Presidentialism in Britain and Australia

Essay by SarahpenelopeCollege, UndergraduateB-, April 2004

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Presidentialism in Britain and Australia

Examine the "presidentialisation" of parliamentary electoral politics in Britain and Australia. What are the implications vis-a-vis party politics and party-oriented politics?

A large proportion of what is called politics in both Australia and Britain is identified with political parties. The system demands it; you can not be Prime Minister without your party having a majority in the Lower House. However, popular and media views identify the prosperity of the respective country, various events and the achievements of a National government all upon the success or failure of the Prime Minister. Hence, there are a great many people who discuss the so-called 'presidentialisation' of Australian and British politics. Since the introduction of television, Prime Ministers and Opposition Leaders have been used to represent their whole party in order to get their message across in the shortest possible amount of time. Thus the term 'presidentialisation' refers to this increasingly common phenomenon, whereby the importance of the political party is moved to the background in favour of a single figurehead - the Prime Minister.

In this essay I plan to examine and discuss the "presidentialisation" of parliamentary electoral politics in Britain and Australia by looking at what is accountable for this 'phenomenon': both why it is occurring and how parties are carrying it out. I will also be exploring the implications of this in regard to the traditional party-oriented politics.

Britain and Australia's parliamentary systems require that parties are made responsible for their actions to the voters and 'it is therefore parties that should be either rewarded or punished by the electorate for their performance.' (McAllistair 1992 p.187) The "presidentialisation" of Australian and British politics can clearly be traced back to the introduction of television. 'In the 1950s, most researchers regarded the party and its leader as virtually...