The United Kingdom

  • Martin Burch


The cabinet is often characterised as the supreme decision-making body in central government (Haldane, 1918). Some have seen it as the ‘major instrument of government’, the source of most legislative and administrative decisions, and the body that is most fully involved in the major decisions of government (Mackintosh, 1977). This conventional view of the cabinet emphasises its position ‘at the apex of the executive’ (Gordon Walker, 1973) and its control over policy-making and the oversight of government business (Bagehot, 1963). In practice, the cabinet’s position is not always as substantial as the conventional view suggests. There are very clear limits of competence and capacity which constrain the cabinet’s decision-making potential. Moreover, the importance of the cabinet varies according to its complexion, the circumstances in which it operates and the style of leadership to which it is subject. It is this inherent variability that is one of the most remarkable features of cabinet government in Britain.


Prime Minister Civil Servant Labour Party Conservative Party Cabinet Member 
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© Jean Blondel and Ferdinand Müller-Rommel 1997

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  • Martin Burch

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