Prime Minister

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Posted by kaori 04/01/2009 @ 21:13

Tags : prime minister, politics, canada, world

News headlines
Pope meets Israeli prime minister in Nazareth (Extra) - Monsters and
Nazareth, Israel - Pope Benedict XVI met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Nazareth Thursday, as he continued his visit to the biblical hometown of Jesus Christ. No details were immediately released on the issues discussed between the two...
Indian Prime Minister Singh's daughter turned her guns on ... - The Sikh Times, UK
Washington - New York based Amrit Singh daughter of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh turned her guns on President Barack Obama for his decision to fight to block the court-ordered release of photographs of detainee abuse by US troops in Iraq,...
Netanyahu sees Abdullah in prelude to Obama talks - Washington Post
By Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared on Thursday for what could be confrontational White House talks by visiting an Arab neighbor concerned over his reluctance to endorse Palestinian statehood....
Zimbabwe Launches 100-Day Recovery Plan - Voice of America
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai officially launched the plan at a ceremony in Harare. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara explained the plan was already underway. "It is a management tool we are trying to use to implement ideas," said Mutambara....
British and Pakistani Leaders Discuss Anti-Taliban Campaign - Voice of America
By Tom Rivers The conflict between Pakistani forces and Taliban fighters in the North-West Frontier Province topped the agenda as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown held talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at 10 Downing Street....
Can AK Antony be a compromise prime minister candidate? - Economic Times
Our assessment says that he will be an acceptable face of both the parties and bridge the faith gap between them," said the official. hardline faction, as the nuclear deal with the US was powered by the prime minister. Communist Party of India-Marxist...
Yesterday in parliament -
The prime minister backed a call from David Cameron that MPs' expense claims should be published online as soon as they are put in to improve transparency. After a wave of public anger over the disclosure of dozens of claims by MPs, Gordon Brown said...
Hamas, Fatah Talk Unity but Reject Faya'd as Prime Minister - The Media Line
The formation of a new Palestinian Authority government has been delayed after both Fatah and Hamas objected to Prime Minister Salam Faya'd continuing in office to head a new caretaker coalition. Faya'd, an independent who previously served as finance...
Malaysian Prime Minister, 454 Celebrate Oil Palm Genome - Bio-IT World
May 13, 2009 | The Malaysian Prime Minister led a landmark ceremony in Kuala Lumpur yesterday to mark the success of Sime Darby, Roche/454 and Synamatix in sequencing the oil palm genome, a feat that the Malaysian government hopes will result in a...
Israeli Prime Minister in Egypt Says "We Wish to Resume the Peace ... - Die Jüdische
I brought with me an old friend of yours and of Egypt, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. I came to Sharm el-Sheikh today in order to express the appreciation of the new Government in Israel towards Egypt and towards you,...

Prime minister

Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister of Canada

A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. The position is usually held by, but need not always be held by, a politician. In many systems, the prime minister selects and can dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the Government. In most systems, the prime minister is the presiding member and chairman of the cabinet. In a minority of systems, notably in semi-presidential systems of government, a prime minister is the official who is appointed to manage the civil service and execute the directives of the president.

In parliamentary systems fashioned after the Westminster system, the prime minister is the presiding and actual head of the government and head of the executive branch. In such systems, the head of state or the head of state's official representative (i.e the monarch, president, or governor-general), although officially the head of the executive branch, in fact holds a ceremonial position. The prime minister is often, but not always, a member of parliament and is expected with other ministers to ensure the passage of bills through the legislature. In some monarchies the monarch may also exercise executive powers (known as the royal prerogative) which are constitutionally vested in the crown and can be exercised without the approval of parliament.

As well as being head of government, a prime minister may have other roles or titles – the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, for example, is also First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service. Prime ministers may take other ministerial posts – for example during the Second World War Winston Churchill was also Minister of Defence (although there was then no Ministry of Defence). Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam was famous for forming his cabinet entirely of himself and his deputy as soon as the overall result was beyond doubt at the 1972 federal election (see First Whitlam Ministry).

The power of these ministers depended entirely on the personal favour of the monarch. Although managing the parliament was among the necessary skills of holding high office, they did not depend on a parliamentary majority for their power. Although there was a cabinet, it was appointed entirely by the monarch, and the monarch usually presided over its meetings. When the monarch grew tired of a first minister, he or she could be dismissed, or worse: Cromwell was executed and Clarendon driven into exile when they lost favour. Kings sometimes divided power equally between two or more ministers to prevent one minister becoming too powerful. Late in Anne's reign, for example, the Tory ministers Harley and St John shared power.

Walpole always denied that he was "prime minister," and throughout the 18th century parliamentarians and legal scholars continued to deny that any such position was known to the Constitution. The title was first referred to on government documents during the administration of Benjamin Disraeli but did not appear in the formal British Order of precedence until 1905. George II and George III made strenuous efforts to reclaim the personal power of the monarch, but the increasing complexity and expense of government meant that a minister who could command the loyalty of the Commons was increasingly necessary. The long tenure of the wartime Prime Minister Pitt the Younger (1783-1801), combined with the mental illness of George III, consolidated the power of the post.

The prestige of British institutions in the 19th century and the growth of the British Empire saw the British model of cabinet government, headed by a prime minister, widely copied, both in other European countries and in British colonial territories as they developed self-government. In some places alternative titles such as "premier," "chief minister," "first minister of state", "president of the council" or "chancellor" were adopted, but the essentials of the office were the same. By the late 20th century the majority of the world's countries had a prime minister or equivalent minister, holding office under either a constitutional monarchy or a ceremonial president. The main exceptions to this system have been the United States and the presidential republics in Latin America, modelled on the U.S. system, in which the president directly exercises executive authority.

In some presidential or semi-presidential systems, such as those of France, Russia or South Korea, the prime minister is an official generally appointed by the president but usually approved by the legislature and responsible for carrying out the directives of the president and managing the civil service. (The premier of the Republic of China is also appointed by the president, but requires no approval by the legislature. Appointment of the prime minister of France requires no approval by the parliament either, but the parliament can force the resignation of the government.) In these systems, it is possible for the president and the prime minister to be from different political parties if the legislature is controlled by a party different from that of the president. When it arises, such a state of affairs is usually referred to as (political) cohabitation.

In parliamentary systems a prime minister can enter into office by several means.

The position, power and status of prime ministers differ depending on the age of the constitution.

Australia's constitution makes no mention of a Prime Minister of Australia.

Canada's constitution, being a 'mixed' or hybrid constitution (a constitution that is partly formally codified and partly uncodified) originally did not make any reference whatsoever to a prime minister, with her or his specific duties and method of appointment instead dictated by "convention." In the Constitution Act, 1982, passing reference to a "Prime Minister of Canada" is added, though only regarding the composition of conferences of federal and provincial first ministers.

Germany's Basic Law (1949) lists the powers, functions and duties of the federal chancellor.

India's Constitution of India (1950) lists the powers, functions and duties of the Prime Minister of India.

Japan's Constitution of Japan (1946) lists the powers, functions and duties of the Prime Minister of Japan.

Malta's Constitution (1964) lists the powers, functions and duties of the Prime Minister of Malta.

Malaysia's Constitution of Malaysia (1957) lists the powers, functions and duties of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The Republic of Ireland's constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann (1937), provides for the office of Taoiseach in detail, listing powers, functions and duties.

The United Kingdom's constitution, being uncodified and largely unwritten, makes no mention of a prime minister. Though it had de facto existed for centuries, its first mention in official state documents did not occur until the first decade of the twentieth century. Accordingly, it is often said "not to exist", indeed there are several instances of parliament declaring this to be the case. The prime minister sits in the cabinet solely by virtue of occupying another office, either First Lord of the Treasury (office in commission), or more rarely Chancellor of the Exchequer (the last of whom was Balfour in 1905).

