It seems fair to argue that the PM dominates the central executive territory at the heart of the British political system. The PM has in recent years been accused of presidentialism, making less use of Cabinet, with important decisions been made elsewhere such as in bilaterals (the classic case is “Sofa government” under Blair), increasing the power and status of special advisers, and so forth. These are all ideas that students are familiar with, they sound fairly exciting, and invite easy discussion
And therefore it takes longer to get to grips with what Cabinet does since it is less in the public eye. But Cabinet, and yes this does depend to some extent on how the PM chooses to use the body as collective organ, does still perform some important functions, such as co-ordinating the government’s legislative timetable, dealing with political strategy, keeping ministers up-to-date with latest developments from arenas such as the UN and so on.
Another function of Cabinet is to deal with emergencies, with senior Cabinet members and relevant members of outside bodies (such as the military) in attendance. These special meetings are organised under the term “Cobra”, and one such example happened today. When I first heard about Cobra I imagined high pressured meetings taking place with a giant Cobra symbol on the wall behind the PM. Then I discovered what the acronym stood for. Very disappointing. (That’s a little bit of research for readers who don’t know.)
So, there you go, a very up-to-date example: today’s meeting on dodgy packages in cargo. If you missed the story I am referring to, see here.
If you are on the look out for resources, here is a list of British politics text books I found useful in teaching.
A damning indictment on the English education system by a respected think tank. But it is not all doom and gloomread more...»