Imagine studying British government 50 or more years ago - say at the moment in 1964 when the election of a new Labour administration under Harold Wilson as Prime Minister had produced the first change in partisan control of the Westminster government for 13 years. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that this moment also marked a turning point - the beginning of a long period of change in both the system of government and in the wider political system. The new era of change had comparatively little to do with the government that was elected in 1964. Rather, the change in the partisan colour of government in that year was itself a symptom of deeper changes in wider society and in the links between society and politics. We can identify six important changes, and four lines of continuity, if we glance back over the succeeding decades. The rise of multilevel and multi-agency governance In part this change is institutional and in part it is a change in the mindset of those involved in making policy. The institutional changes that have cropped up in many of the chapters of this book are part of the story. The two most dramatic are the increasing intersection between all levels of government in Britain and the governing institutions of the EU, notably the European Commission in Brussels; and the formalization of domestic multilevel governance which has taken place as a result of the devolution measures introduced from 1999, and the expansion of devolution after the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. But just as important as the objective institutional change is the rising consciousness that government is a multiagency matter: that it involves coordinating the activities of a wide range of agencies distributed both horizontally and vertically across society.
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