The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is, in practice, the political leader of the United Kingdom. He or she acts as the head of Her Majesty's Government and like the Prime Ministers of other countries with similar political systems is (along with his or her Cabinet) the de facto wielder of executive powers in the British Government, exercising many of the executive functions nominally vested in the Sovereign, often summed-up under the label of "royal prerogative". According to constitutional convention, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (which he or she heads) are accountable for their actions to Parliament, of which (by convention) they are members.

Role and Powers[]

The current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is Robert George Grosvenor who took office after the Conservative leadership election of 1981. The Prime Minister's chief duty is to "form a Government"—that is to say, to create a Cabinet or Ministry which will sustain the support of the House of Commons—when commissioned by the Sovereign. He or she generally co-ordinates the policies and activities of the Cabinet and the various Government departments, acting as the "face" of Her Majesty's Government. The Sovereign exercises much of his or her royal prerogative on the Prime Minister's advice. The Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces is the Sovereign. Under longstanding parliamentary custom and practice, however, the Prime Minister holds de facto decision-making power over the deployment and disposition of British forces, hence the Commander-in-Chief without portolio. The Prime Minister can authorise, but not directly order, the use of Britain's nuclear weapons.

The Prime Minister also has a wide range of powers of appointment. In most cases, the actual appointments are made by the Sovereign, but the selection and recommendation is made by the Prime Minister. Ministers, Privy Counsellors, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, senior civil servants, senior military officers, members of important committees and commissions, and several other officials are selected, and in some cases may be removed, by the Prime Minister. Furthermore, peerages, knighthoods, and other honours are bestowed by the Sovereign only on the advice of the Prime Minister. He also formally advises the Sovereign on the appointment of Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England, but his discretion is limited by the existence of the Crown Nominations Commission.

Residence and Title[]

The Prime Minister traditionally resides at 10 Downing Street in London, which George II offered to Sir Robert Walpole as a personal gift. Walpole, however, only accepted it as the official home of the First Lord, taking up his residence there in 1735. The Prime Minister only resides in 10 Downing Street in his or her capacity as First Lord; the few nineteenth century Prime Ministers who were not First Lords were forced to live elsewhere. The Prime Minister is also entitled to use the country house of Chequers in Buckinghamshire. The Prime Minister, like other Cabinet Ministers and senior Members of Parliament, is customarily a member of the Privy Council; thus, he or she becomes entitled to prefix "The Right Honourable" to his or her name. Membership of the Council is retained for life (unless the individual resigns it, or is expelled—both rare phenomena). It is a constitutional convention that only a Privy Counsellor can be appointed Prime Minister, but invariably all potential candidates have already attained this status. The only occasion when a non-Privy Councillor was the natural appointment was Ramsay MacDonald in 1924, but the issue was resolved by appointing him to the Council immediately prior to his appointment as Prime Minister.