Life is a lottery: New labour's strategy for the reform of devolved governance

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Drawing on insights from grid-group cultural theory the article argues that New Labour's approach to government units beyond Westminster and Whitehall rests on a fatalistic reading of its environment that specifies its key features in terms of low-trust relationships and a lack of predictability about the success of a range of potential reforms. New Labour's response in these circumstances resembles that of strategy based on the principles of a lottery. The strategy has allowed a plethora of decentralization units and reform initiatives to find favour but none to dominate. The article explores the nature of this strategy, how it was established and the prospects for its maintenance. The key point is not that New Labour's polices have been ad hoc or even that they have been confused. Rather, its policies are a chosen course of action aimed at searching for the right reform formula and creating a dynamic for change by encouraging instability but also space for innovation among the institutions of devolved governance. The strategy is aimed at an overarching goal of developing an enabling state form. The adoption of the strategy, in addition, reflects political contingencies. Moreover, the lottery strategy has helped New Labour sustain its coalition of supporters and manage tensions between different reform approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-434
Number of pages18
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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