The Prime Minister has the right to decide who shall fill the most important positions in politics, public administration, the law and the Church of England. Extensive patronage is exercised also by other Ministers. The distribution of Honours -- from Peerages down to Membership of the Order of the British Empire -- is in the hands of Ministers. The ability to make appointments is a source of great power: in the eighteenth century Cabinets used patronage to create and sustain their parliamentary support.
Is patronage abused today? Does it help to make Government policy more acceptable? How do Ministers select men to fill offices of high responsibility? How far are Ministers effectively responsible to Parliament for the appointments they make? Dr. Richards sets out to answer these and similar questions, and his main concern is not with the past, but with the tendencies of today.
This is a pioneer survey of an important but obscure aspect of British public life. It will be of compelling interest to political scientists and to the politically minded -- and to the merely curious. It will also be of considerable interest to readers in other countries, where institutions may differ but the problems of influence and the possibilities of corruption remain.