UK governance: From overloading to freeloading

Richard Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
96 Downloads (Pure)


The UK's ongoing political turbulence has prompted a reprise of debates from the 1970s when many concluded the country was ungovernable. Then, the most influential diagnosis conceptualised the UK's governance problem as one of ‘overloading’ caused by the electorate's excessive expectations. This article argues that these accounts overlooked another phenomenon besieging UK governance during this period. This phenomenon was freeloading: the withering of government capacity deriving from the ability of actors to enjoy the benefits of citizenship without altogether contributing to the cost. In the interim, these problems have become endemic, not least because of the unspoken but discernible policy of successive governments to turn the UK into a tax haven. High-profile scandals involving prominent individuals and corporations, plus the failure to clamp down on them have reinforced the perception that the UK's political system is geared towards the rich and the powerful at the expense of the marginalised majority.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-64
Number of pages9
JournalThe Political Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date13 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Woodward, R. (2017) UK Governance: From Overloading To Freeloading -The Political Quarterly, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • UK governance
  • tax avoidance
  • Democracy
  • UK politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'UK governance: From overloading to freeloading'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Tracking Austerity

    Richard Woodward (Invited Speaker)

    14 Dec 2016

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

Cite this