Major government, minor change : the politics of transport, 1990-1997
This thesis looks at the politics of transport in the Major era, arguing that transport has emerged as an issue of high political salience in the 1990s. In this period transport, and most particularly the motor car, increasingly came to be blamed for a combination of economic and environmental problems including rising congestion, noise, land-use impacts and a deterioration of air quality and traffic safety standards. The primary. aim of this thesis is to explain these developments and their effects by utilising agenda setting theory. This thesis argues that the operation of the agenda setting dynamic in the transport case illustrates aspects of a number of models of agenda setting. It looks at the role of actors, problems, external events and non-decision making and argues that, in part, they all make a useful contribution to the study of political change in the Major era. However, it also argues that different models of agenda setting apply in different circumstances and that a model which may provide a useful explanation of situation A may provide a less satisfactory explanation of situation B. The explanation for this is that transport is a multi-faceted issue which affects mobility, the environment, and economic development as well as issues of lifestyle and personal freedom; the priorities which central government attaches to transport policy outcomes reflect this diversity. These different aspects of the transport issue are affected by different agenda setting processes, depending on the extent to which they challenge the dominant policy imperatives of the state. For example, in a situation in which the policy imperatives of the state are threatened, the agenda setting process will be highly constrained and proponents of change, will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to alter the agenda. In such a case, the models of non-decision making will be an important, often the dominant, explanation of the agenda setting process. Overall, this study argues that the transport agenda setting process operates in, and is constrained by, a policy making environment which is dominated by the policy imperatives of the state.