Prime Ministers in Power: Political Leadership in Britain and Australia

New book by Dr Mark Bennister, Lecturer in Politics at Canterbury Christ Church University and Honorary Research Associate at the Constitution Unit (Palgrave, 2012) ISBN: 9780230273214

Tony Blair and John Howard appear to be incongruous choices for comparative analysis. Howard was from the ideological right of Australian politics, with a leadership style based on experience and an uncharismatic, cautious, bureaucratic persona. Blair was the charismatic, new progressive centre-left leader with an emotional, thespian style, stressing vision and moral imperatives. Yet, it is possible to identify both personal and institutional similarities. This book argues that both leaders stretched the institutional resources available to them and enhanced their own personal capital. Over time, the political capital generated by each inevitably fell away to the extent that they both (although for contrasting reasons) left office in 2007. Prime Ministers in Powerinvestigates prime ministerial predominance in Britain and Australia. It is a timely addition to the scholarly material on political leadership, adding a comparative dimension by using case study analysis of two prime ministers in similar political systems. How did these two prime ministers establish such predominant positions? How far can prime ministers stretch the institutions within which they work and how much of an impact does the office-holder have on the office? What conclusions can be drawn from the comparison of the two prime ministers? What are the consequences and costs of such predominance? This book addresses these questions, offering a comparative perspective on the nature of prime ministerial leadership.

Contents:

PART I

  • Introduction: Comparing Prime Ministers

PART II

  • Cabinet as a Resource
  • Prime Minster and Party
  • Controlling and Strengthening the Centre

PART III

  • Prime Ministers: Personal Capacity
  • Splendid Isolation: Personalisation and Autonomy

PART IV

  • Comparative Perspectives and Conclusions

Publisher and purchasing details:

Reviews:

‘Mark Bennister’s book will be essential reading for all students of prime ministerial power and executive governance. He moves the debate onto new territory, using a comparative approach (looking at Tony Blair in Britain and John Howard in Australia) and integrating analysis of institutional and party factors, personal skills and leadership styles. Bennister is a careful, systematic and forensic analyst. The book offers many insights into Blair and Howard’s long years of predominance but works successfully also as a primer on how to go about making sense in general of Prime Ministers as political leaders.’  (Kevin Theakston, Professor of British Government, University of Leeds)

‘This book makes a significant new contribution to our understanding of comparative political leadership. Through an exhaustive and clear analysis of the personal and political resources at their disposal, it reveals how two very different individuals working in distinctive political settings – former British prime minister Tony Blair and the ex-premier of Australia, John Howard – each found ways of stretching their power through personalized electoral appeals, although each was ultimately constrained by party colleagues. Mark Bennister has produced a valuable new study that deserves the attention of all serious students and scholars of political leadership.’  (Paul Webb, Professor of Politics, University of Sussex)

‘Mark Bennister’s comparative study of Tony Blair and John Howard is a revelation. Few are the books that allow us to see across national difference to recognise the core elements that empower or limit prime ministers. Rarer still are those that can overcome a narrow focus on institutions, or personalities, or the core executive to encompass all of those things and adroitly to demonstrate that only through understanding their interaction will we see how power is gained and sustained. This is a major contribution to prime ministerial studies and to leadership analysis at large.’ (James Walter, Professor of Political Science, Monash University, Melbourne)

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