Most prime ministers in parliamentary systems are not appointed for a specific term in office and in effect may remain in power through a number of elections and parliaments. For example, Margaret Thatcher was only ever appointed prime minister on one occasion, in 1979. She remained continuously in power until 1990, though she used the assembly of each House of Commons after a general election to reshuffle her cabinet. Some states, however, do have a term of office of the prime minister linked to the period in office of the parliament. Hence the Irish Taoiseach is formally 'renominated' after every general election. (Some constitutional experts have questioned whether this process is actually in keeping with the provisions of the Irish constitution, which appear to suggest that a taoiseach should remain in office, without the requirement of a renomination, unless s/he has clearly lost the general election.) The position of prime minister is normally chosen from the political party that commands majority of seats in the lower house of parliament.

The latter in effect allows the government to appeal the opposition of parliament to the electorate. However in many jurisdictions a head of state may refuse a parliamentary dissolution, requiring the resignation of the prime minister and his or her government. In most modern parliamentary systems, the prime minister is the person who decides when to request a parliamentary dissolution. Older constitutions often vest this power in the cabinet. (In the United Kingdom, for example, the tradition whereby it is the prime minister who requests a dissolution of parliament dates back to 1918. Prior to then, it was the entire government that made the request. Similarly, though the modern 1937 Irish constitution grants to the Taoiseach the right to make the request, the earlier 1922 Irish Free State Constitution vested the power in the Executive Council (the then name for the Irish cabinet).

Different terms are used to describe prime ministers. In Germany and Austria the prime minister is actually titled federal chancellor (Bundeskanzler) while the Irish prime minister is called An Taoiseach (which is rendered into English as prime minister), and in Israel he is 'Rosh Memshalah' meaning head of government. In many cases, though commonly used, "prime minister" is not the official title of the office-holder; the Spanish prime minister is the President of the Government (Presidente del Gobierno) and the British First Lord of the Treasury. Other common forms include president of the council of ministers (for example in Italy, Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri), President of the Executive Council, or Minister-President. In the Scandinavian countries the prime minister is called statsminister in the native languages (i.e. state minister). In federations, the head of government of subnational entities such as provinces is most commonly known as the premier, chief minister, governor or minister-president.

In non-Commonwealth countries the prime minister may be entitled to the style of Excellency like a president. In some Commonwealth countries prime ministers and former prime ministers are styled Right Honourable, for example, the Right Honourable Sir John Major.

In the UK where devolved government is in place, the leaders of the Scottish, Northern Ireland and Welsh Governments are styled First Minister.

In Pakistan, the prime minister is referred to as "Wazir-e-Azam", meaning "Grand Vizier".

Irish political scientist Professor Brian Farrell coined the term Chairman or Chief to describe the two alternative concepts of prime ministerial leadership, in his book of the same name about the office of Taoiseach. The term, widely used in political science worldwide, draws a distinction between a head of government who is merely a facilitator and co-ordinator of a cabinet (the "chairman"), and those who lead it forcefully from the front, setting its policy agenda and requiring all ministers to follow the leader's policies (the "chief"). Examples of "chairmen" have included Bertie Ahern (Ireland), John Major (United Kingdom) and Couve de Murville (France), while examples of chiefs included Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee ,Seán Lemass (Ireland), Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair (United Kingdom), and Jacques Chirac when prime minister under cohabitation.

Not every prime minister fits exclusively into either category: Éamon de Valera, though a strong personality, was only interested in controlling some of his government's agenda (usually constitutional matters and Anglo-Irish affairs), and allowed large areas to decided by his colleagues. Though superficially a chief (and called "the Chief" by his colleagues) historians see him as more of a chairman, particularly in later governments. Winston Churchill too, though superficially a "chief", was more chairmanlike in later governments and in those areas in which he had little personal interest.

As well as describing office holders, individual offices could be described as belonging to one or other category. Among the more dominant prime ministerial offices in terms of powers, and so more chieflike, are the premierships of Ireland and Spain, where premiers can hire and fire at will. In contrast, offices such as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, Prime Minister of the Third French Republic, and the premierships of Belgium and The Netherlands are more chairmanlike in format. Lijphart referred to the premiership of the Netherlands as "primus inter pares without due emphasis on primus".

The following table groups the list of past and present prime ministers and details information available in those lists.

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Prime Minister of Canada

Sir John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada (1867–1873, 1878–1891)

The Prime Minister of Canada (French: Premier ministre du Canada) is the primary Minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government of Canada. The office is not outlined in any of the documents that constitute the written portion of the constitution of Canada; executive authority is formally vested in the Canadian sovereign and exercised on his or her behalf by the Governor General. The office was initially modelled after the job as it existed in Britain at time of Confederation in 1867. The British prime ministership, although fully developed by 1867, was not formally integrated into the British constitution until 1905—hence, its absence from Constitution Act, 1867.

The Prime Minister is not elected directly, but is by constitutional convention the leader of the political party that holds the largest number of seats in the House of Commons. According to protocol, all prime ministers are styled Right Honourable (in French: Très Honorable) for life.

Stephen Harper is the current Prime Minister, appointed by Governor General Michaëlle Jean as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada, on February 6, 2006. He is the leader of the Conservative Party.

The Prime Minister, along with the other ministers of the Cabinet, are formally appointed by the Governor General on behalf of the Queen. However, by convention designed to maintain stability in government, the Governor General will almost always call on the leader of the party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons to form a government.

Legally, any citizen of Canada of voting age (18 years) can undoubtedly be appointed to the office of Prime Minister, these being the requirements to gain election to the House of Commons. Since it is not legally necessary for the Prime Minister to be a sitting MP, there is some question as to whether there are technically even age or citizenship restrictions to the position. In any event, it is customary for the Prime Minister to also be a sitting member of the House of Commons, although two Prime Ministers have governed from the Senate: Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell. (Both men, in their roles as Government Leader in the Senate, succeeded Prime Ministers who died in office in the 1890s; Canadian convention has since evolved toward the appointment of an interim leader in such a scenario.) One Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, having lost his own seat in a general election while his party retained a plurality in the House of Commons, briefly governed "from the hallway", until he won a by-election a few weeks later. John Turner, who was previously an MP but had quit politics, was Canada's only non-MP Prime Minister. He ran for Liberal Party leadership to replace Pierre Trudeau. Turner won a seat at the next election but his party didn't hold the most seats.

If the prime minister should fail to win his or her seat, a junior Member of Parliament in a safe seat would typically resign to permit a by-election to elect that leader to a seat. However, if the leader of the governing party is changed shortly before an election is due and the new leader is not a Member of Parliament, he or she will normally await the general election before running for a seat. For example, John Turner was briefly prime minister in 1984 without being a member of the House of Commons; he would ironically win his seat in the general election that swept his party from power. The official residence of the prime minister is 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, Ontario. All prime ministers (with the exception of Kim Campbell) have lived there since Louis St. Laurent in 1951. The prime minister also has a secondary residence at Harrington Lake in Gatineau Park near Ottawa.

In earlier years, it was tradition that the Sovereign bestow a knighthood on each new Canadian prime minister. As such, several carry the prefix "Sir" before their name (of the first eight prime ministers, only Alexander Mackenzie refused knighthood). After the Nickle Resolution debate of 1919, it was against policy for the Sovereign to grant titles to Canadians; the last prime minister knighted was Sir Robert Laird Borden, who was in power when the Nickle Resolution was debated. (Being only a Commons resolution, it has never been binding.) In addition one prime minister, Richard Bennett, was created a viscount after his retirement and the widow of Sir John A. Macdonald was created a baroness.

A prime minister does not have a fixed term of office - once appointed and sworn in (s)he retains the office until (s)he resigns, is dismissed or dies. The Constitution of Canada limits the lifespan of each Parliament to five years after which a general election for every seat in the House of Commons must be called; the time limit may be exceeded only in case of war or insurrection. The Prime Minister has typically asked the Governor General to issue a writ of election during the government's fourth year in office. If the sitting Prime Minister's party wins a general election there is need to re-appoint the Prime Minister or swear him or her in again (although after almost any such election the Prime Minister will be advising the Governor General regarding any changes to the Cabinet that may be necessary, for example to replace ministers who have lost their seats).

Amendments to the Canada Elections Act passed in 2007 during the first session of the 39th Parliament have brought about legal changes that are designed to constrain when the Prime Minister can request a dissolution of Parliament. Under the revised act, a general election must occur on the third Monday in October every four years starting in 2009. Other than cases of war or insurrection, the only exceptions provided for under the Act are when the government is defeated by a vote of no confidence (discussed below) or otherwise "prevented from governing." The Canada Elections Act is not a part of the constitution and can be further amended or repealed by Parliament.

