Caterina Froio, Shaun Bevan, Will Jennings
Party Mandates and the Politics of Attention: Party Platforms and the Policy Agenda in the UK

Comparative Agendas Project (CAP) Annual Meeting, University of Antwerp, June 27th to June 29th, 2013

This paper offers an attention-driven model of party mandates and party government, where parties and governments are faced with an abundance of issues, and must divide their scarce attention between competing alternatives. We argue that at election time parties seek to reflect public concerns at the same time as emphasising longstanding policy commitments and reacting to current policy problems and events. In government, parties must balance their desire to deliver on this electoral mandate with a need to continuously adapt their priorities in response to changes in public concerns and information about the state of the world, as new problem arise occur which require attention. At both election time and in government, parties must also respond to the party system agenda – those issues prioritised by their competitors. To test this theory, the paper uses time series cross-sectional models for nineteen topics to investigate the relationship between the policy content of party election platforms, executive speeches, legislative outputs, issue priorities of the public and mass media in the UK for the period from 1983 to 2008.