International Journal of Cultural Policy 21(5) pp 611-630

This study addresses a key knowledge-gap by exploring the role of electoral politics in shaping public policy on the arts. Analysis of the prioritisation and use of language in party manifestos in state-wide and regional elections in the UK reveals that over recent decades there has been a sharp increase in the attention parties give to arts policy as they compete for the political centre-ground. It also shows how the framing of arts policy has broadened from an initial concern with social policy objectives to emphasise economic benefits and boosting international standing. However, parties have generally failed to advance comprehensive arts strategies raising accountability issues in relation to future government policy. Against the backdrop of a global trend of state restructuring, the analysis reveals how devolution is leading to the territorialisation of policy – as framing is contingent on ‘regional’ party politics, including nation-building by civic nationalist parties.