Prime Minister: Not the Queen

Back to some of the student guest blogs I’ve had sitting around in my draft pile.  Maybe we can think of this as a  contribution to the Queen’s diamond Jubilee?

This time, I feel like I should include a disclaimer like “the views expressed by this blogger are not the views shared by the entire Eurobloggers group” …or something like that.

Picture from the Queen’s Facebook page (yes, you can friend her).


It is perhaps well-known in America that the land of Elton John, Adele, and David Beckham (also known as the United Kingdom) is ruled over by the head of state, Queen Elizabeth. However, it is not as well-known (especially to Sarah Palin) that the Queen does not, in fact, have any role to play in actual policy making. So, who does?

Because the United Kingdom has a parliamentary style government, the executive in charge of policy making is called the prime minister, who is the head of government. At the end of each general election, as a mere formality, the queen, who is not popularly elected, invites the leader of the winning party to Buckingham Palace where she asks the new prime minister to form his or her government. This separation of head of state and head of government allows the queen to enjoy her crumpets and tea more freely.

The current prime minister of the United Kingdom is David Cameron of the Conservative party. (He also has a Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, but he pretends that he’s not really there). The prime minster holds all the power over policy making. To form his government, Cameron chose fellow members of the Conservative party in Parliament to serve as ministers of various departments such as foreign affairs, education, and health. Cameron and his cabinet ministers are considered equals, but the prime minister is at the forefront of policy debates and decisions. A key difference between the Parliament in the UK and the American Congress is that members of the cabinet in Parliament retain the seat in the legislature. In contrast, members of President Obama’s cabinet give up their seat for their new job.

One of the more amusing differences between the two executive systems is that in the UK, one of the ways they hold their prime minister accountable to the people is through a rather entertaining program on the “telly” called Question Time. During this show, members of the opposition interrogate the majority party or coalition about their policy initiatives and tell them what horrible people they are and that they are personally responsible for bringing about the end of Britain as we know it. Here we find a particularly entertaining clip of Question Time of the legendary Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the UK. I think Lady Thatcher was trying to say “No” to the policy, I could be mistaken.

Personally, I wish the United States would adopt this style of government. Mostly because the thought of John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi arguing in a Question Time format would be most delightful. Speaker Boehner would simply cry and Pelosi’s poor Botox job would become more pronounced due to her infamous temper.


Steiner, Jurg, and Markus Crepaz. European Democracies. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2007. Print.


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