Daily Archives: September 24, 2013

Thatcher’s Letter Says it Better

Grant Jordan and I produced an article which sums up this argument: policymaking in the UK is nothing like the ‘Westminster model’ suggests. The UK is often described, rather lazily, as ‘majoritarian’, which suggests power is centralised and used to make policy from the top down. The Thatcher era, and slogans such as ‘there is no alternative’ and ‘the lady’s not for turning’, sum up this idea. This is a very misleading image of the UK in which policy tends to be made at low levels of government, with civil servants consulting routinely with organizations such as interest groups. Some policies may be introduced with minimal consultation, but they are not typical. The handy thing is that Thatcher also made this argument. Compare our argument with Thatcher’s letter to Hayek:

“the concept of ‘elective dictatorship’ (coined by Lord Hailsham in 1976) using parliamentary majorities was so worrying within the political class because it was seen as an abuse of the democracy-with-consent principle. For Lijphart, elective dictatorship is the essence of British arrangements, but the desire for consent means that majoritarian systems are far nearer consensus democracies than Lijphart allowed. The drive for consent and the premium placed on consultation are key features of the unwritten constitution. Although the idea of ‘constitutional morality’ is nebulous (Flinders, 2010, p. 289), it still underpins British government” (Jordan and Cairney, 2013: 249-50).

Thatcher to Hayek

Thatcher to Hayek

See Thatcherism and the Idea of Policy Imposition for links to our article and related material


Filed under public policy, UK politics and policy