There is a long-standing debate in British political science concerning how best to characterise the British policy process. One school emphasises ‘strong government’ under the adversarial/hierarchical ‘Westminster model’, leading to an impositional policy style. An opposing school emphasises the importance of bargaining and consensus, leading to a more consensual policy style via a process of power sharing between government and interest groups, so-called governance. This article highlights several trends that suggest that the British policy style has shifted towards the impositional end of the policy style spectrum, bringing it more in line with the traditional Westminster model of governing. At the same time, however, these changes might increase the number of policy blunders and failures in British Government unless means are found to access and manage the specialist expertise that interest group possess.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Baumgartner, F.B. 2012. Ideas and Policy Change. Governance 26 (2): 239–258.
Blyth, M. 2013. Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Ideas. New York: Oxford University Press.
Capano, G. 2011. Government Continues To Do Its Job: A Comparative Study of Governenace Shifts in The Higher Education Sector. Public Administration 89 (4): 1622–1642.
Capano, G., M. Howlett, and M. Ramesh. 2015. Bringing Governments Back in; Governance and Governing in Comparative Policy Analysis. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis 17 (4): 311–321.
Cooper, C.A., and P. Marier. 2015. Does it Matter Who Works in the Centre? A Comparative Analysis of Executive Styles. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis. 19 (1): 1–16.
Crewe, I., and A. King. 2013. The Blunders of Our Governments. London: Oneworld Publications.
Christiansen, P.M, 2016, Waning Light? Civil Society, Interest Groups, and Public Policies in the Nordic Countries. In The Current Nordic Welfare State Model, ed. N. Veggeland, 43–62. Nova Publishers.
Christiansen, P.M, 2017, 'Still the Corporatist Darlings?' In The Routledge Handbook of Scandinavian Politics, eds. P. Nedergaard, and A. Wivel, 36–49. Routledge.
Davis, A., and C. Walsh. 2015. The Role of the State in the Financialisation of the UK Economy. Political Studies.
Eckstein, H. 1960. Pressure Group Politics: The Case of the British Medical Association. London: Allen and Unwin.
Everett, M., and E. Faulkner. ‘Special Advisers’, House of Commons Library, Briefing Paper, 03813, 28/01/15.
Gamble, A. (2015), ‘The Economy’, in Britain Votes (2015), Parliamentary Affairs Supplement, 68 (1): 154–167.
Halpern, D. 2015. Inside The Nudge Unit. How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference. London: W.H.Allen.
Hall, P. 1993. Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State: The Case of Economic Policymaking in Britain. Comparative Politics. 25 (3): 275–296.
Institute For Government. 2014. Leading Change in the Civil Service. London: IfG.
Institute For Government. 2016. ‘Ministerial Reflections’ Archive of Interviews with Former Ministers. London: IfG.
Institute for Government. 2017. All Change. London: IfG.
Jacobs, A., and K. Weaver. 2015. When Policies Undo Themselves: Self-Undermining Feedback as a Source of Policy Change. Governance 24 (4): 441–457.
Jennings, W, and M. Lodge. (forthcoming). Comparing Blunders in Government.
John, P., A. Bertelli, W. Jennings, and S. Bevan. 2013. Policy Agendas in British Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Jones, R. 2017. Businesses Wish Tax Could Become Boring Again, IoG, 03/03/17.
Jordan, G., and P. Cairney. 2013. ‘What is the ‘Dominant model’ of British Policymaking? Comparing Majoritarian and Policy community Ideas. British Politics 8 (3): 233–259.
Kingdon, J. 1984. Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies. New York: Harper Collins.
Kraft, J. 2016. Social Democratic Austerity: The Conditional Role of Agenda Dynamics and Issue Ownership. Journal of European Public Policy. doi:10.1080/13501763.2016.1231708.
Lijphart, A. 1999. Patterns of Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Marsh, D. 2011. The New Orthodoxy: The Differentiated Polity Model. Public Administration 89 (1): 32–48.
Marsh, D., and M. Hall. 2007. The British Political Tradition: Explaining the fate of New Labour’s Constitutional Reform Agenda. British Politics 2 (2): 215–238.
Marsh, D., and E. Vines. 2016. Does BREXIT Mark the End of the British Political Tradition? (unpublished paper).
National Audit Office (NAO). 2009. The Failure of Metronet, HC, 512, Session 2008–2009, June 5, 2009.
Olson, M. 1982. The Rise and Decline of Nations. Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Peters, B.G. 1997. ‘Shouldn’t Row, Can’t Steer: What’s a Government to Do? Public Policy and Administration. 12 (2): 51–61.
Pressman, J., and A. Wildavsky. 1973. Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington are Dashed in Oakland: Or, Why It’s Amazing that Federal Programs Work at All. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Rhodes, R.A.W. 1996. The New Governance: Governing Without Government. Public Administration. 44 (4): 652–667.
Rhodes, R.A.W. 2007. Understanding Governance: Ten Years On. Organization Studies 28 (08): 1243–1264.
Richards, D., and M. Smith. 2016. The Westminster Model and the “Indivisibility of the Political and Administrative Elite”: A Convenient Myth Whose Time is Up? Governance 29 (4): 499–516.
Richardson, J. 2000. Government, Interest Groups and Policy Change. Political Studies 48: 1006–1052.
Richardson, J., ed. 2012. Constructing a policy-making state? Policy Dynamics in the EU. Oxford University Press.
Richardson, J.J., and A.G. Jordan. 1979. Governing Under Pressure. The Policy Process in a Post-Parliamentary Democracy. London: Basil Blackwell.
Richardson, J., G. Gustafsson, and G. Jordan. 1982/2013. The Concept of Policy Style. In Policy Styles in Western Europe, ed. J. Richardson, Routledge (Reprinted in Routledge Revivals, 2012).
Scharpf, F.W. 1988. The Joint-Decision Trap: Lessons from German Federalism and European Integration. Public Administration 66 (3): 239–278.
Sciarini, P. 2014. Eppure si muove: The Changing Nature of Swiss Consensus Democracy. Journal of European Public Policy 21 (1): 116–132.
Simon, H. 1972. Theories of Bounded Rationality. In Decisions and Organizations, ed. C. McGuire, and R. Radner. New York: North Holland Publishing.
Smith, M. 2015. From Consensus to Conflict; Thatcher and the Transformation of Politics. British Politics 10 (1): 64–78.
Soroka, S., and C. Wlezien. 2014. Economic Crisis and Support for Redistribution in the United Kingdom. In Mass Politics in Tough Times, ed. N. Bermo, and L. Bartels, 105–127. Oxford: OUP.
Van Nispen, F.K.M., and P.W.A. Scholten. 2015. Policy Analysis in Times of Austerity: Puzzling in the Shadow of Powering? Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis.
Weaver, K. 2010. ‘Paths and Forks or Chutes and Ladders? Negative Feedbacks and Policy Regime Change. British Journal of Political Science 30 (2): 137–162.
Wildavsky, A. 1979. Speaking Truth to Power: The Art and Craft of Policy Analysis. Boston: Little Brown.
I wish to thank the following for commenting on earlier drafts. Nigel Bowles, Giliberto Capano; Peter Munk Christiansen; Sir Ivor Crewe; Carsten Daugbjerg; Anneliese Dodds,M.E.P.; Geoff Dudley; Dave Marsh; Sonia Mazey; Kent Weaver. I owe a very special debt to my friend and colleague Grant Jordan who has made a major contribution to my thinking on this topic, over several drafts.