Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Cristine de Clercy


This study concerns the institutional bases of prime ministerial power and leadership. It investigates institutional development in the prime ministerial civil service organizations in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, from the 1970s to the present. The study asks two basic questions. First, to what extent, and how, have the institutional bases of prime ministerial power grown? Second, what explanations account for the institutional change observed? The study is framed theoretically in two ways. Its broad approach is historical institutionalist, in particular, in its descriptive framing of incremental change over time. Empirically, an original theory, the Theory of Public Expectations, is introduced. This theory locates the impetus for institutional change in the gradual, transformative shift in public values since the 1970s towards “assertive citizenship”. Assertive citizenship generates increased public expectations of leaders which, in turn, incentivize prime ministers to centralize power through institutional enhancement. Methodologically, the study employs an innovative mixed methods approach. Overall, the analysis shows that, where preconditions are satisfied, the Theory of Public Expectations broadly holds. Thus, the study reveals the crucial role of the public in shaping prime ministerial leadership. As importantly, though, the study finds that centralization of power in prime ministerships, at least institutionally, is not universal or consistent. Contradicting prevailing accounts, it varies greatly across cases and over time, often contingent on the agency of leaders. The study advances the theoretical robustness and methodological rigour of the prime ministerial literature and demonstrates the relationship between the public and prime ministerial power.