Otherwise, by constitutional convention, the Governor General cannot refuse a request to issue the writs of election, issue writs in the absence of a request, or dismiss the Prime Minister and his government without having been offered their resignations unless acting contrary to the Prime Minister's wishes is necessary to avoid contravention of either the Constitution or (possibly) an Act of Parliament (including as the aforementioned Canada Elections Act). The only time since Confederation time it was deemed necessary to refuse the prime minister's request to call an election was 1926 (see the King-Byng Affair). A Canadian vice-regal's presumed right and obligation to refuse to grant a dissolution where the dissolution would only violate an Act of Parliament has not yet been tested either at the federal level or in those provinces that have enacted similar "fixed election date" legislation. The only other situation where an extraordinary use of the Governor General's powers might be acceptable would be if the Prime Minister was no longer able to offer competent advice to the Governor General - for example, if (s)he became incapacitated. There are no formal provisions regarding what is to be done if a Canadian prime minister becomes incapacitated and unable to serve for an extended period of time (this has never happened). Presumably, if such incapacitation appeared to be long term or permanent and the Prime Minister could not sign a letter of resignation then the Governor General would use his/her reserve powers to remove him/her and appoint the governing party's choice for a replacement.

In general, a majority government is in power three to five years before a new general election is called. A minority government typically calls a new general election at the first opportunity when it appears able to win a majority of seats. Otherwise, it is unusual for minority governments to last more than two years owing to their vulnerability to votes of non-confidence. For example, in 1979–1980, Joe Clark was prime minister in a minority Progressive Conservative government only six months before his government lost a motion of non-confidence and had to call another election. The new Liberal majority government took office in 1980 just nine months after the Clark government had taken office in 1979.

A prime minister is required to resign only when an opposition party wins a majority of seats in the House. If the prime minister's party wins a plurality, he or she normally stays in office. (A prime minister may resign in this circumstance, but there is no requirement to do so.) If the prime minister's party wins a minority while an opposition party wins a plurality (i.e., more seats than any other party but less than a majority), the prime minister can attempt to remain in office by forming a coalition with other minority parties. This, however, is almost never attempted in Canada.

If a governing party loses a motion of non-confidence, the prime minister—and, thus, the government—may resign, thereby allowing another party to form the government. But as this is practical only if no party in the House has a majority, the convention in Canada is to immediately ask the governor general to call a general election.

If a general election gives an opposition party a plurality of seats, the incumbent prime minister can continue to try to form the government, but this has not been done at the federal level since 1925, although it remains an option under the constitution. The normal practice in this situation is for the prime minister to resign and for the governor general to appoint as prime minister the leader of the new largest party in the House of Commons.

Since the prime minister is, in practice, the most powerful member of the Canadian government, he or she is sometimes erroneously referred to as Canada's head of state. The Canadian head of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, who is represented by the Governor General of Canada. The prime minister is the head of government. The office of Prime Minister of Canada is not mentioned in the Canadian Constitution. In modern-day Canada, however, his or her prerogatives are largely the duties to which the constitution refers to as the job of the Governor General (who acts mostly as a figurehead). The function, duties, responsibilities, and powers of the Prime Minister of Canada were established at Confederation, modeled upon the existing office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Over time, the role of the Prime Minister of Canada has evolved, mainly gaining power over the years.

The prime minister plays a prominent role in most legislation passed by the Canadian Parliament. The majority of Canadian legislation originates in the Cabinet of Canada, which is a body selected by the prime minister, and appointed by the Governor General, largely from the ranks of his party's MPs. The Cabinet must have "unanimous" consent on all decisions they make, but in practice whether or not unanimity has been achieved is decided by the prime minister.

As to the Prime Minister's broad de facto authority over the Canadian military, see Canadian Forces.

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is credited with consolidating power in the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO), although the evolution can be seen throughout Canadian history. The PMO consists of the Prime Minister's political and administrative staff hired solely at the PM's discretion. By coordinating communication with the other agents in policy arenas, as well as with the central party apparatus, the PMO can wield considerable influence. This may have the positive effect of a productive parliament, which in turn provides a valid criticism of centralized power in majority governments and the PMO.

There are checks on the prime minister's power. Cabinet or caucus revolts will bring down a sitting prime minister quickly, and even the threat of caucus revolts can persuade and/or compel a prime minister to resign the office as happened to Jean Chrétien in 2003. The prime minister is also restricted by the Senate. The Senate can delay and impede legislation, which occurred when Brian Mulroney introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST). In many cases, the conflicts arose primarily because the Senate was dominated by members appointed by previous governments. The aforementioned Prime Ministers proceeded to shift the Senate in their favour with a flurry of senate appointments to ensure the smooth passage of legislation. Furthermore, as Canada is a federal system, the action of the federal government (and thus the Prime Minister) is limited to areas of federal jurisdiction. In practice, however, provincial and federal actions are intertwined in most areas, and so the Prime Minister's power can also be thwarted by concerted opposition from provincial governments.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, in 2007 the Prime Minister of Canada had an aggregate annual salary of $301,600 (CAD). Although this sum is several times the national average, it is only a fraction of the pay of some of Canada's top corporate executives. Only about half of the Prime Minister's salary is specific to the role of the Prime Minister, while the other half is the normal salary of a Member of Parliament.

Cabinet has now joined Parliament as an institution being bypassed. Real political debate and decision-making are increasingly elsewhere—in federal-provincial meetings of first ministers, on Team Canada flights, where first ministers can hold informal meetings, in the Prime Minister's Office, in the Privy Council Office, in the Department of Finance, and in international organizations and international summits. There is no indication that the one person who holds all the cards, the prime minister, and the central agencies which enable him to bring effective political authority to the centre, are about to change things. The Canadian prime minister has little in the way of institutional check, at least inside government, to inhibit his ability to have his way.

The main case given in favour of Prime Ministerial power has to do with the federal structure of the nation. Canada is one of the most decentralized of the world's federations, and provincial premiers have a great deal of power. Constitutional changes must be approved by the provincial premiers, and they must be consulted for any new initiatives in their areas of responsibility, which include many important sectors such as health care and education. In light of regional forces such as the Quebec sovereignty movement, some have argued there is a need for a national counterbalance to these pressures.

Thompson, Tupper and Bennett are the only Prime Ministers to have died outside of Canada (all in England).

Unlike most state leaders, who are buried in the nation's capital, Canadian Prime Ministers are buried in locations of their or their family's choice. Bennett is the only Canadian Prime Minister to have been buried outside of Canada. Diefenbaker is the only one not to be buried in a cemetery. Most burials are private functions at the request of the the families.

Canadian Prime Ministers are buried in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Only one is buried in the United Kingdom.

A state funeral for a deceased Prime Minister, with the casket lying in state in Centre Block on Parliament Hill, is offered to their family. Only Bowell and Bennett had private services. Bennett was the only Prime Minister to die and be buried outside of Canada. Bowell is the only Prime Minister not to have politicians attend his funeral.

Fictional Prime Ministers of Canada have been portrayed in television series, including Rideau Hall, South Park and The West Wing, televisions films such as H2O, and the motion pictures Canadian Bacon and Buried on Sunday.

Several sitting prime ministers have also appeared as themselves on the CBC sketch comedy series Royal Canadian Air Farce, while Harper appeared in an installment of the satirical CBC series The Rick Mercer Report.

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Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Churchill waves to  the Crowds After Announcing the Surrender of Germany 1945  The inherent flexibility of the office  of Prime Minister allowed Lloyd George and Churchill to assume, albeit temporarily, almost dictatorial powers during the Great War and World War II.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the political leader of the United Kingdom and the Head of His/Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister and Cabinet (consisting of all the most senior government department heads) are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party, and ultimately to the electorate.

The current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is Gordon Brown, who assumed the position in June 2007.

The modern Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wields broad executive and legislative powers. The incumbent leads a major political party, commands a majority in the House of Commons (the Legislature), and is the leader of the Cabinet (the Executive). Under the British system, there is a unity of powers rather than separation. Many of these powers are still formally vested in the Head of State, the Sovereign. Called "royal prerogatives", they were devolved to the Prime Minister as incumbents gradually acquired a dominant position in the constitutional hierarchy.

