To what extent has the Blair premiership validated the Crossman thesis?

Essay by SteveH01762University, Bachelor'sB, March 2004

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In 1963 a Labour MP, Richard Crossman wrote an introduction to a new edition of 'The English Constitution' (1867). In his introduction he outlines his argument for the development of the British premiership from the traditional 'primus inter pares' to a presidentialism. In this essay I am going to show that the Blair premiership does not validate the Crossman thesis, it instead continues the long running trend of strengthening the office of prime minister. Crossman believed that the power of the British prime minister had grown so great that it had effectively become presidential. It is true that the power of the British prime minister is considerable, but how the office holder is able to exercise the power is dependant on many continually changing variables. Therefore I believe that Crossman makes generalisations about the British premiership that are too sweeping and do not allow for the political constraints on prime ministerial power to be noted.

To understand the Crossman thesis, I feel it is important to be able to draw a distinction between the legal and constitutional factors which underpin presidential and parliamentary systems of government. I am going to look at three fundamental factors that identify a regime as presidential and compare them to parliamentary regimes in order to highlight the features that Tony Blair must adopt to become a truly presidential figure. In presidential systems the head of state is popularly elected but independently from the legislature, due to this mandate from the people the president is able to assume the position as the chief actor in the political executive. In contrast with presidential systems, parliamentary regimes like the United Kingdom draw the executive from the legislature meaning that the electorate has only indirect influence over who becomes the head of government. This is where the prime ministers...