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The presidentialization of politics thesis defended

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 12:42 authored by Paul WebbPaul Webb, Thomas Poguntke
This is a short response to Keith Dowding's Parliamentary Affairs article 'The Prime Ministerialisation of the British Prime Minister', in which he is critical of those who argue for the 'presidentialization of British politics' thesis. We agree that is easy to get carried away with the presidential analogy and to deploy it carelessly. We are aware the presidents may be weaker than prime ministers, and have never pretended that a parliamentary system can gradually evolve, almost unnoticed, into what is de facto a presidential regime. The appeal and capacity of particular leaders to predominate is always contingent on the vagaries of short-term factors and on what one former incumbent famously referred to as 'events, dear boy, events'. So long as the defining features of parliamentarism are in place (especially the fusion of executive and legislature), then a country like Britain will always remain closer to the parliamentary ideal-type than to the presidential ideal-type. But when one takes in the scenery from a comparative perspective, it is striking how much evidence there appears to be of parallel developments in the direction of more leader-centred electoral processes, a greater accumulation of leaders' power resources within the executive, and growing mutual autonomy between leaders and their parliamentary supporters. To this extent, we maintain, the presidentialization thesis still has purchase.


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  • Published


Parliamentary Affairs




Oxford University Press





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  • Politics Publications

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