The Premiership was not intentionally created. The office is not defined by a codified Constitution, but by customs known as conventions that became accepted practice. Until the 20th century, the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Sovereign, Parliament, and Cabinet was defined entirely by these conventions.

The office developed in the shadow of the Monarchy, competing with it for executive authority. Before the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Sovereign was both Head of State and Government. Afterwards, Parliament allowed the Sovereign to remain Head of State, but gradually placed day-to-day governance under its control. It did not, however, create a formal mechanism by which to wield these executive powers. The Premiership filled this void. Evolving behind the scenes, Parliament transferred executive powers to the Cabinet led by the First Lord of the Treasury, who became known unofficially as the Prime Minister. During the same period, Parliament deferentially maintained the legal fiction that the Sovereign retained the power to govern directly, giving little formal recognition to the position of Prime Minister.

This arrangement makes it appear that Britain has two executives: the Prime Minister and the Sovereign. The concept of "the Crown" resolves this paradox. The Crown symbolises the state’s authority to govern: to make laws and execute them, impose taxes and collect them, declare war and make peace. Before 1688, the Sovereign wore the Crown and exercised the powers it symbolizes. Afterwards, Parliament gradually made Sovereigns give up these powers and forced them to assume a neutral political position. They placed the Crown in "commission", entrusting its authority to responsible Ministers (the Prime Minister and Cabinet), accountable for their policies and actions to Parliament and the people. Although the Sovereign still wears the Crown, Parliament has removed her from everyday governance, leaving her in practice with three constitutional rights: to be kept informed, to advise, and to warn.

Since the Premiership was not intentionally created, there is no exact date when the position appeared or its evolution began. A meaningful starting point, however, is 1688 when James II fled England. The throne being vacant, the Parliament of England confirmed William and Mary as England's joint constitutional monarchs, enacting legislation that limited their authority and that of their successors: the Bill of Rights (1689), the Mutiny Bill (1689), the Triennial Bill (1694), the Treason Act (1696) and the Act of Settlement (1701). Known collectively as the Revolutionary Settlement, these acts transformed the constitution, shifting the balance of power from the Sovereign to Parliament. Unknown at the time, they also provided the basis for the evolution of the Prime Minister.

The Revolutionary Settlement gave the Commons control over finances and legislation and, thereby, changed the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. For want of money, Sovereigns had to summon Parliament annually and could no longer dissolve or prorogue it without its advice and consent. Parliament became a permanent feature of political life. The veto fell into disuse because Sovereigns feared that if they denied legislation, Parliament would deny them money. No Sovereign has denied royal assent since Queen Anne vetoed the Scottish Militia Bill in 1708.

Treasury officials and other department heads were drawn into Parliament serving as liaisons between it and the Sovereign. Ministers had to present the government's policies, and negotiate with Members to gain the support of the majority; they had to explain the government’s financial needs, suggest ways of meeting them and give an account of how money had been spent. The Sovereign’s representatives attended Commons sessions so regularly that they were given reserved seats at the front, known as the Treasury Bench. This is the beginning of "unity of powers": the Sovereign's Ministers (the Executive) became leading members of Parliament (the Legislature). Today, the Prime Minister (First Lord of the Treasury), the Chancellor of the Exchequer (responsible for the budget) and other senior members of the Cabinet sit on the Treasury bench and present policies in much the same way Ministers did late in the 17th century.

After the Revolution, there was a constant threat that non-government members of Parliament would ruin the country's finances by proposing ill-considered money bills. Vying for control to avoid chaos, the Crown's Ministers gained an advantage in 1706 when the Commons informally declared, "That this House will receive no petition for any sum of money relating to public Service, but what is recommended from the Crown." On June 11, 1713, this non-binding rule became Standing Order 66: that “the Commons would not vote money for any purpose, except on a motion of a Minister of the Crown.” Standing Order 66 remains in effect today, essentially unchanged for three hundred years.

Empowering Ministers with sole financial initiative had an immediate and lasting impact. Apart from achieving its intended purpose – to stabilise the budgetary process – it naturally gave the Crown a leadership role in the Commons; and, the Lord Treasurer assumed a leading position among Ministers. The power of financial initiative was not, however, absolute. Only Ministers might initiate money bills, but Parliament now reviewed and consented to them. Standing Order 66 therefore represents the beginnings of Ministerial responsibility and accountability.

The term "Prime Minister" first appears at this time as an unofficial title for the head of the Treasury. Jonathan Swift, for example, wrote in 1713 about "those who are now commonly called Prime Minister among us", referring to Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin and Robert Harley, Queen Anne's Lord Treasurers and chief ministers. From this time, every head of the Sovereign's government – with one exception in the 18th century and one in the 19th – has been either Lord High Treasurer or, more commonly, First Lord of the Treasury.

The modern Prime Minister is the leader of a major political party with millions of followers. In the general election of 1997, for example, 13.5 million people voted for the Labour Party led by Tony Blair; 9.6 million for the Conservative Party, led by John Major, the incumbent Prime Minister; and, 5.2 million for the Liberal Democrat Party led by Paddy Ashdown. Generally agreeing on policies, party leaders and their supporters suppress their differences of opinion at the polls for the sake of gaining a majority of seats in the Commons and being able to form a government.

Political parties first appeared during the Exclusion Crisis of 1678–1681. The Whigs, who believed in limited Monarchy, wanted to exclude James Stuart from succeeding to the throne because he was a Catholic and espoused absolutist ideas about the Kingship. The Tories, who believed in the "Divine Right of Kings", defended James' hereditary claim. These parties dominated British politics for over 150 years, the Whigs generally being liberal; the Tories conservative. Indeed, in the 19th century, the Whigs evolved into the Liberal Party; the Tories, the Conservative. Even today, Conservatives are often called "Tories".

Political parties were not well organised or disciplined in the 17th century. They were more like factions with "members" drifting in and out, collaborating temporarily on issues when it was to their advantage, then disbanding when it was not. A major deterrent to the development of opposing parties was the idea that there could only be one: the “King’s Party”. To oppose the King’s party was disloyal, even treasonous. This idea lingered throughout the 18th century. Nevertheless, it became possible at the end of the 17th century to identify Parliaments and Ministries as being either "Whig" or "Tory" in composition.

The modern Prime Minister is also the leader of the Cabinet. A convention of the constitution, the modern Cabinet is a group of about twenty ministers who formulate policies. For example, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s first Cabinet from 1997 – 2001 consisted of 22 members. As the political heads of government departments, Cabinet Ministers ensure that policies are carried out by permanent civil servants. Although the modern Prime Minister selects Ministers, the Sovereign still officially appoints them. With the Prime Minister as its leader, the Cabinet forms the "executive branch".

Early in his reign, William (1688-1702) preferred "Mixed Ministries" consisting of both Tories and Whigs. This approach did not work well because these Cabinets had no leader and Ministers worked at odds with each other. This has been the case ever since. Mixed Ministries (Coalitions) have rarely been effective under the British system, except in times of crisis such as the Great War (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945).

Mixed Ministries having failed, William formed a homogeneous Whig ministry in 1697 known as the Junto, often cited as the first true Cabinet because its members were all Whigs, reflecting the majority composition of the Commons. Anne (1702-1714) followed this pattern but preferred Tory Cabinets. This approach worked well as long as Parliament was also Tory. In 1702, the Tories dominated the Commons. However, in 1708, when the Whigs obtained a majority, Anne did not call on them to form a government; she refused to admit that politicians could force themselves on her merely because their party had a majority. She never parted with an entire Ministry or accepted an entirely new one regardless of the results of an election. Consequently, although Anne's chief ministers Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin and Robert Harley led their Cabinets and were called "Prime Minister" by some, they had difficulty executing policy in the face of a hostile Parliament. It was not until the 1830s that the constitutional convention was established that the Sovereign must select Prime Ministers and the Cabinet from the party whose views reflect those of the majority in Parliament.

Both William and Anne appointed and dismissed Cabinet members, attended meetings, made decisions, and followed up on actions. Relieving the Sovereign of these responsibilities and gaining control over the Cabinet's composition was an essential part of evolution of the Premiership.

