European Political Science Review

Research Article

Keeping party programmes on track: the transmission of the policy agendas of executive speeches to legislative outputs in the United Kingdom

Shaun Bevana1 c1, Peter Johna1 and Will Jenningsa1

a1 School of Social Sciences, Institute for Political and Economic Governance (IPEG), University of Manchester, Manchester, UK


In the United Kingdom, the transmission between policy promises and statutes is assumed to be both rapid and efficient because of the tradition of party discipline, relative stability of government, absence of coalitions, and the limited powers of legislative revision in the second chamber. Even in the United Kingdom, the transmission is not perfect since legislative priorities and outputs are susceptible to changes in public opinion or media coverage, unanticipated events in the external world, backbench rebellions, changes in the political parties, and the practical constraints of administering policies or programmes. This paper investigates the strength of the connection between executive priorities and legislative outputs measured by the Speech from the Throne and Acts of Parliament from 1911 to 2008. These are categorized according to the policy content coding system of the UK Policy Agendas Project ( Time series cross-sectional analyses show that there is transmission of the policy agenda from the speech to acts. However, the relationship differs by party, strengthening over time for Conservative governments and declining over time for Labour and other governments.

(Online publication April 01 2011)


  • agenda-setting;
  • institutions;
  • party programmes;
  • United Kingdom


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