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The challenges of providing certainty in the face of wicked problems: Analysing the UK government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lilleker, D. and Stoeckle, T., 2021. The challenges of providing certainty in the face of wicked problems: Analysing the UK government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Public Affairs (e2733). (In Press)

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Official URL: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pa.273...

DOI: 10.1002/pa.2733

Abstract

Positioning Covid-19 as a wicked problem we analyse the extent that the UK government adhered to the guidelines for dealing with such problems and the extent to which the management of the pandemic exacerbated the crisis. We argue the management of the pandemic saw a continuance of political communication as usual, focusing on emphasising the optimistic rhetoric which underpinned the Brexit narrative and 2019 election campaign which delivered Boris Johnson a majority. The failure to break out of a narrow permanent campaigning mindset which saw the paPositioning Covid-19 as a wicked problem we analyse the extent that the UK government adhered to the guidelines for dealing with such problems and the extent to which the management of the pandemic exacerbated the crisis. We argue the management of the pandemic saw a continuance of political communication as usual, focusing on emphasising the optimistic rhetoric which underpinned the Brexit narrative and 2019 election campaign which delivered Boris Johnson a majority. The failure to break out of a narrow permanent campaigning mindset which saw the pandemic as a brief interlude during a period when the focus was on delivering Brexit led to public confusion as optimistic claims were proven to be inaccurate and promises unreachable. Johnson's government's attempts to offer certainty despite a situation characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity led to numerous U-turns that seriously damaged their credibility while the politicisation of the response led to poor decision making at key points. We therefore highlight the deficiencies of Johnson's strategy and highlight key lessons for communications professionals who navigate an increasingly volatile and uncertain world beset by wicked problems. In particularly we highlight the importance of depoliticising crises, seeking a diverse range of ideas and expertise, developing an empathic leadership style, starting a public conversation that recognises uncertainty and so develop a framework where wicked problems are a feature of public debate. We argue that failure in all of these areas contributed to the UK's poor comparative performance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Item Type:Article
ISSN:1472-3891
Uncontrolled Keywords:COVID-19 ; leadership ; political communication ; UK government ; wicked problems
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:35924
Deposited By: Unnamed user with email symplectic@symplectic
Deposited On:25 Aug 2021 10:55
Last Modified:25 Aug 2021 10:55

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