Establishing the convention that Sovereigns do not attend Cabinet meetings began after the Hanoverian Succession. Although George I (1714–1727) attended at first, after 1717 he withdrew because he did not speak English and was bored with the discussions. George II (1727–1760) occasionally presided at Cabinet meetings but his grandson, George III (1760–1820), is known to have attended only two during his 60 year reign. Thus, the convention that Sovereigns do not attend Cabinet meetings was establish primarily through royal indifference to the everyday tasks of governance. The Prime Minister became responsible for calling meetings, presiding, taking notes, and reporting to the Sovereign. These simple executive tasks naturally gave the Prime Minister ascendancy over his Cabinet colleagues.

Although rarely attending Cabinet meetings, the first three Hanoverians insisted on their prerogatives to appoint and dismiss ministers and to direct policy even if from outside the Cabinet. It was not until late in the 18th century that Prime Ministers gained control over Cabinet composition (see Section 4.1 below).

The Premiership is still largely a convention of the constitution; its legal authority is derived primarily from the fact that the Prime Minister is also First Lord of the Treasury. The connection of these two offices – one a convention, the other a legal office – began with the Hanoverian Succession in 1714.

When George I succeeded to the English throne in 1714, his German ministers advised him to leave the office of Lord High Treasurer vacant because those who had held it in recent years (referring to Godolphin and Harley) had grown overly powerful, in effect, replacing the Sovereign as head of the government. They also feared that a Lord High Treasurer would undermine their own influence with the new King. They therefore suggested that instead he place the office in "commission', meaning that a committee of five ministers would perform its functions together. Theoretically, this dilution of authority would prevent any one of them from presuming to be the head of the government. The King agreed and created the Treasury Commission consisting of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Second Lord, and three Junior Lords.

No one has been appointed to the Lord High Treasureship since 1714; it has remained in commission for three hundred years. The Treasury Commission ceased to meet late in the 18th century but has survived, albeit with very different functions: the First Lord of the Treasury is now the Prime Minister, the Second Lord is the Chancellor of the Exchequer (and actually in charge of the Treasury), and the Junior Lords are government Whips maintaining party discipline in the House of Commons; they no longer have any duties related to the Treasury.

Since the office was not created, there is no "first" Prime Minister as there is a first Prime Minister of Canada. However, the honorary appellation is traditionally given to Sir Robert Walpole who became First Lord of the Treasury in 1721.

In 1720, the South Sea Company, created to trade in cotton, agricultural goods and slaves, collapsed, causing the financial ruin of thousands of investors and heavy losses for many others including members of the royal family. King George I called on Robert Walpole, well-known for his political and financial acumen, to handle the emergency. With considerable skill and some luck, Walpole acted quickly to restore public credit and confidence, and lead the country out of the crisis. A year later, the King appointed him First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons making him the most powerful minister in the government. Ruthless, crude, and hard-working, he had a "sagacious business sense" and was a superb manager of men. At the head of affairs for the next two decades, Walpole stabilised the nation's finances, kept it at peace, made it prosperous, and secured the Hanoverian Succession.

Walpole demonstrated for the first time how a chief minister – a Prime Minister – could be the actual Head of the Government under the new constitutional framework. First, recognising that the Sovereign could no longer govern directly but was still the nominal head of the government, he insisted that he was nothing more than the "King's Servant". Second, recognising that power had shifted to the Commons, he conducted the nation's business there and made it dominant over the Lords in all matters. Third, recognising that the Cabinet had become the executive and must be united, he dominated the other members and demanded their complete support for his policies. Fourth, recognising that political parties were the source of ministerial strength, he led the Whig party and maintained discipline. In the Commons, he insisted on the support of all Whigs members, especially those who held office. Finally, he set an example for future Prime Ministers by resigning his offices in 1742 when he no longer had the confidence of a majority, even though he still retained the confidence of the Sovereign.

For all his contributions, Walpole was not a Prime Minister in the modern sense. The King chose him, not Parliament; and, the King chose the Cabinet, not Walpole. Walpole set an example not a precedent, and few followed his example. For over 40 years after Walpole's fall in 1742, there was widespread ambivalence about the position. In some cases, the Prime Minister was a figurehead with power being wielded by other individuals; in others there was a reversion to the "chief minister" model of earlier times in which the Sovereign actually governed. Furthermore, many thought that the title "Prime Minister" usurped the Sovereign's constitutional position as "head of the government" and that it was an affront to other ministers because they were all appointed by and equally responsible to the Sovereign.

In 1905 the position was given some official recognition when the "Prime Minister" was named in the order of precedence, outranked, among non-royals, only by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, The Moderator of the Church of Scotland and by the Lord Chancellor.

The first Act of Parliament to mention the Premiership was the Chequers Estate Act on 20 December 1917. This law conferred the Chequers Estate owned by Sir Arthur and Lady Lee, as a gift to the Crown for use as a country home for future Prime Ministers.

Unequivocal legal recognition was given in the Ministers of the Crown Act (1937) which made provision for paying a salary to the person who is both "the First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister". Explicitly recognising two hundred years' of ambivalence, the act states that it intended To give statutory recognition to the existence of the position of Prime Minister, and to the historic link between the Premiership and the office of First Lord of the Treasury, by providing in respect to that position and office a salary of . . . The Act made a distinction between the "position" (Prime Minister) and the "office" (First Lord of the Treasury), emphasising the unique political character of the former. Nevertheless, the brass plate on the door of the Prime Minister's home, 10 Downing Street, still bears the title of "First Lord of the Treasury", as it has since the 18th century.

Despite the reluctance to legally recognise the Premiership, ambivalence toward it waned in the 1780s. As noted previously, George III (1760–1820) is known to have attended only two Cabinet meetings. However, during the first twenty years of his reign, he tried to be his own "prime minister" by controlling policy from outside the Cabinet, appointing and dismissing ministers, meeting privately with individual ministers, and giving them instructions. These practices caused confusion and dissention in Cabinet meetings, especially during the dysfunctional ministries of the Earl of Chatham from 1766-1768 and of the Duke of Grafton from 1768-1770 when no one, not even the King, seemed to be in charge.

In 1782, the Marquess of Rockingham reasserted the Prime Minister's control over the Cabinet. After the failure of Lord North's ministry (1770 - 1782), Rockingham assumed the Premiership "on the distinct understanding that measures were to be changed as well as men; and that the measures for which the new ministry required the royal consent were the measures which they, while in opposition, had advocated." He and his Cabinet were united in their policies and would stand or fall together; they also refused to accept anyone in the Cabinet who did not agree. King George threatened to abdicate but in the end reluctantly agreed out of necessity: he had to have a government.

From this time, there was a growing acceptance of the position of Prime Minister and the title was more commonly used, if only unofficially. Associated initially with the Whigs, even the Tories started to accept it. Lord North, for example, who had said the office was "unknown to the constitution", reversed himself in 1783 when he said, "In this country some one man or some body of men like a Cabinet should govern the whole and direct every measure." In 1803, William Pitt the Younger, also a Tory, suggested to a friend that "this person generally called the first minister" was an absolute necessity for a government to function, and expressed his belief that this person should be the minister in charge of the finances.

The Tories' wholesale conversion started in 1784 when Pitt was confirmed as Prime Minister. For the next 17 years until 1801 (and again from 1804 to 1806), Pitt, the Tory, was Prime Minister in the same sense that Walpole, the Whig, had been earlier. Thus, the Tories, for practical political reasons, finally accepted the constitutional changes implied in the Revolutionary Settlement.

Their conversion was reinforced after 1810. In that year, George III, who had suffered periodically from mental instability (due to a blood disorder now known as porphyria), became permanently insane and spent the remaining 10 years of his life unable to discharge his duties. The Prince Regent, also named George, was prevented from using the full powers of Kingship. The Regent became King George IV in 1820, but during his 10 year reign was indolent and frivolous. Consequently, for 20 years the throne was virtually vacant and Tory Cabinets led by Tory Prime Ministers filled the void, governing virtually on their own.

