Making good policy

In a survey by the Political Studies Association, the minimum wage was judged to be the best policy of recent decades .  Devolution, Sure Start, the Human Rights Act, the smoking ban, and the Northern Ireland peace process were also highly rated, as was ‘privatisation’, a policy which divides opinion.  

Meanwhile, the Institute for Government has offered up examples of ‘bad policy’ such as the Poll Tax, exit from the ERM and the NHS reorganisation of circa 2011.  I would add the failure to regulate the banking sector to this list, along with the ban on hunting with dogs, to which I am not opposed, but feel was poorly legislated for.

Many policies divide opinion as to whether they are, on any terms, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Take Brexit, ‘austerity’ and HS2, for example. It is hard, near impossible, to have an objective view of what makes for good policy and bad policy. Even looking at policy through the prism of whether or not it achieved its objective is difficult, since the objectives of those introducing and shaping policy will vary. This is part of the current challenge with Brexit, with the Cabinet divided over what kind of future relationship they want with the EU.

Parking your own views on the policies themselves, there are characteristics of the policy making process that can be seen as more likely to lead to better policy. These include: time taken to develop the policy, an evidence base, political will and preferably a mandate, and consensus established over time.


In contrast, bad policy making seems to be rushed, lacking in scrutiny, the result of political hubris, and ultimately reversed.


Connect help our clients to contribute to policy making by making sure different voices and perspectives are heard and adding to the process of gathering evidence, ideas and scrutiny. If you would like to see a policy challenged or championed, please get in touch. We also run a short course on how policy is made, which works well as part of a communications or policy team day or strategy session. Please email us if you are interested in finding out more.

Andy Sawford by:
Andy Sawford