Comparing Westminster

Front Cover
OUP Oxford, Aug 27, 2009 - Political Science - 288 pages
This book explores how the governmental elites in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa understand their Westminster system. It examines in detail four interrelated features of Westminster systems. Firstly, the increasing centralisation in collective, responsible cabinet government. Second, the constitutional convention of ministerial and collective responsibility. Third, the role of a professional, non-partisan public service. And finally, parliament's relationship to the executive. The authors explain the changes that have occured in the Westminster model by analysing four traditions: royal prerogative, responsible government, constitutional bureaucracy, and representative government. They suggest that each tradition has a recurring dilemma, between centralisation and decentralisation, party government and ministerial responsibility, professionalisation and politicisation, and finally elitism and participation. They go on to argue that these dilemmas recur in four present-day debates: the growth of prime ministerial power, the decline in individual and collective ministerial accountability, politicisation of the public service, and executive dominance of the legislature. They conclude by identifying five meanings of - or narratives about - Westminster. Firstly, 'Westminster as heritage' - elite actors' shared governmental narrative understood as both precedents and nostalgia. Second, 'Westminster as political tool' - the expedient cloak worn by governments and politicians to defend themselves and criticise opponents. Third, 'Westminster as legitimising tradition' - providing legitimacy and a context for elite actions, serving as a point of reference to navigate this uncertain world. Fourth, 'Westminster as institutional category' - it remains a useful descriptor of a loose family of governments with shared origins and characteristics. Finally, 'Westminster as an effective political system' - it is a more effective and efficient political system than consensual parliamentary governments. Westminster is a flexible family of ideas that is useful for many purposes and survives, even thrives, because of its meaning in use to élite actors.

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Preface and Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations
1Looking for Westminster
2Comparing Westminster
3Living Traditions
4Executive and Cabinet
5Ministerial Responsibility
6The Public Service
7Parliaments and Representation
8The Meanings of Westminster
Author Index
Subject Index

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About the author (2009)

Rod Rhodes 2004 to date, Treasurer and Secretary, Australasian Political Studies Association 2005 for life, Vice-President of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom. Previously Chair (1999-2002) and President (2002-2005). 2004 to date, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. 2002 to date, Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK). 1999-2002, Member of the Executive Committee of the International Political Science Association. 1986-2011, Editor, Public Administration. John Wanna 2006 to date, Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration, Australia 2006 to date, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Australia 2002, President of Australian Political Studies Association 1995 to date, Member of National Council, Institute of Public Administration, Australia 1995, Editor of Australian Journal of Public Administration. Patrick Weller 2006 Adjunct Professor, Australian and New Zealand School of Government 2002 Appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in June 2002 for 'service through research in political science and public administration and for extending knowledge of executive government'. 1996 Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. 1995 Honorary Life Member, Australasian Political Studies Association

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