The Tories were in power for almost 50 years, except for a short Whig ministry from 1806 to 1807. Lord Liverpool was Prime Minister for 15 years. Together, he and Pitt held the position for 34 years. Cabinet government became a permanent convention of the constitution. Although many subtle issues remained to be settled, the Cabinet system of government is essentially the same today as it was in 1830.

Under this system. sometimes called the Westminster System, the Sovereign is Head of State and titular head of Her Majesty's Government. She selects as her Prime Minister the person who is able to command a working majority in the House of Commons, and invites him to form a government. As the actual Head of Government, the Prime Minister selects his Cabinet, choosing its members from among those in Parliament who agree or at least generally agree with his intended policies. He then recommends them to the Sovereign who confirms his selections by formally appointing them to their respective offices. Led by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet is collectively responsible for everything the government does. The Sovereign does not confer with its members privately or attend its meetings. With respect to actual governance, she has only three constitutional rights: to be kept informed, to advise, and to warn. In practice this means that the Sovereign reviews state papers and meets regularly with the Prime Minister, usually weekly, when she may advise and warn him regarding the proposed decisions and actions of Her Government.

The expression "His Majesty's Opposition" was coined during this period of Tory ascendancy. In 1826, John Cam Hobhouse, Lord Broughton, announced in the Commons that he opposed the report of a Bill. As a joke, he said, "It was said to be very hard on His Majesty's ministers to raise objections to this proposition. For my part, I think it is much more hard on His Majesty's Opposition to compel them to take this course." The phrase caught on and has been applied ever since to the second largest party in the Commons. Sometimes translated as the "Loyal Opposition", it acknowledges the legitimate existence of the two party system, and describes an important constitutional concept: opposing the government is not treason; reasonable men can oppose its policies and still be loyal to the Sovereign and the nation.

Today, the leaders of "Her Majesty's Opposition" (the "Loyal Opposition") sit in the Commons on the front bench opposite the Treasury Bench, to the Speaker's left. They form a "Shadow Government", complete with a "Shadow Prime Minister" (or "Leader of the Opposition", the 2nd largest party), ready to assume office if the government of the day falls or loses the next election. The position of Leader of the Opposition was given statutory recognition in the Ministers of the Crown Act of 1937. The current Shadow Prime Minister is David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.

British Prime Ministers have never been elected directly by the public. They have all become Prime Minister indirectly because firstly, they were members of either the Commons or Lords; secondly, they were the leader of a great political party; and, thirdly, they either inherited a majority in the Commons, or won more seats than the opposition in a general election.

Since 1722, most Prime Ministers have been members of the Commons; since 1902, all have had a seat there. Like other members, they are elected initially to represent only a constituency. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, for example, represented Sedgefield in County Durham from 1983 to 2007. He became Prime Minister because he was elected Labour Party leader in 1994 and then led the party to victory in the 1997 general election, winning 418 seats compared to 165 for the Conservatives and gaining a majority in the House of Commons.

Neither the Sovereign nor the House of Lords had any meaningful influence over who was elected to the Commons in 1997 or in deciding whether or not Blair would become Prime Minister. Their detachment from the electoral process has been a convention of the constitution for almost 200 years.

Prior to the 19th century, however, they had significant influence, using to their advantage the fact that most citizens were disenfranchised and seats in the Commons were allocated disproportionately. The system was based on legislation passed in 1429 and virtually unchanged for 400 years. In 1832, only 440,000 met the voter qualifications in a population of 17 million. Although populations shifted, representation in the Commons remained the same. Consequently, some constituencies were over-represented; others under-represented. The Crown and Lords, through patronage, corruption and bribery, personally “owned” about 30% of the seats; representatives from these “pocket” or “rotten boroughs” were elected through the influence of the Crown or a Lord.

In 1830, Charles Grey, a life-long Whig, became Prime Minister determined to reform the electoral system. For two years, he and his Cabinet (including four future Prime Ministers – Melbourne, Russell, Palmerston and Derby – and one former one, Goderich) fought to pass what has come to be known as the Great Reform Bill of 1832.

The greatness of the Great Reform Bill lay less in substance than symbolism. Substantively, it increased the franchise 65% to 717,000 with the middle class receiving most of the new votes. The representation of 56 rotten boroughs was eliminated completely and half the representation of 30 others; the freed up seats were distributed to boroughs created for previously disenfranchised areas. However, many rotten boroughs remained and it still excluded millions of working class men and all women.

Symbolically, the Bill exceeded expectations and is now ranked with Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by Parliament.

First, the Great Reform Bill removed the Sovereign from the election process and the choice of Prime Minister. Slowly evolving for 100 years, this convention was confirmed in 1834 when King William IV dismissed Melbourn as Premier, but then recalled him when Robert Peel, the King's choice, could not form a working majority. Since then, no Sovereign has tried to impose a Prime Minister on Parliament.

Second, the Bill reduced the Lords' power by eliminating many of their pocket boroughs and creating new boroughs where they had no influence. Weakened, they were unable to prevent the passage of more comprehensive electoral reforms in 1867, 1884, 1918 and 1928 when universal equal suffrage was achieved. Ultimately, this erosion of power led to the Parliament Act of 1911 that marginalised their role in the legislative process and to the convention that a Prime Minister cannot sit in the House of Lords. The last to do so was Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, from 1895 to 1902.

Grey's bearing changed the Premiership. Often called the first "modern Prime Minister", he set both an example and a precedent for his successors. He was primus inter pares, "first among equals", as Bagehot said in 1867 of the Prime Minister's status. Using his Whig victory as a mandate for reform, Grey was unrelenting in the pursuit of this goal, using every Parliamentary devise to achieve it. Although respectful toward the King, he made it clear that his constitutional duty was to acquiesce to the will of the people and Parliament.

The Loyal Opposition acquiesced too. Some Tories threatened they would repeal the Bill once they regained a majority. But in 1834, Robert Peel, the new Conservative leader, put an end to it when he proclaimed in his Tamworth Manifesto that the Bill was "a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question which no friend to the peace and welfare of this country would attempt to disturb". Thus, Peel affirmed a convention of the constitution that promotes stability in the British system: the Parliament of the day must respect the settlement of constitutional issues made by previous Parliaments.

The Premiership was a reclusive office prior to 1832. The incumbent worked with his Cabinet and other government officials; he occasionally met with the Sovereign, and attended Parliament when it was in session during the spring and summer. He never went out on the stump to campaign, even during elections; he rarely spoke directly to ordinary voters about policies and issues.

After the passage of the Great Reform Bill, the nature of the position changed; Prime Ministers had to go out among the people. The Bill increased the electorate to 717,000. Subsequent legislation (and population growth) raised it to 2 million in 1867, 5.5 million in 1884 and 21.4 million in 1918. As the franchise increased, power shifted to the people and Prime Ministers assumed more responsibilities with respect to party leadership. The introduction of the penny press and photography in the 19th century, and then radio, motion pictures, television, and the internet in the 20th reinforced this change. It naturally fell on Prime Ministers to motivate and organise their followers, explain party policies, and deliver its “message”. Successful political leaders had to have a new set of skills: to give a good speech, present a favourable image, and interact with a crowd. They became the "voice", the “face” and the "image" of the party and ministry.

Robert Peel, often called the “model Prime Minister”, was the first to recognise this new role. In the next generation, none understood the change better than Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. Known by their nicknames “Dizzy” and the “Grand Old Man”, their colourful, sometimes bitter, personal and political rivalry over the issues of their time – Imperialism vs. Anti-Imperialism, expansion of the franchise, labour reform, and Irish Home Rule – spanned almost twenty years until Disraeli’s death in 1881. Documented by the penny press, photographs and political cartoons, their rivalry linked specific personalities with the Premiership in the public mind and further enhanced its status.

Each created a different public image of himself and his party. Disraeli, who expanded the Empire to protect British interests abroad, cultivated the image of himself as an "Imperialist", making grand gestures such as conferring the title "Empress of India" on Queen Victoria in 1876. Gladstone, who saw little value in the Empire, proposed an anti-Imperialist philosophy (later called "Little England"), and cultivated the image of himself as a "man of the people" by cutting down great oak trees with an axe as a hobby.

