At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders claimed that their public health policy decisions were ‘following the science’; however, the literature on evidence-based policy problematises the idea that this is a realistic or desirable form of governance. This article examines why leaders make such claims using blame avoidance theory. Based on a qualitative content analysis of two national newspapers in each of Australia, Canada and the UK, we gathered and focused on unique moments when leaders claimed to ‘follow the science’ in the first six months of the pandemic. We applied Hood’s theory to identify the types of blame avoidance strategies used for issues such as mass event cancellation, border closures, face masks, and in-person learning. Politicians most commonly used ‘follow the science’ to deflect blame onto processes and people. When leaders’ claims to ‘follow the science’ confuse the public as to who chooses and who should be held accountable for those decisions, this slogan risks undermining trust in science, scientific advisors, and, at its most extreme, representative government. This article addresses a gap in the literature on blame avoidance and the relationship between scientific evidence and public policy by demonstrating how governments’ claims to ‘follow the science’ mitigated blame by abdicating responsibility, thus risking undermining the use of scientific advice in policymaking.
A popular explanation for governments’ persistent enthusiasm for evidence-based policymaking (EBPM) is its expected capacity to solve policy conflict. However, research is divided on whether or not EBPM actually has a positive impact on conflict. On the one hand, EBPM is said to introduce a set of principles that helps overcome political differences. Simultaneously, EBPM has been criticised for narrowing the space for democratic debate, fuelling the very conflict it is trying to prevent. This article explores how EBPM structures policy conflict by studying the example of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in policy processes through reconstructive interviews and ethnographic observations. It argues that, although EBPM channels conflict in a way that prompts engagement from stakeholders, it also escalates conflict by misrepresenting the nature of policy processes. As such, the findings suggest that managing process participants’ expectations about what evidence is and can do is key in fostering productive policy conflict.
For-profit companies have begun competing with women’s shelters for ‘clients’ trying to escape violence. Using discourse theory, this study examines how 20 private shelters describe their business. The analysis shows that private shelters describe themselves as: (1) having a broad expertise and target group: (2) being able to tend to the individual needs of any client; and (3) being highly available and flexible. We understand this as an expression of a neoliberal market discourse and as a way to differentiate themselves from women’s shelters. This may put pressure on women’s shelters to provide similar ‘inclusion’, availability and flexibility. Furthermore: (4) private shelters contribute to shaping a desirable neoliberal subject, that is, a self-reliant woman; and (5), by articulating needs as individual and inherently mundane, they lean more towards ‘providing accommodation’ than addressing the particularities of (gendered) violence.
Between 1968 and 2010 more than one thousand groups and many more individuals on the left of the political spectrum were targeted by intrusive police surveillance.
This intervention gives an overview of what has become known as the Spycops scandal and the active role of the grassroot movements that were spied on, while focusing on the authors’ own organisation, the Undercover Research Group.
It explores how a critical approach to the Undercover Policing Inquiry had been productive, while conceding that misgivings about engagement are understandable and valid as well.
This paper also considers how the impact of this mode of policing are still being felt today and discusses whether the current hostile environment for protesters makes a reoccurrence of these abuses more likely.
This chapter investigates the work of the Airport Commission (2012–2015). It first discerns and characterises the bundle of mechanisms, strategies, arguments and rhetorical claims at play in its discourse. It explores how the Commission deployed legitimising appeals to independent expertise; transformed the economic boosterism of aviation into the strategic advantages of connectivity; marshalled the techniques of forecasting and prediction; and redefined information-giving and transparency as forms of engagement. In particular, it demonstrates how the Commission strategically framed aviation emissions and aircraft noise to negate opposition to expansion and how its ‘performance of authority’ was embodied in the ‘reasonable’ and ‘neutral’ position of its chair, Sir Howard Davies. Politically, the Commission successfully kept the aviation issue off the national political agenda in the run-up to the 2015 general election, while also satisfying the demands of the pro-expansion Heathrow lobby, which was a programme success for the Cameron government. However, in disclosing the complex dynamics of politicisation and re-politicisation at work during the Commission’s lifespan, we conclude that ultimately it did little more than instil a temporary ‘phoney war’ in aviation policy, with the publication of its Final Report in 2015 triggering another round of ‘trench warfare’ that re-politicised aviation policy.
Few commentators believe the UK government’s policy framework for achieving its target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050 is sufficient. There is a strong case for a carbon or energy tax, but from a social policy perspective such taxes raise distributive concerns. Yet, as this chapter shows, taxation of carbon already exists in the UK in a range of fiscal instruments that affect the cost/price of GHG emissions. These have emerged uncoordinated with little concerted analysis of their distributive impact or the adequacy of benefit payments that mitigate impact. The chapter shows existing UK carbon taxation to be highly regressive with mitigation efforts wholly insufficient, particularly with respect to the lowest-income decile households. What is required, it is suggested, is a re-consideration of domestic energy taxation encompassing the development of fully worked through compensatory mechanisms, including universal services delivering basic needs.
The conclusion reiterates our core arguments regarding the dialectical complexities of politicisation and depoliticisation, and explores the implications of the exemplary case of aviation and airport expansion for a wider set of social and political issues. The chapter begins by reflecting upon the power and grip of numbers and the logic of quantification in the construction and attempted resolution of the struggles to shape UK airports and aviation. It then explores the relationships between different technologies of government and depoliticisation; the role of legal institutions and spaces in structuring policy and campaigning; and the dilemmas and opportunities of political campaigning. Our focus then turns to the crucial dimension of politics in our story, where we examine the role of party politics, government and the state and campaigners and social movements in shaping airports policy, as well as the implications of our conclusions for democratic decision-making. In particular, we analyse the linkages between political costs and the creation and exercise of political will, showing how this factor played a crucial part in the explanation and development of the UK aviation policy regime. We conclude by restating our demands for the green transformation of aviation policy.
With tax issues high on the political agenda, this broad-based edited collection fills a significant gap in both the tax and social policy literatures. Bringing together disparate debates and based on a wealth of research, it provides a detailed analysis of how tax and social policy interact with each other and the role of taxation as an instrument of social policy influencing redistribution and behaviour.
The book’s 15 chapters guide readers through the key interactions and the challenges posed by the complex interplay of tax and social policies across the main policy domains. Together, they consider the full range of fiscal resources, including much that has remained part of the hidden wiring of taxation. Wealth, consumption, environmental and income taxes are examined, as is the impact of local and indirect as well as direct taxes on individuals, families, communities and societal wellbeing. Each chapter also considers how analyses might be combined and policy options developed for more effective delivery and impact. Individually and conjointly, they raise searching questions about the ways that taxes influence behaviour and how taxation might be used to work in tandem with social policies to tackle structural inequalities.
With its interrogation of existing sources as well as new research, it is essential reading for both social policy and tax analysts and will stimulate debate, policymaking and further research.
This book analyses the strategies used by public authorities to expand the UK aviation industry in relation to growing political opposition and the negative impact of flying on local communities and climate change.
Its genealogical investigations show how governmental practices and technologies designed to depoliticise aviation and expand airports have generally failed to constitute an effective political will to counter community resistance and environmental protest. Criticising the dominant logics of UK airport expansion, the authors promote a radical rethinking of our attitudes to aviation in terms of sufficiency, degrowth and alternative hedonism, laying the ground for a more sustainable future.