Chapter 12; Political parties. What is a political party? A political party is a group of like minded individuals who seek to realise their shared goals by fielding candidates at election and thereby securing election to public office. Most of the mainstream UK political parties aim is to be victorious at a general election. Parties differ significantly from pressure groups as some employ electoral candidacy as a means of raising public awareness of their chosen cause, they generally have little interest in being elected
in the office. Manifestos and Mandates A political party uses its manifesto to set out the policies sit would seek to pass into law and the party that has the power in Westminster in a general election has earned an electoral mandate. The Salisbury Doctrine holds that the unelected House of Lords should not oppose any bill that was included in the partys manifesto at the time of the general election. In the 1997 general election manifesto, Labour promised to remove the rights of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords. The parties victory therefore
handed the party a strong mandate to fulfil this first sage of Lords reform, and it duly delivered with the House of Lords Act 1999 Roles of political parties in the UK. Political parties in the UK perform FIVE main roles: Providing representation. Encouraging political engagement and facilitating political participation. Engaging in political recruitment. Formulating policy. Providing stable government.
Representation Parties represent the views of their members. This was true in an age of mass-membership parties when parties and voters were clearly divided along class lines. Partisan and class dealignment, accompanied by the rise of centrist catch all parties can be said to have undermined this primary role. Political engagement and participation. The wider citizenry being aware of the issues of the day, parties perform an educative function that
encourages political encourages political engagement. Parties further promote political participation by encouraging citizens to engage with the democratic process and giving them the opportunity to exercise power within their chosen party. The quality of participation afforded to members is shaped largely by the extent which political parties are themselves internally democratic. Political recruitment Parties asses the qualities of those seeking election to public office, casting aside those
who are considered unsuitable. Parties also give to those who will ultimately become the nations leaders an opportunity to serve a form of political apprenticeship at a local level before graduating to high office. Policy formulation Parties discuss and develop policy proposals before presenting them to voters in a single coherent programme (their manifesto). It is argued that this process is likely to result in a more considered, joined-up style of government than that which emerge in the
absence of political parties. Stable government Without parties, the House of Commons would be a gathering of individuals, driven by their personal goals and political ambitions. Parties present the voters with a clear choice, while also providing order following the general election- by allowing a single party to form a government and secure the safe passage of its legislative proposals through the commons.
Types of Political party in the UK Mainstream parties Minority or niche parties; nationalist parties, single-issue parties. Mainstream parties. UK politics has been dominated by three main national political parties. Conservative party, which emerged from the Tory group within parliament in the mid-nineteenth century. Labour Party formed by trade unions and socialist organisations at the start of the twentieth
century. The Liberal Democrats which came into being as result of the merger between the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1988. Minority or niche parties Nationalist Parties: Nationalist parties nurture cultural identity and language to a given geographical area. Whether a nation such as the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) or a region such as Mebyon Kernow (The Party for Cornwall). Some nationalist parties campaign for full independence for their region or nation (e.g. the SNP), others may have more modest
goals (e.g. Plaid Cymru in Wales). Although always much smaller than the Plaid Cymru or the SNP, the British National Party (BNP) differs from other nationalist parties in that is campaigns to support of the way of life and values that it claims are common to all indigenous UK peoples. However, having achieved some eternal success in the early part of part of the 21st century, the party has been reduced to a single local councillor and just 500 members by 2016. Single issue parties There has been a rise in single issue parties . These parties offer a wide ranging programme of policies (e.g. the Green Party).
Some parties campaign on a particular issue (e.g. UKIP on the EU) or even a particular policy such as (ProLife Alliance on Abortion) Single issue or ideological parties blur the boundary between political parties and pressure groups as their primary goal is to raise awareness of a particular issue as to opposed to wining a general election and securing power. UKIP can be seen as a case in point. The UK party system Britain traditionally operated under a twoparty system. While there has been times when a period of domination by a single party
has led to onlookers to herald the emergence of a dominant-party system, the UK has never witnessed a single-party system. The rise of the Liberal Democrats and a range of other small parties suggest that the UK was morphing into a multiparty system. The political spectrum Party ideology in the UK has generally been discussed in terms of the simple left-right political spectrum. Those on the extreme left are said to favour some form of communal existence, with all property being held all collectively as opposed to individually.
