Through a unique dataset covering half a century of policy-making in Britain, this book traces how topics like the economy, international affairs, and crime have changed in their importance to government. The data concerns key venues of decision-making – the Queen’s Speech, laws and budgets – which are compared to the media and public opinion. These trends are conveyed through accessible figures backed up by a series of examples of important policies. As a result, the book throws new light on the key points of change in British politics, such as Thatcherism and New Labour and explores different approaches to agenda setting helping to account for these changes: incrementalism, the issue attention cycle and the punctuated equilibrium model. What results is the development of a new approach to agenda setting labelled focused adaptation whereby policy-makers respond to structural shifts in the underlying pattern of attention.
“Policy Agendas in British Politics presents a novel overview of British politics and policy-making across the past two generations. The result is a new understanding of the dynamics of British politics, one that tests rather than assumes the impact of such things as changes in Prime Ministerial leadership, external shocks, or institutional design. The impressive empirical work, combined with careful theorizing and attention to previous works of many types will guarantee a wide and well deserved audience in Britain and beyond.”— Frank Baumgartner, University of North Carolina
“A new and innovative lens through which to analyse and understand policy prioritisation in the UK since 1945: new in its heuristic – of ‘focused adaptation,’ new in its dataset, new in its use of change point analysis, and new in its challenges to existing academic orthodoxies about policy stability and change. New is good.” — David Judge, University of Strathclyde
“This book is a very innovative and carefully executed piece of scholarship: a careful analysis of the Queen’s Speech as a means of exploring policy agendas has not been undertaken before. The model of focused adaptation provides an interesting and potentially very useful addition to existing theoretical frameworks. It represents a valuable addition to the public policy literature.” — Wyn Grant, University of Warwick