Oxford University academics awarded book prize at Westminster awards

Professor Christopher Hood and Dr Ruth Dixon picked up the W. J. M. Mackenzie Book Prize at tonight’s (29 November) Political Studies Association (PSA)’s Annual Awards in Westminster.

Now in its 15th year, the PSA Awards pays tribute to those that have made outstanding contributions to politics in the past year. Professor Hood and Dr Dixon’s book, A Government That Worked Better and Cost Less? Evaluating Three Decades of Reform and Change in UK Central Government, offers a unique evaluation of UK government modernisation programmes from 1980 to the present day.

Published by Oxford University Press, the book contains sophisticated and rigorous analysis of some of the claims that are routinely made about the supposed benefits of the organisational structures and techniques associated with the new public management in the UK. Dixon and Hood offer important, sceptical judgements about these claims.

The book was the unanimous choice of a jury of distinguished academics, which included Professor Thom Brooks (Durham University), Professor Michael Kenny (Queen Mary University of London) and Professor Donna Lee (Manchester Metropolitan University). The judges said: “A Government that Worked Better but Cost Less? carries considerable implications for policy-making, as well as the field of academic enquiry which it addresses”.

Christopher Hood is a Visiting Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College. In the 1970s he worked at Glasgow University with Bill Mackenzie, after whom the PSA’s book prize is named. 

“A lot has changed since that time,” said Hood. “But the issues we explore in our book – concern with what government and its many agencies cost to run and how fairly and consistently government administers its services – have not gone away in the UK or in many other countries.

“Our book shows that that contrary to the rhetoric, successive reforms and reorganisations in the UK over the thirty years up to 2010 failed to drive down government running costs, while complaints and litigation increased sharply. That means the effort to produce ‘a government that works better and costs less’ remains unfinished business.”

Dr Ruth Dixon is the first female winner of the W.J.M. Mackenzie Book Prize. She is a researcher at the Blavatnik School of Government and an associate member of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford.

On writing the book, she said: “Our research involved hundreds of hours of painstaking study of government statistics to reconstruct consistent measures of government costs and quality. We talked with civil servants who worked in government in each of the past three decades to hear their views of the reforms and reorganisations they experienced.”

“Our findings highlight just how difficult it is to answer the apparently simple question: ‘how well is the government doing?’ because the reporting systems and definitions changed so frequently – and indeed continue to change,” added Dixon. “If governments want to learn what worked and what didn’t, the evidence should not be so difficult to obtain.”

The prize was presented to the authors by Phil Sooben, Director for Policy and Resources, and Deputy Chief Executive at the ESRC. Christopher Hood is a second-time winner of the book prize, having previously won in 2000 with The Art of the State.

The master of ceremonies on the evening was Jon Snow (Channel 4 News). Other award winners include the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (Politician of the Year), Grayson Perry (Contribution to the Arts and Culture), Michael Ignatieff (International Recognition Award) and Ruth Davidson (Best Use of Social Media).

ENDS //

Background

After working at Glasgow University, Sydney University, and LSE, Professor Christopher Hood was Gladstone Professor of Government at the University of Oxford from 2001 to 2014 (now Emeritus). Contributions to public service include chairing the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Medical Profiling and Online Medicine (2008-2010) and membership of the Government Office of Science Review of the Analytical Capacity of HM Treasury (2012-2013). Known for his work on ‘new public management,’ Professor Hood works mainly on executive government and bureaucracy, and with Rozana Himaz of Oxford Brookes he recently completed a study of the politics of ‘austerity’ (A Century of Fiscal Squeeze Politics in the UK, OUP, forthcoming).

Dr Ruth Dixon’s early career was in the life sciences. From 1992 to 2001 she was a senior scientist and University Research Lecturer at the MRC Biochemical and Clinical Magnetic Resonance Unit, University of Oxford. Her work on the biochemistry of human disease resulted in over forty peer-reviewed publications. Dr Dixon worked from 2006 to 2013 at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, funded by the ESRC and the Leverhulme Trust. Her research focuses on how best to measure public sector performance. Her current research on efficiency in English local government is funded by the British Academy. She is a member of the editorial advisory board of the International Journal of Public Sector Management.

The full list of winners:

Parliamentarian of the Year

Baroness Smith of Basildon

Politician of the Year

Sadiq Khan

Broadcaster of the Year

Laura Kuenssberg

Best Use of Evidence - Politician

Lord Stern of Brentford

Enlightening the Public

The Iraq Inquiry

Lifetime Achievement in Politics

Gordon Brown

Best Use of Social Media

Ruth Davidson

Campaigners of the Year

Margaret Aspinall and Professor Phil Scraton

International Recognition Award

Professor Michael Ignatieff

Journalist of the Year

Rachel Sylvester

Contribution to the Arts and Culture

Grayson Perry

Democratic Innovation

Democracy Matters Citizens’ Assembly Project

Innovation in Teaching Politics

Dr Matthew Wyman

Political Studies Communicator

Professor Anand Menon

W. J. M. Mackenzie Book Prize

Professor Christopher Hood and Dr Ruth Dixon

Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies

Professor Anne Phillips

PSA Student Short Video Competition

Christleton High School, Chester

 

Notes to editors

  • The 15th Annual PSA Awards was held at Church House, Westminster, London on 29 November 2016 to celebrate noteworthy academics, journalists, politicians, political campaigners and policy-makers who have made significant contributions to the conduct and study of politics.
  • The master of ceremonies on the evening was Jon Snow (Channel 4 News).
  • This year’s Awards Jury included Robert Barrington (Executive Director, Transparency International), Stephen Khan (Editor, The Conversation) Marjorie Wallace (CEO, SANE) and Professor Matthew Flinders (Chair, PSA).
  • Photos from the event will be available from Wednesday 30 November via the PSA Flickr account.
  • The Awards ceremony will be broadcast by BBC Parliament and available to view on BBC iPlayer after the event.
  • Follow social media coverage of the awards at @PolStudiesAssoc and #PSAAwards.
  • Please contact Stefanie Mair, Communications and Media Relations at the PSA with any other media enquiries: stefanie.mair@psa.ac.uk // 07938 128242
  • The Political Studies Association has been working since 1950 to develop and promote the study of politics. It is the leading UK Association in its field, with an international membership including academics in political science and current affairs, theorists and practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and students.