UK Privatization revisited: ideas and policy change, 1979-92

Heffernan, Richard (2005). UK Privatization revisited: ideas and policy change, 1979-92. Political Quarterly, 76(2) pp. 264–272.



Privatisation in the UK was facilitated by the interplay of ideas, institutions, actors, and economic interests. The motivations of the programme were ideational and political, but the objectives were economic and administrative. Together these paved the way for the success of the policy. Although several rationales were at play in the unfolding of privatisation, the ideological predilection of the Thatcher governments underpinned this far-reaching policy reform. This explains why the Thatcher government did not reform nationalized industries within the public sector, but instead shifted them into the private sector. Privatisation succeeded because it was championed by new right policy entrepreneurs, was supported by interest groups prepared to support, or least not impede, such dramatic policy change, and when the public enterprise status quo was deemed in need of reform. Of course, ideas only act as a catalyst for policy change when an established policy agenda having withered, been worn-out or otherwise discredited, can then be successfully challenged.

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