The Prime Minister is head of the UK government and is ultimately responsible for the policy and decisions of the government. He or she is the leader of the party that wins the most seats at a general election. After a general election the Queen formally asks that MP to form a Government.
The current the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP, but there have been a total of 75 British Prime Ministers hold office since 1721.
As head of the UK government the Prime Minister:
- oversees the operation of the Civil Service and government agencies
- appoints members of the government
- is the principal government figure in the House of Commons
The Prime Minister used to be able to set the date for the next General Election. However, following the passing of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 this is no longer the case.
The first Prime Minister of Great Britain was Sir Robert Walpole; leader of the Whig party, who held office for two decades. He is also the first Prime Minister to live at 10 Downing Street. In the 18th century the holder of this office was called the First Lord of the Treasury. Whilst this remains the official title of the PM, it is rarely used today but remains inscribed on the letter box of 10 Downing Street.
There are over ten major political parties in the UK, but to date, the only parties to form a Government and hold the Office of UK Prime Minister are the Whig, Tory, Liberal, Conservative and Labour parties.
The Prime Minister answers questions every Wednesday in the House of Commons from midday to 12.30pm. Prime Ministers questions is the most watch parliamentary event of the week and MPs from all parties have the opportunity to question the Prime Minister on any aspect of Government business.
You can watch today's PMQs here (16.11.16):
In addition to their weekly appearance in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister also travels to Buckingham Palace each week to meet with HM The Queen and will hold a cabinet meeting. The Cabinet consists of a maximum of twenty-two paid government ministers chosen directly by the Prime Minister. They can be Members of either House of Parliament – the Commons and the Lords.
Learn more about the history of our Prime Minister’s on the Downing Street website: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers