Dante and the spin doctors

Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders

by Matthew Flinders, Editor, Policy & Politics

Originally posted on May 7th on the Oxford University Press blog.

First it was football, now its politics. The transfer window seems to have opened and all the main political parties have recruited hard-hitting spin-doctors — or should I say ‘election gurus’ — in the hope of transforming their performance in the 2015 General Election. While some bemoan the influence of foreign hands on British politics and others ask why we aren’t producing our own world-class spin-doctors I can’t help but feel that the future of British politics looks bleak. The future is likely to be dominated by too much shouting, not enough listening. Continue reading

Depoliticisation and the Father’s Clause parliamentary debates

Stephen Bates, Laura Jenkins and Fran Amery
Stephen Bates, Laura Jenkins and Fran Amery

Stephen Bates, Laura Jenkins and Fran Amery, from the University of Birmingham, use work on in vitro fertilisation to think through depoliticisation. The full article  on the subject – (De)politicisation and the Father’s Clause parliamentary debates – along with the rest of the special issue of Policy & Politics on depoliticisation, is available free throughout May.

Depoliticisation, in simple terms, involves disavowing political responsibility, or persuading the public that one is no longer responsible for particular decisions, with the result that deliberation and choice are restricted. Crucially, as the literature has identified, choices are still being made – e.g. politicians may retain mechanisms for indirect control – but they are concealed. Continue reading

Evidence translation: an exploration of policymakers’ use of evidence

Jo Ingold and Mark Monaghan from the University of Leeds discuss their forthcoming article ‘Evidence translation: an exploration of policymakers’ use of evidence’, available via fast track from Policy & Politics.

Given the UK Coalition government’s apparent ‘misuse’ of statistics in a range of policy areas, questions are often raised about the use of evidence in policymaking. Our key concern in this article is how evidence, ideas and knowledge are used (or not) in the policy process, drawing on a series of focus groups with 75 analysts and policy advisers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The DWP seemed a good place to explore this issue – under New Labour it saw a huge increase in the number of evaluations and is currently the home of ‘flagship’ government policies such as Universal Credit and the Work Programme. Continue reading

Policy & Politics conference 2014

Bristol Marriot Royal Hotel
Bristol Marriot Royal Hotel

The Policy & Politics conference 2014 will take place at the Marriot Hotel in Bristol, on 16th and 17th September this year. For those interested in social and public policy, the event is fast becoming one of the main events in the UK conference calendar.

This year the conference theme is the challenges of leadership and collaboration in the 21st Century, and the occasion will be truly international in scope. All our plenary speakers – Chris Ansell, Erik-Hans Klijn, Helen Sullivan, and Jacob Torfing – come from beyond the UK. In previous years we have attracted close to 200 papers from around 20 countries. There is a good mix of established academics and younger researchers presenting in a mutually supportive and academically rigorous environment. As always there are opportunities for publication. The 2012 conference generated a Special Issue for the Policy & Politics journal, and our publisher, Policy Press, will be there to showcase the latest titles in the field and to discuss potential publishing proposals. Continue reading

Behaviour change as psychological governance – making psy-citizens?

Rhys Jones, Mark Whitehead and Jessica Pykett
Rhys Jones, Mark Whitehead and Jessica Pykett

Rhys Jones and Mark Whitehead, Aberystwyth University, and Jessica Pykett, Birmingham University discuss their article, Psychological governance and behaviour change which was published in Policy & Politics in 2013, and is available free during May 2014.

‘Behaviour Change’ has become a familiar term in UK public policy. This trend indicates the growing influence of the behavioural sciences (including behavioural economics, social psychology and, to a certain extent, neuroscience disciplines) on UK policy making communities in a range of sectors –from personal finance, through public health, to environmental communications. Our work to date has involved a policy ethnography of the emergence and rise of Behaviour Change as an agenda for governance which embeds behavioural insights into public policy design and delivery. We are now investigating the significance of the UK as a policy laboratory for these behavioural forms of governance, as the Behaviour Change agenda spreads internationally. We have identified hundreds of countries in which Behaviour Change initiatives are commonplace as well as several nations in which Behaviour Change has become a centrally-orchestrated programme for governance. Continue reading