UK US effective leadership

Compare the powers of the American President and British Prime Minister. Which can provide more effective leadership?

After comparing British Prime Minister and American President roles is believed that the U.S president leadership can provide more effectiveness, the reason are the following:

The president of the US is the head of the State, while the British prime minister is the effective head of British government. In this case is believed that the US president as head of the state is able to make decisions without consulting the executive.

The Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution determines that the president is the sole commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces and of the state militias when they are called into national duty.  In other words, the president is given the power to require responses from the principal officers in each constituent department of the executive. As commander-in chief the president leads an armed force of almost 1.5 million. There are also many civilian personnel involved, and the Department of Defense is the largest executive department.[1]

The same section of the Constitution describes the president’s powers to make treaties, to appoint ambassadors and judges f the Supreme Court. However, the Constitution of the United States is at all times careful to the limit the threat of concentrating too much power in one part of the governmental structure.

In the other hand, in the case of the British PM, the modern office of prime minister embodies a formidable concentration of power, although much of this depends on the convention rather than law. In addition the prime minister is responsible for forming a government; for directing and coordinating its work; and for general supervision of the civil services. The leadership of British prime minister is always in a collective context; which basically means that the prime minister is not a single-person executive like the US president.

From the individual point of view, for instance; is believed that the US president can decide certain choices without consulting the executive branch for the reason of being head of the state; for British PM’s, decisions must be consulted and agreed by Parliament members. To summarize in case of the British prime minister very considerable powers are given, however consultation is compulsory. Some commentators have argued that “the British system of government has evolved towards prime ministerial government”.[2]

The constitutional grants of power and authority to the president have been said by some analysts to give the appearance of establishing a set of institutionalized presidential “chiefdoms” putting the president at the centre of US government. The most clearly mentioned is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In relation to the departments, the British prime minister is “in the position of bargainer rather than of a leader enjoying a significant power of command”[3]



UK                                                                                                                                      USA

-Chosen by Parliament                                                                                       -Chosen by voters

– Faces weekly questions from Parliament                                      -No weekly questioning in Congress

– PM’s party always has majority in Parliament              -Congress, not President, controls leg. Agenda

Comparative politics[5] 

–          The implied comparison in the notion of “President Blair” is with a US president. The US president is (effectively) directly elected by the American people and combines the roles of the head of government with head of state.

–          Yet as head of government the US president may often have less control of policy than a British prime minister, particularly if he does not have majority in the Congress, which is not uncommon. The main reason that a UK prime minister often appears more powerful is because of the fusion of the executive and legislature in Britain compared with the constitutionally separate executive and legislature in the USA. However; the US president is a rather unusual type of president. Many others “presidents” around the world are formal heads of state, not heads of government, with little political power.


Davies Philip, Politics USA, Pearson, 2nd edition,2006.

Leach, Robert, Bill Coxall, and Lynton Robins, British Politics (Basingstoke:Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

[1] Politics USA p.182

[2]  British Politics p.194

[3] Burch, 1995, taken from British politics p.198

[4] Facts taken from Lecture “The presidency” US

[5] British politics, p.196


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