Cabinet government is a popular model, found in around a quarter of the world’s states. Usually it is an integral element of a parliamentary executive—that is, an executive responsible to a parliament, whose ministers are members of that parliament, and where the post of chief minister is separate from that of head of state. Such Cabinet systems are concentrated in Europe—modelled on the historical examples of Britain and Sweden— and in Commonwealth countries, to which Britain exported its creation. There are a few additional examples of executive Cabinets beyond these two categories, principally Israel, Japan and Thailand. Cabinets with executive functions are also found in the world’s half dozen ‘semi-presidential’ systems—notably Finland, France and Poland—where leadership is shared between a president and a prime minister. In contrast, in fully presidential systems the Cabinet is usually so subservient to the president that we cannot speak of Cabinet government (Derbyshire and Derbyshire 1996, Duverger 1986).
Within this international spectrum, the pattern of Cabinet government varies between countries according to political culture, constitutional arrangements, the structure of party politics and—especially—whether or not the government is a coalition. The pattern also varies within countries according to political circumstances and the leading personalities within the Cabinet system (for a typology of Western European cabinets see Andeweg 1993).
This book deliberately concentrates on the British Cabinet system since the Second World War. Mackintosh’s The British Cabinet (1977), for decades the standard text, explored the Cabinet’s genesis in the seventeenth century and subsequent evolution. While historically intriguing, this can be