today. The sovereignty of the House of Commons is in fact vested in the majority party and its leadership i.e. the cabinet.


The cabinet is where major decisions are made or ratified and in which interdepartmental conflicts are resolved. Two affec





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