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New Labour and evidence based policy making: 1997-2007

Peter Wells


This paper reviews and interprets the use of evidence based policy making (EBPM) by the New Labour government since 1997. New Labour has used EBPM as a key part of its strategy of modernisation. However, the paper reveals that this development needs to be interpreted with some caution. Firstly, because EBPM does not represent a return to a technocratic form of government: issues such as power, politics and people remain critical. Secondly, EBPM has different meanings across policy domains and within social science: it is a contested concept. The paper concludes with an assessment of EBPM, arguing that evaluative research undertaken with an understanding of political ideas, institutions and contexts provides a richer basis to inform policy and practice. What counts may be what works; but understanding and identifying what works is not a simple technocratic task, but a tellingly reflexive one.


DOI: 10.3351/ppp.0001.0001.0004