Category Archives: Public Policy

Exploring the role of the state in the depoliticisation of UK Transport Policy: Reflections through the lens of COVID-19

Reardon and MarsdenLouise Reardon and Greg Marsden

At the height of the pandemic in the UK, the government order was to ‘stay home, protect the National Health Service, save lives’. The public were told not to travel to their place of work unless that work was essential (and couldn’t be done from home), told not to leave the house for anything but essential groceries, medication or to support the vulnerable, and in doing so advised not to travel on public transport unless there was no alternative. As a consequence travel demand plummeted: motor traffic down by 73% compared to pre-outbreak levels, rail journeys down 90%, London Underground journeys down 94%, and bus journeys in London down 83%. While the current context is very different to the one we wrote our new Policy & Politics article in, it highlights the puzzle that initially caught our attention. Continue reading Exploring the role of the state in the depoliticisation of UK Transport Policy: Reflections through the lens of COVID-19

Are responses to official consultations and stakeholder surveys reliable guides to policy actors’ positions?

Karin IngoldKarin Ingold

Policy scholars are interested in the positions and preferences of politically involved actors. Those preferences can either serve as independent variables (for example, to explain coordination among or the strategic behaviour of actors), or as dependent variables (for example to evaluate actors’ coherence over time). But how do I identify these policy positions or preferences? Should I perform interviews or code the official statements of actors involved in policymaking? How valuable are my survey results in comparison to media data? These are typical questions concerning methods of data gathering and there are unlikely to be absolute answers to the question of which is the best method. However, our recent Policy & Politics article contributes to the discussion regarding these questions and is based on unique data drawn from three cases. Using these data, it compares actor statements about policies, gathered once through surveys and once through text coding official statements. Continue reading Are responses to official consultations and stakeholder surveys reliable guides to policy actors’ positions?

Virtual issue on Working with citizens and changing behaviours

p&p editorsSarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews,
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

New virtual issue from Policy & Politics: Working with citizens and changing behaviours

In this month’s virtual issue we showcase our latest research on the topic of the state working with citizens and changing behaviours. As governments grapple with the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking behavioural change will be a key measure in the easing of lockdowns and the maintenance of social distancing,  Against this backdrop, the articles below provide a series of instructive lessons. Continue reading Virtual issue on Working with citizens and changing behaviours

P&P annual prize announcement

P&P prize winners

By Sarah Ayres, Felicity Matthews and Steve Martin
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

We are delighted to announce the 2020 prizes for award winning papers published in Policy & Politics in 2019. Continue reading P&P annual prize announcement

Virtual issue on Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

p&p editors Sarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews,
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

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

During the current coronavirus global health crisis, we reflect on the lessons learned in policy response terms from our most recent published research featuring crises in a range of diverse environments. Continue reading Virtual issue on Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

Policy & Politics Highlights collection on the role of politics in policymaking free to access from 1st May – 31st July 2020

Sarah BrownSarah Brown
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

The intellectual aims of the journal Policy & Politics are varied, but if we could only choose one hallmark that signifies a ‘Policy & Politics article’, it would be to foreground the politics of the policy-making process and advance our understanding of that analytical field. Our three featured articles this quarter do precisely that, yet within significantly different theoretical and empirical contexts (pluralism being another hallmark of P&P). Continue reading Policy & Politics Highlights collection on the role of politics in policymaking free to access from 1st May – 31st July 2020

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

Claiming and Assigning Credit for Fulfilled Policy Promises – Why Policymakers Fight an Uphill Battle

KonigPascal D. König & Markus B. Siewert

A key promise of representative democracy is that the government strives to generate public policy outputs which are responsive to the preferences of (a majority of) the people. If it delivers on its policy promises, a government can expect to gain or maintain support in the electorate, but if it fails to do so, it is likely to be sanctioned at the next election. This amounts to a central – albeit perhaps somewhat romanticising – rationale behind political competition driving policymakers to do their job.  Continue reading Claiming and Assigning Credit for Fulfilled Policy Promises – Why Policymakers Fight an Uphill Battle

‘Scientific’ policymaking in a ‘complex’ world – what can we learn from the Finnish experience?

ylostalo picture 2Hanna Ylöstalo

Policy solutions, interventions and reform revolve around specific societal diagnoses of the problems that policymaking is supposed to solve. One of the most influential societal diagnoses informing contemporary policy reform seems to be the following: the world has become more ‘complex’, problems have become ‘wicked’ ie intractable, and all policy solutions involve a great deal of ‘uncertainty’. This popular, but rather vague and unhistorical notion has sprung various new approaches to solve diverging political problems. These approaches are often legitimised with scientific knowledge and methods.   Continue reading ‘Scientific’ policymaking in a ‘complex’ world – what can we learn from the Finnish experience?

Policy & Politics Highlights collection on our NEW special issue just published on ‘Policy-making as designing’: free to access from 1 Feb – 30th April 2020.

Sarah BrownSarah Brown,
Journal Manager of Policy & Politics

In a slight departure from our usual format highlighting 3 of our most topical articles, this quarter’s highlights collection focuses on our new special issue just published on

Policy-making as designing: the added value of design thinking for public administration and public policy

In recent years, policy makers have shown increasing interest in harnessing design approaches to address policy problems. Design methods can offer innovative perspectives on persistent policy problems (e.g. climate change; ageing population; urbanization etc.). Given the enormous influx of design toolboxes, design approaches and design steps, the search is on for an ‘ultimate’ design approach for public sector problems. But there are different approaches that can be used, and which have different strengths. Continue reading Policy & Politics Highlights collection on our NEW special issue just published on ‘Policy-making as designing’: free to access from 1 Feb – 30th April 2020.