What is the 'dominant model' of British policymaking? Comparing majoritarian and policy community ideas



Jordan G & Cairney P (2013) What is the 'dominant model' of British policymaking? Comparing majoritarian and policy community ideas. British Politics, 8 (3), pp. 233-259.

The aim of this article is to help identify the fundamental characteristics of the British policymaking system. It highlights an enduring conflict of interpretation within the literature. On the one hand, most contemporary analysts argue that the ‘Westminster model' is outmoded and that it has been replaced by modern understandings based on ‘governance'. On the other, key ideas associated with the Westminster model, regarding majoritarian government and policy imposition, are still in good currency in the academic literature, which holds firm to Lijphart's description of the United Kingdom as a majoritarian democracy. These very different understandings of British government are both commonly cited, but without much recognition that their conclusions may be mutually incompatible. To address this lack of comparison of competing narratives, the article outlines two main approaches to describe and explain the ‘characteristic and durable' ways of doing things in Britain: the ‘policy styles' literature initiated by Richardson in Policy Styles in Western Europe and the Lijphart account found in Democracies and revised in 1999 as Patterns of Democracy. The article encourages scholars to reject an appealing compromise between majoritarian and governance accounts.

British policymaking; Westminster model; majoritarian government; governance; Policy sciences; Social sciences

British Politics: Volume 8, Issue 3

Publication date30/09/2013
Publication date online08/04/2013
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan

People (1)


Professor Paul Cairney

Professor Paul Cairney

Professor, Politics