Comparing Westminster

Comparing Westminster

by R. A. W. Rhodes, John Wanna, Patrick Weller
     
 

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Comparing Westminster 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 centralization in collective, responsible cabinet government. Second, the constitutional convention of

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Overview

Comparing Westminster 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 centralization 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 analyzing four traditions: royal prerogative, responsible government, constitutional bureaucracy, and representative government. They suggest that each tradition has a recurring dilemma, between centralization and decentralization, party government and ministerial responsibility, professionalization and politicization, and finally elitism and participation. They gone 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.

Comparing Westminster concludes 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 criticize 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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Full of interesting insights and stories, and is rich in detail of the operation of the political system in the chosen countries. The way in which politicians appeal to the term Westminster is revealing."—Political Studies Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199563494
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
10/25/2009
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

R.A.W. Rhodes is Professor of Government at the University of Tasmania.

John Wanna is Sir John Bunting Professor of Politics and Public Administration in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University, and Professor in Public Policy at Griffith University.

Patrick Weller is Professor of Politics and Public Policy and Premier of Queensland Chair of Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University.

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