In addition to being the leader of a great political party and the head of Her Majesty’s Government, the modern Prime Minister is the leader of the House of Commons. From this commanding position, the Prime Minister directs the law-making process, enacting into law his party’s programme. For example, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose Labour party was elected in 1997 partly on a promise to enact a British Bill of Rights and to create devolved governments for Scotland and Wales, subsequently stewarded through Parliament the Human Rights Act (1998), the Scotland Act (1998) and the Government of Wales Act (1998).

From its appearance in the 14th century, Parliament has been a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Members of the Commons are elected; those in the Lords are not. Most Lords are called "Temporal" with titles such as Duke, Marquess, Earl and Viscount. The balance are Spiritual and Law Lords (prelates of the Anglican Church and judges). For most of the history of the Upper House, Temporal Lords were land owners who held their estates, titles and seats as an hereditary right passed down from one generation to the next in some cases for centuries. In 1910, for example, there were nineteen whose title was created before 1500.

Until 1911, Prime Ministers had to guide legislation through the Commons and the Lords and obtain a majority approval in both to translate it into law. This was not always easy because political differences usually separated the chambers. Representing the landed aristocracy, Temporal Lords were generally Tory (later Conservative) who wanted to maintain the status quo and resisted progressive measures such as extending the franchise. The party affiliation of members of the Commons was less predictable. During the 18th century, its makeup varied because the Lords had considerable control over elections: sometimes Whigs dominated it, sometimes Tories. After the passage of the Great Reform Bill in 1832, the Commons gradually became more progressive, a tendency that increased with the passage of each subsequent expansion of the franchise.

In 1906, the Liberal party, led by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, won an overwhelming victory on a platform that promised social reforms for the working class. With 379 seats compared to the Conservatives' 132, the Liberals could confidently expect to pass their legislative programme through the Commons. At the same time, however, the Conservative Party had a huge majority in the Lords; it could easily veto any legislation passed by the Commons that was against their interests.

For five years, the Commons and the Lords fought over one bill after another. The Liberals pushed through parts of their programme, but the Conservatives vetoed or modified others. When the Lords vetoed the "People's Budget" in 1909, the controversy moved almost inevitably toward a constitutional crisis.

In 1910, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith introduced a bill "for regulating the relations between the Houses of Parliament" which would eliminate the Lords’ veto power over legislation.

Passed by the Commons, the Lords rejected it. In a general election fought on this issue, the Liberals were weakened but still had a comfortable majority. At Asquith’s request, King George V then threatened to create a sufficient number of new Liberal Peers to ensure the bill’s passage. Rather than accept a permanent Liberal majority, the Conservative Lords yielded, and the bill became law.

The Parliament Act 1911 established the supremacy of the Commons. It provided that the Lords could not delay for more than one month any bill certified by the Speaker of the Commons as a money bill. Furthermore, the act provided that any bill rejected by the Lords would nevertheless become law if passed by the Commons in three successive sessions provided that two years had elapsed since its original passage. The Lords could still delay or suspend the enactment of legislation but could no longer veto it. Subsequently the Lords “suspending” power was reduced to one year by the Parliament Act 1949.

Indirectly, the Act enhanced the already dominant position of Prime Minister in the constitutional hierarchy. The Lords are still involved in the legislative process and the Prime Minister must still guide legislation through both Houses, but the Lords no longer have the power to veto or even obstruct the will of the people as expressed in the Commons. Provided that he controls the Cabinet, maintains party discipline, and commands a majority in the Commons, the Prime Minister is assured of putting through his legislative agenda.

The role and power of the Prime Minister have been subject to much change in the last fifty years. There has gradually been a change from Cabinet decision making and deliberation to the dominance of the Prime Minister. As early as 1965, in a new introduction to Walter Bagehot's classic work The English Constitution, Richard Crossman identified a new era of "Prime Ministerial" government. Some commentators, such as the political scientist Michael Foley, have argued there is a de facto "British Presidency". In Tony Blair's government, many sources such as former ministers have suggested that decision-making was centred around him and Gordon Brown, and the Cabinet was no longer used for decision making. Former ministers such as Clare Short and Chris Smith have criticised the total lack of decision-making in Cabinet. On her resignation, Short denounced "the centralisation of power into the hands of the Prime Minister and an increasingly small number of advisers" The Butler Review of 2004 condemned Blair's style of "sofa government".

At the opposite extreme, however, Prime Ministers may dominate the Cabinet so much that they become "Semi-Presidents." Examples include William Ewart Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair. The powers of some Prime Ministers waxed or waned, depending upon their own level of energy, political skills or outside events: Ramsay MacDonald, for example, was dominant in his Labour governments, but during his National Government his powers diminished so that he was merely the figurehead of the government. In modern times, Prime Ministers have never been merely titular; dominant or somewhat dominant personalities are the norm.

Ultimately, however, the Prime Minister will be held responsible by the nation for the consequences of legislation or of general government policy. Margaret Thatcher's party forced her from power after the introduction of the poll tax; Sir Anthony Eden fell from power following the Suez Crisis; and Neville Chamberlain resigned after being criticised for his handling of negotiations with Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II, and for failing to prevent the fall of Norway to the Nazi onslaught.

When commissioned by the Sovereign, a potential Prime Minister's first requisite is to "form a Government" – create a Cabinet and Ministry that has the support of the House of Commons, of which they are expected to be a member. The Prime Minister then formally kisses the hands of his Sovereign, whose royal prerogative is thereafter exercised solely on the advice of the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government ("HMG"). The Prime Minister has weekly audiences with the Sovereign, whose functions are constitutionally limited "to advise, to be consulted, and to warn"; the extent of the Sovereign's ability to influence the nature of the Prime Ministerial advice is unknown, but presumably varies depending upon the personal relationship between the Sovereign and the Prime Minister of the day.

The Prime Minister will appoint all other cabinet members (who then become active Privy Councilors) and ministers, although consulting senior ministers on their junior ministers, without any Parliamentary or other control or process over these powers. At any time he may obtain the appointment, dismissal or nominal resignation of any other minister; he may resign, either purely personally or with his whole government; or obtain the dissolution of Parliament, precipitating the loss of all MPs' seats and salaries and a General Election (Ministers will remain in power pending the election of the new House of Commons). The Prime Minister generally co-ordinates the policies and activities of the Cabinet and Government departments, acting as the main public "face" of Her Majesty's Government.

Although the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces is legally the Sovereign, under constitutional practice the Prime Minister, with the Secretary of State for Defence whom he may appoint or dismiss, holds power over the deployment and disposition of British forces, and the declaration of war. The Prime Minister can authorise, but not directly order, the use of Britain's nuclear weapons and the Prime Minister is hence forth a Commander-in-Chief in all but name.

The Prime Minister makes all the most senior Crown appointments, and most others are made by Ministers over whom he has the power of appointment and dismissal. Privy Counsellors, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, senior civil servants, senior military officers, members of important committees and commissions, and other officials are selected, and in most cases may be removed, by the Prime Minister. He also formally advises the Sovereign on the appointment of Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England, but his discretion is limited by the existence of the Crown Nominations Commission. The appointment of senior judges, while constitutionally still on the advice of the Prime Minister, is now made on the basis of recommendations from independent bodies.

Peerages, knighthoods, and other honours are bestowed by the Sovereign only on the advice of the Prime Minister. The only important British honours over which the Prime Minister does not have control are the Orders of the Garter, Thistle, and Merit, and the Royal Victorian Order, which are all within the "personal gift" of the Sovereign.

The Prime Minister appoints Ministers known as the "Whips", who use his patronage to negotiate for the support of MPs and to discipline dissenters of the government parliamentary party. Party discipline is strong since electors generally vote for parties rather than individuals. Members of Parliament may be expelled from their party for failing to support the Government on important issues, and although this will not mean they must resign as MPs, it will usually make re-election difficult. Members of Parliament who hold ministerial office or political privileges can expect removal for failing to support the Prime Minister. Restraints imposed by the Commons grow weaker when the Government's party enjoys a large majority in that House, or in the electorate. In general, however, the Prime Minister and their colleagues may secure the Commons' support for almost any bill by internal party negotiations with little regard to opposition MPs.

