The party which wins the most seats in the General Election forms the government in Britain. The leader of the winning party becomes Prime Minister. As leaders of their political parties and leaders of the country, Prime Ministers are powerful because they have the majority support in Parliament and they can choose their own ministers and government.
The PM, chooses a committee of ministers called the Cabinet. This is made up of a selection of senior MPs from the House of
Commons and some members of the House of Lords. Each member of the Cabinet is a minister responsible for a government department: for example, the Secretary of State for Education and Science is responsible for all the schools, universities and teachers in Britain. The Cabinet of ministers runs the country. The Cabinet meets at the Prime Minister’s house – 10 Downing Street.
The cabinet works as a team and all ministers must accept the decisions of the “group”. The team of ministers must always agree in public because they are collectively responsible for the decisions they make. If a minister cannot agree with all the others, he usually resigns from the cabinet. Cabinet meetings are held in private and the details must remain secret for at least 30 years. Margaret Thatcher tried to change this style of the Cabinet and was forced to resign when the other ministers could not agree with her.
Cabinet ministers cannot, however, do as they please! They are responsible to Parliament and must answer questions from backbenchers from the House of Commons. Even the Prime Minister must answer questions every Tuesday and Thursday in the Commons – this is “called Prime Minister’s Question Time. Everyone wants to know what has been decided behind the closed doors of the Cabinet Room.
1. Which party forms the government?
2. Who becomes Prime Minister?
3. Why are Prime Ministers powerful?
4. Where does the Cabinet meet?
5. What did Margaret Thatcher try to do?
6. Why was Margaret Thatcher forced to resign?
7. Whose questions must Cabinet ministers answer?
8. What does everyone want to know?