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Boris Johnson and the pros and cons of presidential style

Mike McCartney

9th November 2021

There was a great article in The Guardian recently that acts as another reminder of the fact that the presidentialisation of the office of PM is a double-edged sword.

The pros and cons of presidential style

Professor Michael Foley over twenty years ago developed his thesis of the British presidency. This was predicated on the idea that UK leaders co-opted the tactics used by US presidents to overcome the constitutional limits on their powers, and it was only in this context could we understand the successes and failures of British Prime Ministers. Techniques included portraying themselves as outsiders, exploiting media in its myriad guises, and so on.

And then there is the quasi-Head of State thesis, where PMs will seek to make the most of opportunities to be photographed in the presence of other world leaders at international summits.

On the other hand, when a PM tries to relentlessly exploit the media and things start to go wrong, there is only one person to point the finger at.

And so to the article printed recently, in the wake of the screeching U-turn on the MPs’ standards issue.

The headline tells you pretty much says it all :“Charge … retreat! Boris Johnson’s top U-turns in No 10

PM’s overnight rethink on MPs’ standards adds to long list of very public second thoughts.”

So, as I was reading this list of U-turns by the current government, it is the case that some of the policy reversals were announced by Johnson’s cabinet colleagues, but ultimately it is very much his government.

Here is the full list…

Charge … retreat! Boris Johnson’s top U-turns in No 10 | Boris Johnson | The Guardian

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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