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The most powerful people in UK politics

Updated April 17, 2017

In UK politics, people come and go like London buses. But several important positions bestow power on whoever currently occupies the role. From the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition, these individuals have the power to make -- or block -- new laws. It's in these positions that people can make a real difference in how the country is run. Plus they have the power to make or break other political careers, as well as influence the fortunes of entire industries and government departments.

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Prime Minister

The Top Dog. The UK Prime Minister sits at the head of the current ruling party. In theory, all major decisions go through the office of the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, is the UK Prime Minister at the time of writing in 2012. He is preceded by 73 prime ministers, from Robert Walpole in 1730, to his predecessor Gordon Brown in 2007. Margaret Thatcher is the only woman ever to have held the post, from 1979 to 1990. Every Prime Minister occupies 10 Downing Street during their tenure.

Home Secretary

The home secretary controls the affairs of the Home Office. This ranges from legislation and immigration issues, to counter-terrorism and national security. That makes Home Secretary one the most powerful positions in UK politics. With such a broad role, the Home Secretary can influence many areas that affect the average UK citizen -- whether through changes to the number of street police or by controlling the number of migrant workers allowed to enter the country. Theresa May is the current home secretary. She is also the Minister for Women and Equality.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

He who controls the purse strings controls the power, as the saying goes. That makes the Chancellor of the Exchequer one of the most powerful figures in the UK. The chancellor takes key decisions on taxation. That ranges from income tax to road tax. Every change made by the Chancellor directly affects citizens. These changes are mainly delivered during a crucial day in the UK political calendar -- The Budget. At the time of writing, George Osborne holds the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Some chancellors, such as Gordon Brown, go from this position to Prime Minister.

Deputy Prime Minister

While not as prominent or influential as the Prime Minister, the Deputy PM still holds a lot of power. The role involves a wide range of duties, including chairing the Home Affairs Committee. This committee focuses on national issues from policing and security to education and social welfare. If the Prime Minister is ill, out of the country or otherwise unavailable, the Deputy acts as PM in his place. In 2012, the UK has a coalition government. So, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, belongs to a different political party than the Prime Minister.

Leader of the opposition

The Leader of the Opposition exerts no direct influence on current legislation. However, the position is nonetheless very powerful. According to the official Parliament website, the leader must assemble a shadow cabinet to follow and examine the work of their counterparts in government. The Leader of the Opposition in 2012 is Ed Miliband, a Labour politician. Of course, part of the power of this position come from the fact that he or she may yet become the next Prime Minister at the next General Election.

Spin doctors

There's power -- and then there's the power behind the power. Spin doctors, officially known as everything from media officers to communications directors, give key ministers advice on dealing with the press. Labour's Alistair Campbell, who advised Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 to 2003, is one of the most famous (and perhaps infamous) spin doctors. The "spin" comes from presenting stories to the media with the most positive angle. In such a media-saturated world, spin doctors and media advisers play a powerful role in how voters see their leaders and can even help shape policy.

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