How minimum unit pricing for alcohol almost happened in England and what this says about the political dynamic of the UK

hawkinsBenjamin Hawkins

The UK Government’s Alcohol Strategy (GAS), published in March 2012, unexpectedly included a commitment to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in England, following the adoption of similar measures by the Scottish Government. Yet just 16 months later, the introduction of MUP was placed on hold indefinitely. Our recent article published in Policy and Politics seeks to explain how and why MUP came so unexpectedly onto the policy agenda in England, before disappearing just as suddenly, and what this tells us about the evolving political dynamics of post-devolution and post-Brexit Britain.

In Scotland, MUP passed into law at the second attempt in 2012 and came into force in 2018 following a six-year legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association and other industry actors. The emergence of MUP as a viable policy option was, however, a ‘cross-border’ process with developments in Scotland inextricably linked to those ‘down South’, particularly the support for, and background work on, alcohol pricing within the Department of Health. Following its adoption in Scotland, a ’policy window’ opening in which MUP came onto the policy agenda in England also. However, this proved to be short lived. Our article argues that the success of MUP in Scotland and its failure in England can largely be explained in terms of the differing levels of political commitment to the policy in each context. Continue reading

Does it matter if politicians know what they are doing?

grodem and hippeAnne Skevik Grødem & Jon M. Hippe

In the current political climate, academic knowledge and topical expertise do not appear to be the most sought-after qualities in political leaders. Increasingly, life in the world’s capitals is portrayed as a battle for power between politicians and civil servants. Incoming politicians are often charismatic, prone to sweeping statements on complex issues, and portray themselves as representatives of the people who will “drain the swamp” and “get things done”. Among the swamp creatures, more often than not, they place civil servants: the dull nerds, obsessed with their rules and budgets, far removed from the people they are supposed to be serving. In this picture, there is a clear rift between the dynamic, if ignorant, politician, and the change-averse, but smart, civil servant. Against this background, it seems more important than ever to discuss: what is the relationship between knowledge and action in politics? Or, to put it differently, does it matter whether politicians know what they are doing? Continue reading

Virtual issue on Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

Sarah BrownSarah Brown,
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

New virtual issues from Policy & Politics:
Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

The importance of using evidence in policymaking and debates over the role of experts has never been more crucial than during the current coronavirus pandemic and ensuing public health crisis. From prevailing, long-standing debates over both topics in Policy & Politics, we bring you a collection of our best and most recent articles.

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