What are prime ministers for?

by Peter Hennessy

14 Apr 2016
Digital Object Identifier

Full text of article by Peter Hennessy posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 2, pp. 213-229.

Abstract: The article draws up an assessment of the resources and instruments a new prime minister inherits on his or her first day in 10 Downing Street. It examines the growth in the functions that have fallen to successive prime ministers, as heads of government, over the seven decades since the end of the Second World War. It explains the very special and personal nuclear weapons responsibilities that belong to a prime minister. It touches, too, on the physical and mental strains that often afflict those who carry the office of prime minister. The article examines Jack Straw’s proposal that the United Kingdom prime minister and the collective Cabinet system over which he or she presides should be placed on a statutory basis by Parliament.

Keywords: Prime minister, Cabinet, collective governments, nuclear weapons, Parliament.

Lecture in Politics and Government, read 13 October 2014 (video recording).

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