The Prime Minister of the United Islands of Georgeland is the head of government for Georgeland and chair of the country's cabinet, the primary decision-making body. The office is formally mandated in the country's constitution, though its role and powers have evolved over time.
The Prime Minister is nominally the leader of the party or bloc with a majority of seats in the Georgeland House of Commons. While this is not strictly required, the constitution does make clear that a Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Commons and that he must 'command its confidence'. A Prime Minister may serve if he or she is not a member of the Commons for a period of no less than eight weeks. This therefore allows the Prime Minister to continue in office after the dissolution of Parliament. Only two Prime Ministers, Michael Fisch and Campbell Rhodes, have served without commanding a majority in the House as a party leader. Fisch was a caretaker Prime Minister appointed during a constitutional crisis and his term in office lasted only three weeks. Rhodes, for his part, headed a minority government from 2001 to 2002, after which he again commanded a majority.
Qualifications and appointment
The Prime Minister is formally appointed by the President, who also appoints members of the Cabinet. The constitutional tradition has been that the President re-appoints the Prime Minister if he or she is re-elected, though this is not a requirement. As with all other members of the Cabinet, Prime Ministers are entitled to the use of the title "the Honourable" (usually abbreviated to "the Hon.") for life.
To be appointed Prime Minister, a person must meet the following qualifications:
- Be a member of the House of Commons
- Have the 'confidence' of the House. This means, in practice, that the governing party must assent to the appointment. No Prime Minister has ever lost the confidence of the house because he or she is the leader of a majority there.
There are no other qualifications for the office.
If the Prime Ministership falls vacant, the Deputy Prime Minister succeeds to the position, but only temporarily. The Continuity of Government Act 2005 provides for the automatic appointment of the Deputy PM in the event of a sudden vacancy, but only "until such time as the Government shall have chosen a new leader." It is normal practice for the government party to choose a new leader through its own internal processes, and that person is subsequently appointed as Prime Minister. The practice of a temporary Prime Minister pending a leadership election is far more common in the event of death than resignation. Most resignations, including those made after a general election loss, are announced prior to a leadership election and made effective immediately following the election, allowing the replacement Prime Minister to be appointed straight away.
As head of government, the Prime Minister is the day-to-day national leader. Most of the Prime Minister's powers derive from his or her position as head of the Cabinet. In practice, decisions made by Cabinet require the support of the Prime Minister. However, theoretically at least, the Prime Minister is only "first-among-equals" and is as bound to collective Cabinet decisions as any other member.
The Prime Minister has the power to name Ministers and members of the Cabinet. While the actual appointments and dismissals are made by the President, they are always done so on the Prime Minister's advice. Similarly, the powers of the President to dissolve Parliament, call elections and make other government appointments, are also exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister is the most visible member of the government. He or she is the dominant figure in Georgeland's political landscape and has an important role in shaping national debate.
As a member of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister sits regularly in that body. He, like the other ministers, are responsible to the House and are subjected to Question Time once every sitting day (except Fridays), in which members of the House ask questions relating to governmental matters to the Prime Minister and his other ministers.
Salary and benefits
The Prime Minister recieves a salary of G$232,443 a year. He is the highest-paid member of Parliament. The President is the only government official who is paid more. The Prime Minister's salary is derived from his parliamentary salary and additional bonuses based on his position as a Cabinet minister and party leader.
The Prime Minister is granted an official residence, simply called The Residence, in Topstad. Every Prime Minister with the exception of Michael Fisch has used the Residence as an office and residence since its foundation. However, it is a matter of individual choice whether to use the Residence as the primary place of business for the Prime Minister's Office. Prime Minister Luke Macaulay, for instance, used the Residence only when Parliament was not sitting and operated with minimal staff, preferring to base most operations out of his parliamentary office. Campbell Rhodes and Zoe Parker, however, used the Residence almost exclusively throughout the year as their office.
In addition to the Residence, the Prime Minister also has access to a country retreat, referred to as Manifest Lodge, located in the Chipwich Mountains. Manifest Lodge is a large house surrounded by several acres of wilderness. As with the Residence, use of Manifest Lodge is at the Prime Minister's discretion. Macaulay uses the Lodge only rarely, while Rhodes was said to be very fond of it and frequently used it during summer.
Both the Residence and Manifest Lodge employ a small number of domestic staff.
While in office, the Prime Minister recieves exclusive access to a Air Force jet for air transport. In 2008, Prime Minister Macaulay announced that he would only use the jet for international travel, and that he would travel on regular Air Georgeland flights for domestic travel as a cost-cutting exercise.
In the past, former Prime Ministers were entitled to a 'gold pass' which granted them free domestic travel at the government's expense. This practice was discontinued in 2007, again as a budget measure by the new government.
List of Prime Ministers
Living former Prime Ministers
As of 2008, there are six living ex-Prime Ministers:
- Zoë Parker (2005-2007)
- Campbell Rhodes (2001-2005, 1999-2000, 1995-1999)
- Michael Elderton (2000-2001)
- Michael Fisch (1999)
- Eric Edge (1995)
- Luke Macaulay (2007-2010)
Prime Ministers in popular culture
Because he or she is such a prominent figure, depictions of Prime Ministers both real and fictitious are common in Georgeland popular culture. Some examples include:
Portrayals of actual Prime Ministers
- The satirical television program A Cynic Is A Realist regularly portrays Luke Macaulay, Campbell Rhodes and Zoe Parker, though other former PMs have appeared on occasion.
- Prime Minister Fenton Thomas has been portrayed in several films and a TV miniseries. The most well-known and critically-acclaimed portrayal was by actor James Kennedy in Mister Thomas Goes to War.
- The children's history cartoon 'round Georgeland showcased historical Prime Ministers such as Fenton Thomas, Robert Pearce and Stanley Baynes in several of its episodes.
Fictional Prime Ministers
- British actor/comedian Steve Coogan portrayed Chris Roberts, a satirical caricature of Campbell Rhodes in the film Foreign Affairs in 2004. In the film, Roberts starts a war with the United Kingdom entirely by accident.
- Actor Kevin Bosley plays Prime Minister Alan Wheatley in the popular TV drama Martin Hall. Mark Collins plays David Walker, a former PM, in the same series.
- Joanna Mitchell played an unnamed female Prime Minister in the 1980s television spy drama Intelligence. Her character was never named and in many respects evoked Margaret Thatcher. The character was seen twenty years before Georgeland eventually had a female Prime Minister.
Prime Ministerial Facts
- Longest serving: Noel Quarton served 12 years, 4 months, 9 days as Prime Minister, longer than any other person. Second is Sir Robert Pearce, who served exactly three months shorter, with a total of 12 years, 1 month and 18 days. Pearce, however, served his entire term concurrently, while Quarton served his over two periods.
- Shortest-serving: Michael Fisch served as Prime Minister for just 27 days in 1999, making him Georgeland's shortest-serving Prime Minister. Among the permanent (as opposed to caretaker) Prime Ministers, Eric Edge was Prime Minister for just 8 months and 8 days. Stanley Baynes served as Prime Minister for 7 months 1 day, but he was also Prime Minister for another 7 years later in his career.
- Youngest: Campbell Rhodes became Prime Minister in 1995 at the age of 32. He is the youngest person to become Prime Minister.
- Oldest: Upon his death in office in 1932, Frederick Eccles was 75 years old. He is the oldest person to be Prime Minister; becoming PM for the second time at the age of 71, he is also the oldest person to be appointed to the office.
- First woman: Zoe Parker (2005-2007) was the first woman to hold the office.