Governments, Supporting Parties
Empirical research on cabinet formation and on party government has gradually moved towards the view that the main raison d’être of all governmental activity is policy-making. To quote Budge and Keman ‘... parties enter government to influence policy-making and to control policy-implementation’, (1990, 133), a point which they subsequently test. They can thus come to the conclusion that their findings
clearly strengthen the case for regarding parties as (a) being concerned with policy, since they exert a consistent and important influence over it, (b) being important decision-makers and actors in politics, since they move policies in the direction of their own preference and values.
While both the first and the second points are valid, a third, equally important one, is not mentioned, namely that governments are also actors and decision-makers. The aim of this chapter is to begin to redress this unbalance.
Earlier research placed less emphasis on policy-making, at any rate ostensibly: office-seeking was the main object of study, either because it was believed that it was what mainly concerned parties or because office was felt to be so closely associated with policy-making that there was little point in separating the two aspects. Later, however, the goals of office-seeking and of policy-seeking began to be distinguished as they came to be viewed as pieces of either competitive or complementary bargaining strategies. Offices are indeed sometimes valued for their own sake: the need for political visibility in a mass media society can lead parties to want to belong to government whatever the cost; yet it is