I am asking this question to myself and others for a variety of reasons – mainly in trying to at least get a rough idea of ‘who shapes policy’ in the UK. Watch this space for future posts on this topic.
So let’s start with elected politicians – I am including here MPs, devolved assembly members, and local councillors (not parish or community councillors. (Source: Professor Colin Copus – thanks Colin)
That comes to around 22,000.
Membership of the political parties presently stands at somewhere around 500,000 (minus the elected ones), but by no means all of these will be ‘policy active’. So if we assume about 1 in 100 is, that comes to about 50,000 party activists. (source: Parliament).
Next is the so-called “policy-procession” in the civil service. This claims to be about 17,000 strong, although this figure should be hedged around with all sorts of caveats (which I’ll discuss in a future post).(Source: see my evidence to HoC PASC here).
What about the public service as a whole? There are about 5.4m public sector workers in the UK according to the ONS, so if we assume that about 1 in 50 of them are going to be managers or professionals interested in public policy issues (and often with some influence on how they are implemented – the so-called “high street bureaucrats) then there are about 108,000 of them.
Finally us academics. We did a ‘guestimate’ based on figures from University of Manchester where we have about 500 academics actively engaged in one way or another with public policy issues – if that were replicated nationally then there would be about 25,000 policy-engaged academics in the UK.
One other possible indicator is readership of the serious policy magazines. The New Statesman (30,000), Spectator (54,000) and Economist (UK readers only: 210,000) add up to around 294,000.
All that lots adds up to 516,000.
Now, yes, of course, there will be some overlap – especially with the last media figure and the rest. But on the other hand we have not included think tanks, voluntary and lobbying groups, trade unions, senior managers in industry and a host of others who might be engaged with public policy issues.
So would it be a reasonable ‘guestimate’ to say that around half a million people constitute what can loosely be called the ‘policy shaping community’ in the UK today?
I’m genuinely interested to know what others think – please make a comment.