Crisis and state transformation: Covid-19, levelling up and the UK’s incoherent state

David Richards, Sam Warner, Diane Coyle, Martin Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article provides a novel account of recent UK governance reforms, describing what can be termed an ‘incoherent’ state, ill-equipped to address complex, multi-dimensional policy challenges. This is evidenced through two interrelated case-studies: Covid-19 and levelling up. We highlight how the tradition of strongly centralised government combined with an ad hoc approach to reform has undermined inter-governmental relations and limited the possibility of effective policy. We conclude by arguing that current levelling up proposals, focused on redesigning sub-national government, reflect these deficiencies and therefore offer an insufficient remedy for the UK’s imbalanced economic geography and resulting inequalities. The failure of past reform highlights the need for systemic transformation—including a new governance framework—to address meaningfully the UK’s geography of discontent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages18
JournalCambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
Early online date21 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022


  • Levelling-Up
  • COVID-19
  • UK Governance
  • British Politics
  • Whitehall
  • crisis management


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