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
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
Anne 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 Does it matter if politicians know what they are doing?
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.
Continue reading Virtual issue on Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts
As colleagues around the world adjust to the personal and professional challenges of COVID-19, the editorial team of Policy & Politics would like to assure all of our readers and contributors that we are committed to ensuring that the journal will continue to be inclusive and accessible for all members of our academic community.
We will still endeavour to handle papers in a timely manner and in accordance with our editorial review process. For early career academics especially, the opportunity to publish is a core concern.
However, we also recognise that for many colleagues, deadlines for peer reviewing, revisions and re-submissions may become difficult. We know that people’s experiences will vary. Whilst some may find themselves with more time to read and write articles, a great many others will have additional caring responsibilities or may be unwell themselves.
If this is the case, please do let us know so that we can amend deadlines accordingly. Our intention is to afford all members of our academic community the opportunity to engage with the journal, and we do not wish to create any unnecessary barriers at such an extraordinary and challenging time.
Policy & Politics Editorial Team
Policy & Politics Co-Editors: Sarah Ayres, Steve Martin & Felicity Matthews, Senior Journals Manager, Sarah Brown
Pascal 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
Ruth Dixon and Thomas Elston
Over 97 per cent of English local authorities cooperate with one another, providing common public services across separate council areas. Ruth Dixon and Thomas Elston consider how and why this occurs. In a follow-up to their previous post, they find that propensity to collaborate is unpredictable, but partner choice can be partly explained by geographical proximity of councils and similarities in organizational and resource characteristics. Contrary to the view that collaboration is a wholly ‘rational’ strategy chosen simply to improve service costs or quality, therefore, this analysis suggests that both efficiency and legitimacy influenced reform choices. Continue reading Efficiency and legitimacy in inter-local agreements: why collaboration has become a default choice among councils
‘Evidence-based policy’ and ‘what works’ are phrases that have become increasingly embedded in debate surrounding good policy-making over the last 20 years. This period has seen no shortage of critiques of these terms and the ways in which they have been employed, but relatively few attempts to articulate the precise foundations of knowledge on which they rest. Yet there are many interesting and important questions that might be asked. How exactly are stronger forms of evidence to be separated from weaker forms? What foundational assumptions lie behind the frequent endorsement of experimental methods? Or, most fundamentally, what precisely is the nature of the proposed link between good evidence and good policy? Continue reading A new understanding of evidence-based policy
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?
At last climate change is moving to the top of the political agenda worldwide. I joined Extinction Rebellion in October 2018, frustrated at the lack of action by governments generally in the face of accelerating increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, and in particular by the UK government’s decision to go ahead with the third runway at Heathrow Airport, which can only contribute further to this great acceleration. Much has changed in the last year but governments have largely continued with ‘business as usual’, with all that that means in terms of supporting the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, the intensification of agriculture, the destruction of rain forests, the pollution of the world’s oceans, and so on. Continue reading A critique of climate change mitigation policy