Minimum wage tops chart of 'most successful' policies of last 30 years

The minimum wage, devolution, privatisation and the Northern Ireland peace process were named as the most successful policies of the last 30 years in a survey of the UK's politics academics conducted by the Institute for Government.

150 members of the Political Studies Association from 69 institutions replied to the survey, part of the Institute for Government's Better Policy Making Project.

Politics academics were also asked to define what they meant by 'success' The top factors were:

  • social impact
  • successful implementation
  • economic impact
  • duration of impact.

The least important factor, according to the politics academics, was media approval. This was mentioned by only 10% of respondents.

The two biggest drivers of success were 'political interest and commitment' – meaning by the leading politicians - and 'appropriateness to social and economic context'. Both these drivers mentioned by over half the respondents.

The Institute for Government and the Political Studies Association are now holding a series of policy reunions with those involved in some of the 'successful' policies to understand in more depth what drove those successes.

The implications for policy makers

Political Studies Association Chair, Professor Vicky Randall, said today:

"The implications of this survey for policy-makers might seem to be that you will be remembered for, on the one hand, very specific policies such as the minimum wage or Sure Start, and on the other for broader 'process' reform such as devolution and the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

"The findings could also indicate that policy-makers might be remembered for implementing policies which are perceived to 'make a difference' – but without being necessarily populist – and / or policies which have an ideological currency, as technocratic policies are unlikely to be easily recalled in years to come, whatever their impact."

Institute for Government Director, Andrew Adonis, said:

"It's interesting that many of the policies coming top of the table were ones that the government came into office absolutely committed to pursuing but which were carefully planned and not rushed into.

"Action on devolution and the minimum wage came in the first year of the new government – but was based on lengthy preparation before the government took power. The privatisation programme developed more incrementally over Thatcher's first term, only really gaining pace in the second term.

"Let's not forget though other areas where there’s been real progress over the last 30 years, albeit much more slowly – for instance, making roads safer and reducing smoking rates.

"In all there was a strong political drive behind these most cited successful changes but lessons were carefully learned throughout their development. If there are any lessons for the Coalition it is act swiftly on their commitments yes, but in doing so take time to learn from past attempts."

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