Policy and Policymaking in the UK

Right now, this page contains:

1. Early draft chapters of a book that I am co-authoring with Dr Sean Kippin:

Chapter 1

  1. Describes the importance of policy and policymaking to the study of UK politics.
  2. Introduces three essential ways to research it, via policy analysis, policy studies, and critical policy analysis.
  3. Warns against equating UK politics with the ‘Westminster model’ story of power concentrated in the hands of government ministers.
  4. Introduces an alternative ‘complex government’ story, in which ministers can only influence a small proportion of their responsibilities.
  5. Shows how to use these insights to analyse, explain, and evaluate contemporary politics and policymaking in the UK.

Chapter 2

  1. Describes three perspectives on policy and policymaking
  • Policy analysis is research for policy: defining problems, seeking solutions, identifying trade-offs, estimating their effects, and making recommendations.
  • Policy studies is research of policy and policymaking: what policy is, who makes it, how policymakers understand and address problems, and the environment that limits their influence.
  • Critical policy analysis combines elements of both, to identify: who decides, who benefits, and how to challenge inequitable processes and outcomes.
  1. Shows how all three perspectives are essential to our understanding of policymaking

Chapter 3

  1. Compares two different stories of UK policymaking.
  • The Westminster story describes the concentration of power in the hands of a small number of people at the heart of central government.
  • It remains an important reference point in UK politics, even though it provides an inaccurate account of policymaking.
  • The complex government story describes the limits to central government control.
  • It is more accurate but less easy to understand and connect to UK political norms.
  1. Explores what happens when policymakers draw on both stories for different reasons, even when they seem to contradict each other

Chapters 4 and 5

Chapter 4:

  1. Describes the transformation of the UK state in the post-war period.
  • Transformation describes profound changes including: the size of the UK state, its level of intervention in the market, and reforms to its policymaking and delivery functions.
  • There have been major changes in UK economic policy and ownership of industries.
  • UK governments have reformed public sector functions in health, education, housing, and local government.
  1. Relates state transformation to two reference points:
  • The post-war consensus story describing state ownership and intervention.
  • The neoliberal story describing a trend towards state retrenchment and privatization in favour of market forces and individual responsibility.
  1. Examines how parties make a difference.
  • In a few cases, a new party has become associated with a major change in the long-term direction of travel.
  • In most, a new party slows or accelerates the same trend.
  1. Identifies the impact of devolution.
  • Devolution as a policy has accentuated UK state transformation.
  • However, devolved government policies often opt-out of the UK government policies associated with state transformation.

Chapter 5

  1. Links state transformation to stories of policymaking. The Westminster story emphasises core executive action. The complex government story situates action in a wider policymaking environment.
  2. Examines the UK policy style during this period: were policy changes negotiated in policy communities or imposed from the top-down?
  3. Relates transformation to theories of policy change: did change occur incrementally or in bursts of activity? Was it part of a coherent plan?
  4. Explores debates on the consequences: did UK governments produce ‘lean’ and more effective government, or a ‘hollowed out’ state?
  5. Relates UK transformation to globalisation and the influence of international actors.

We should manage to complete this book on time if everyone promises that not much else will change in British Politics before 2023.

2. Older blog posts and podcasts on the theme of policy and policymaking in the UK (for a 2016 module)

  1. British politics, Brexit and UK sovereignty: what does it all mean? #POLU9UK

2. Two stories of British politics: the Westminster model versus Complex Government

3. Policymaking in the UK: do you really know who is in charge and who to blame?

4. Policy Concepts in 1000 Words: the Westminster Model and Multi-level Governance

(podcast download)

4. BONUS MATERIAL Writing a policy paper and blog post (no podcast)

[Weeks 5 and 6 were for presentations]

7a. Policy networks and communities 

7b. Policy Concepts in 1000 Words: Networks, sub-government and communities

8a. Socioeconomic factors and events in British politics 

8b. Policy Concepts in 1000 Words: Context, Events, Structural and Socioeconomic Factors

9. What happens when UK Governments try to control and delegate policymaking? 


Note on podcasts: if you want to download them (perhaps because they won’t play on the site on some computers), right click and download: one, two, three, four, … nine.

3. Old Book Idea: Policy and Policymaking in the UK

Here are some old versions of my single-author chapters . They are part of a book that was never written, but chapter 2 gets too many downloads to dump.

Chapter 1 Introduction: how is policy made in the UK?

Chapter 2 Policymaking in the UK: What is Policy and How is it Made?

… big gap ….

Chapter 16 Conclusion: Two ways to understand policymaking in the UK

See also:

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