The Job at the Top
The imperative must always have priority.
--Old Treasury maxim
Viewed from the top, British government looks more like a mountain range than a single pyramid of power. The Prime Minister is preeminent among these peaks, but the political significance of this preeminence is ambiguous. The person on top can be remote from what is happening on the ground.1 Those who observe government from the dizzy heights of Downing Street are subject to what Lord Rosebery described as "hallucinations" about the allegedly "universal power" of the person at the top. The claim that contemporary eminence makes a British Prime Minister similar to an American President is to ignore the many studies of the American President that emphasize the weakness of that office.2 Perhaps the person on top is better described as the "least weak" member of government instead of the most powerful.____________________