The Core of the Core: Relations between the Prime Minister and the Cabinet

  • Martin J. Smith
Part of the Transforming Government book series (TRGO)


Discussions concerning Prime Minister—cabinet relations have rarely been elevated above the issue of whether prime-ministerial government or — more recently — presidentialism has replaced cabinet government (see Thomas 1998). It is hard to question Peter Hennessy’s view (1994: 437) that the debate is one of most ‘pronounced sufferers’ of the malaise of ‘premature staleness’ that affects topics of academic debate. In fact, the debate is essentially irresolvable, because its participants believe that power can be fixed to the cabinet or the Prime Minister, and therefore fail to understand the complexities of core executive relations. This chapter will break out of the intellectual impasse, by not focusing on the personality of the Prime Minister. Rather, it will argue that:
  • the Prime Minister operates in a context that is structured by institutions and outside political and economic factors;

  • the Prime Minister has more resources than other actors but is dependent on other actors and resource exchanges to achieve goals;

  • other actors and institutions within the core executive have resources;

  • because the Prime Minister is dependent on other actors, his or her success depends to some extent on strategies and tactics.


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Copyright information

© Martin J. Smith 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin J. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldUK

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