The Links between Cabinets and Parties and Cabinet Decision-Making

  • Lieven Winter


Almost as soon as parties emerged, the assessment of the impact of these bodies on the composition, functioning, structure, and output of cabinets was a subject of concern and controversy. This impact is so marked that cabinet government is indeed often described as being party government:1

The battle between cabinet and parties is a battle to occupy the centre of the political terrain. The traditional (British) view suggests that the cabinet is central; yet, even in Britain, when Labour is in power, this ‘axiom’ becomes a mere postulate about which there is some doubt. The validity of the postulate is even more questionable when one considers Belgium, Finland, Italy, Germany, or the Netherlands.2


Prime Minister Coalition Government Party Leader Labour Party Party Government 
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  1. 1.
    See Chapter 1, note 3, for a reference to the literature on ‘party government’. See also the bibliography on p. 320.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Blondel and F. Müller Rommel (1988), p. 11.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Chapter 1.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Or in the case of a minority government the cabinet must be at least able to rely on a positive attitude on the part of a majority of MPs.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    R. B. Andeweg (1988a), p. 62.Google Scholar
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    P. Gerlich and W. C. Miller (1988), p. 146.Google Scholar
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    M. Cotta (1988), pp. 135-6.Google Scholar
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    F. Müller-Rommel (1988a), p. 166.Google Scholar
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    About three ministers out of ten report to have no, or infrequent, relations with their parliamentary party.Google Scholar
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    Less than weekly but at least once a month.Google Scholar
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    W. C. Müller (1990), pp. 16-19.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 20. Parliamentary parties have become less disciplined and also more influential.Google Scholar
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    B. Farrell (1988), p. 41.Google Scholar
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    Yet competition between ministers and party groups was reported to be significant by conservative ministers only (60 per cent).Google Scholar
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    D. Arter (1983), pp. 102-3.Google Scholar
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    E. Damgaard (1990), pp. 6-7.Google Scholar
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    On the other hand, decision-making processes within parliamentary parties are also closely connected to, and sometimes determined by, policy decisions of the party organisation. See T. Saalfelf (1990), p. 4.Google Scholar
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    As is well known, Italian parties are often divided into factions: the system of preference voting also strengthens the tendency towards rebellious behaviour on the part of individual MPs.Google Scholar
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    D. Arter (1983), pp. 204-5.Google Scholar
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    Ministers from Democrats ‘66 did not attend regular meetings of the parliamentary party, but the leader of the parliamentary party in the Second chamber did meet weekly with the ministers of his party; these ministers did enjoy a substantial autonomy vis-à-vis the backbenchers.Google Scholar
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    F. Müller-Rommel (1988a), p. 163.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 158.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jean Blondel and Ferdinand Müller-Rommel 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lieven Winter

There are no affiliations available

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