Some scholars use the ‘dynamic representation’ approach to test how much current policy changes reflect past public preferences. This article tests hypotheses derived from this approach in a left–right context for the United Kingdom from 1976 to 2006. This shows that government policy on the left–right scale shifts as public preferences change (‘rational anticipation’). Secondly, a public with right-wing preferences elects the Conservatives, who pursue right-wing policies in office (‘electoral turnover’). However, popular incumbents are less likely to adjust their policy position to the public. The Westminster system is criticized for its weak link between the rulers and the ruled, but dynamic representation on the left–right scale in the United Kingdom seems to have functioned admirably in this period.
(Online publication June 29 2010)
* Max Weber Programme, European University Institute (email: email@example.com). Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, 2008, the Annual Conference of the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties Section of the Political Studies Association, Manchester, 2008, and the Colloquium on Political Behaviour at the European University Institute, Florence, 2008. The author thanks Sara Hobolt, Mark Franklin, Imke Harbers, Geoffrey Evans, Christopher Wlezien, Till Weber, the Journal’s anonymous reviewers and the Editor, Hugh Ward, for valuable comments, and the European University Institute for hosting him during the 2008 spring semester. Financial support by Nuffield College, Oxford, and the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund is gratefully acknowledged.