This article critically reflects upon the introduction of behavioural, ‘nudging’ approaches into UK policy making, the latest in a series of regulatory innovations. Initiatives have focused particularly upon correcting lifestyle risk behaviours, marking a significant continuity with previous ‘nannying’ policy. On the other hand, nudging represents a departure, even inversion of previous approaches that involved the overstating of risk, being based partly upon establishing a norm that bad behaviours are less, rather than more common than supposed. Despite substantive similarities, its attraction lies in the reaction against the former approach but must also be understood in the context of the economic crisis and a diminished sense of liberty and autonomy that makes intimate managerial intervention seem unproblematic. Problems are, in fact, substantial, as nudging is caught between the utility of unconscious disguised direction and the need to allow some transparency, thereby choice. Further, it assumes clear, fixed ‘better outcomes’ but encourages no development of capacity to manage problems, contradicting a wider policy intent to build a more responsible and active citizenry. More practically, nudging faces considerable barriers to becoming a successfully implemented programme, in the context of severe, Conservativeled austerity with which it is now associated.