Deputy Prime Minister

Deputy Prime Minister
   Not all Governments have a person designated as Deputy Prime Minister. In those that do, the role and significance of the office varies according to the wishes of the Prime Minister and the standing of the incumbent. A deputy will stand in for the Prime Minister when the latter is absent, performing at Prime Minister’s Questions and chairing Cabinet or those Cabinet committee and sub-committee meetings normally led by him. The incumbent of the office may or may not be given other departmental responsibilities.
   William Whitelaw’s seniority and popularity within the early Thatcher years made him a key element in her administration. Sir Geoffrey Howe had the title during the later Thatcher premiership but found himself unable to make a significant impact on policy issues; nor was his advice sought by the premier. By contrast, Michael Heseltine was allowed more scope under John Major, having his own office and being allocated the chairmanship of key Cabinet committees. In the Blair Government, John Prescott’s personal popularity amongst Labour’s rank and file made him an obvious candidate for the position. He was allocated his own department with extensive responsibilities in relation to a range of cross-cutting regional and local government issues, although in the 2006 reshuffle many of these duties were removed and he was left to concentrate on resolving difficult, crossdepartmental issues in Cabinet committees.

Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.

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