However, even a government with a healthy majority can on occasion find itself unable to pass legislation. For example, on January 31, 2006 Tony Blair's Government was defeated over proposals to outlaw religious hatred; and, on November 9, 2005 it was defeated over plans which would have allowed police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge. On other occasions, the Government alters its proposals in order to avoid defeat in the Commons, as Tony Blair's Government did in February 2006 over education reforms.

Formerly, a Prime Minister whose government lost a Commons vote would be regarded as fatally weakened, and his whole government would resign, usually precipitating a General Election. In modern practice, when the Government party generally has an absolute majority in the House, only the express vote "that this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government" is treated as having this effect; dissentients on a minor issue within the majority party are unlikely to force an election with the probable loss of their seats and salaries, and any future in the party.

Likewise, a Prime Minister is no longer just "first amongst equals" in HM Government; although theoretically his Cabinet might still vote him out, in practice he progressively entrenches his position by retaining only personal supporters in the Cabinet. In periodical reshuffles, the Prime Minister can sideline and simply drop from the cabinet Members who have fallen out of favour: they remain Privy Councillors, but the Prime Minister decides which of them are summoned to meetings.

Throughout the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister outranks all other dignitaries except the Royal Family, the Lord Chancellor, and senior ecclesiastical functionaries (in England and Wales, the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York; in Scotland, the Lord High Commissioner and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; in Northern Ireland, the Anglican and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church).

Although it wasn't required, Tony Blair also said these words after he was re-elected in 2001 and 2005.

At present the Prime Minister receives £127,334 in addition to a salary of £60,277 as a Member of Parliament. Until 2006 the Lord Chancellor was the highest paid member of the government ahead of the Prime Minister. This reflected the Lord Chancellor's position at the top of the judicial pay scale, as British judges are on the whole better paid than British politicians and until 2005 the Lord Chancellor was both politician and the head of the judiciary. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 stripped the Lord Chancellor of his judicial functions and his salary was reduced to below that of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister traditionally resides at 10 Downing Street in London and is also entitled to use the country house of Chequers in Buckinghamshire.

The Prime Minister is customarily a member of the Privy Council; thus, they become entitled to prefix "The Right Honourable" to their name. Membership of the Council is retained for life. It is a constitutional convention that only a Privy Counsellor can be appointed Prime Minister, but invariably all potential candidates have already attained this status. The only occasion when a non-Privy Councillor was the natural appointment was Ramsay MacDonald in 1924, but the issue was resolved by appointing him to the Council immediately prior to his appointment as Prime Minister.

According to the now defunct Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Prime Minister is made a Privy Counsellor as a result of taking office and should be addressed by the official title prefixed by "The Right Honourable" and not by a personal name. This form of address is employed at formal occasions but is rarely used by the media. Tony Blair, the previous Prime Minister, was frequently referred to in print as "Mr Blair", "Tony Blair" or "Blair". Colleagues sometimes referred to him simply as "Tony". The Prime Minister is usually addressed as "Prime Minister", for example by interviewers or civil servants, as in Yes, Prime Minister. Since 'Prime Minister' is a position, not a title, he/she should be referred to as "the Prime Minister" or (e.g.) "Mr. Blair". The form "Prime Minister Blair" is incorrect but is sometimes used erroneously outside the UK.

It is customary for the Sovereign to grant a Prime Minister some honour or dignity when that individual retires from politics. The honour commonly, but not invariably, bestowed on Prime Ministers is membership of the United Kingdom's most senior order of chivalry, the Order of the Garter. The practice of creating retired Prime Ministers Knights of the Garter has been fairly prevalent since the middle-nineteenth century. On the retirement of a Prime Minister who is Scottish, it is likely that the primarily Scottish honour of the Order of the Thistle will be used instead of the Order of the Garter, which is generally regarded as an English honour.

It has also been common for Prime Ministers to be granted peerages upon their retirement which elevates the individual to the House of Lords upon his retirement from the Commons. Formerly, the peerage bestowed was usually an earldom (which was always hereditary), with Churchill offered a dukedom. However, since the 1960s, hereditary peerages have generally been eschewed, and life peerages have been preferred, although in the 1980s Harold Macmillan was created Earl of Stockton on retirement. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher accepted life peerages. However, neither Edward Heath nor John Major accepted peerages of any kind on stepping down as MPs. Margaret Thatcher's son Mark is a baronet, which he inherited from his father Denis, but this is not a peerage.

Of the nineteen Prime Ministers since 1902, eight have been created both peers and Knights of the Garter; three were ennobled but not knighted; three became Knights of the Garter but not peers; and five were not granted either honour— in two cases due to their death while still active in politics; two others declined honours.

1 Entirely in Southwest Asia; included here because of cultural, political and historical association with Europe. 2 Partially or entirely in Asia, depending on the definition of the border between Europe and Asia. 3 Mostly in Asia.

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Prime Minister of Greece

Coat of arms of Greece.svg

The Prime Minister of Greece (Greek: Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδος), officially: Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic (Greek: Πρωθυπουργός της Ελληνικής Δημοκρατίας), is the head of government of the Hellenic Republic and the leader of the Greek cabinet. The current Prime Minister is Kostas Karamanlis, leader of the New Democracy party. The Prime Minister's official office (but not residence) is the Maximou Mansion in the centre of Athens.

The Prime Minister is officially appointed by the President of Greece. According to the Greek Constitution, the President shall appoint the leader of the political party with the majority of the votes in the Parliament as Prime Minister. If there is no party with a majority, the leader of the largest party is asked to attempt to form a government. Therefore, the election of members of a certain party to parliament is the equivalent to a vote for that party's leader for Prime Minister.

During the Greek War of Independence, different regions of Greece that were free of Ottoman control began establishing democratic systems for self-government, such as the Peloponnesian Senate. Meanwhile, a series of over-arching National Assemblies, such as the First National Assembly at Epidaurus, met from time-to-time to provide overall coordination. The First Assembly elected a 5-member executive council, which was headed by Alexandros Mavrokordatos. The Executive continued to govern Greece until 1828, when the first true national government was formed, under the direction of Ioannis Kapodistrias, who as "Governor of Greece" was head of the state and the government. Kapodistrias was eventually assassinated in 1831 and his government, presided over by his brother Augustinos, collapsed the following year. It was replaced by a series of collective governmental councils, which lasted until 1833, when Greece became a monarchy.

In 1832, Greece's nascent experiment with democracy was ended and a monarchy was established with the underage Bavarian Prince Otto as king. Initially the government was led by a regency council made up of Bavarians. The president of this council, Count Josef Ludwig von Armansperg was the de facto head of government under Otto. Later Otto dismissed his Bavarian advisers and wielded power as an absolute monarch, effectively as head of state and his own head of government.

Once the Office of Prime Minister was established, the responsibility for self-government again fell to the Greek people. However, two factors maintained significant power for the crown: the Greek party structure was weak and client-based and the monarch was free to select any member of parliament to form a government.

In 1862, Otto was finally deposed and the Greek people chose a new monarch in the person of King George I of Greece. In the next 15 years, the party structures began to evolve into more modern ideological parties with the Nationalist Party led by Alexandros Koumoundouros on the right and the more liberal New Party led by Charilaos Trikoupis. Trikoupis was successful after the election of 1874 in forcing the king to accept the "dedilomeni principle" (Greek: αρχή της δεδηλωμένης)--that the leader of the majority in parliament must be selected as prime minister by the king. The Nationalists were later lead by Theodoros Deligiannis who famously said "was against everything Trikoupis was for." This two-party system existed until 1910, even as Georgios Theotokis took over the New Party after the death of Trikoupis in 1895 and the assassination of Deligiannis in 1905 which led to a splintering of parties on the conservative and nationalist side.

In 1910, military officers sparked the fall of civilian government when they issued the Goudi Pronunciamento. This event led to the arrival in Greece of the Cretan politician Eleftherios Venizelos. His followers gathered in the Liberal Party, which, despite Venizelos' dominant status, constituted the first true party in the modern sense, in that it was formed around a progressive, liberal and pro-republican political agenda. It was eventually opposed by the more conservative and pro-royalist People's Party, initially led by Dimitrios Gounaris. The antagonism between the two parties, and the supporters of monarchy and republicanism, would dominate the political landscape until after the Second World War.

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Source : Wikipedia