Moderate left wingers accept capitalism but favour greater government intervention in the economy and a more comprehensive welfare state. Those on the right are said to favour private enterprise over state provision. Extreme ideologies of communism (on the left) and fascism (on the right) never have taken hold, the debate over the direction of government policy generally created in the centre on the battle between socialists and conservatives.. Three main Political parties in the UK Before Great Reform Act of 1832, UK parties existed not as mass-membership organisations with formal
structures outside of parliament, but as groups of like minded individuals. These groups were bound together by shared ideals, friendships or family ties. With electoral reform came the need to organise in order to mobilise the growing electorate. The 1832 Great Reform Act which extended the franchise is an example of a piece of statue law that is of historical importance in constitutional terms. The Conservative Party Conservative party emerged from the Tory Party in the 1830s with it birth dating to Robert Peels
Tamworth Manifesto in 1834. In the 20th century, the part was in office for a total of 67 years and enjoyed two extended periods in office: 1951-64 under Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan and Alec DouglasHome 1979-97 under Margaret Thatcher and then John Major. One-nation conservatism For most of the 20th century, the conservative party was truly conservative in ideology (rooted in pragmatism and a belief in
gradual improvements founded on experience and existing institutions). This was a form of collectivist or paternalist conservatism which flavoured pluralism and social inclusion, and held that, while authority should be centralised, the state should be benevolent and care for the neediest. The proponents of this form of conservatism, now commonly referred to as one nation Tories were committed to: Slow, gradual change evolution not revolution A Keynesian mixed economy with significant state intervention, where necessary Support for a universal welfare state Internationalism and increasing European integration.
Thatcherism The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the rise of a new form of liberal or libertarian conservatism. The New Right, movement combined a belief in monetarism, free market economics and deregulation (referred to as neoliberalism) with a more orthodox conservative approach such as support for the traditional family unit and more traditional views on sexual orientation. The UK and US president; Margaret Thatcher (1979-90) and Ronald Reagan (1981-89) were key figures in this movement and has been known as Thatcherism. The advent of Thatcherism marked the death of the post-war
consensus and the rise of a more adversarial politics. Supporters of this approach known as Thatcherites favoured the importance of the individual needs of the society as a whole. 2 Thatcherism Thatcherism offered a radical agenda including policies such as: Deregulation in the field of business Privatisation of publicly- owned industries Statutory limits on the power of trade unions.
A smaller state and more limited intervention in the economy A greater emphasis on national sovereignty. More limited state welfare provision. The conservatives under David Cameron David Cameron in the 2006 general election, in the wake of three successive general election defeats for the Conservatives, was widely seen as analogous to the kind of epiphany that the Labour party had experienced a decade earlier under Tony Blair. Cameron sought to lead Conservatives away from those areas of policy over which the party was deeply
divided (e.g. Europe) and towards those where it could gain electoral advantage (e.g. The environment). The desire was reflected in the Conservatives 2010 general election pledge to fix Broken Britain Locating David Cameron and his supporters on the political spectrum Camerons Conservatives the New Tories or liberal Conservatives. In 2008 Richard Kelly offered 3 judgments on Camerons Conservatism: flagrant capitulation to New Labour Seen as subtle continuation of Thatcherism
Amounted to little more than shameless opportunism The last one was the most problematic. Camerons promise of Brexit was seen as evidence of opportunism, with the party internally divided on the issue and facing challenges from UKIP. The substance of policy In the run-up to the 2010 general election, the partys manifesto favored style over substance. E.g. replacing the Human Rights Act 1998 with a new UK Bill of Rights. It remained unclear as to how Cameron intended to reconcile his desire to adopt traditionally liberal positions on the environment and social welfare with his
commitment to pursue the Thatcherite agenda of rolling back the frontiers of the state The need to keep the partys Liberal Democrats coalition partners engaged made it difficult for the Conservatives to deliver even on those very few explicit promises that they had made in the 2010 general election. The 2015 general election and beyond
The conservatives in the coalition (2010-15) could be forgiven for not delivering on radical policy pledges, it was more surprising that they did not attempt to make a more substantive changes after being returned to office as a single-party government in 2015 as they had set out a number of significant proposals in its election manifesto. Holding the EU referendum so early meant that cabinet colleagues would find it hard to work together towards policy goals in a conventional way. The result of the referendum led to Camerons resignation and was replaced by Theresa May also limited the effective working of the government.
The 2017 election proved that the opportunities for the Conservative government to achieve many of it policies was severely limited. May set out a number of significant proposals beyond the issue of Brexit in the 2017 manifesto. It was likely the issue of Brexit would dominate the governments agenda for the full parliamentary term. By losing the majority and being forced to operate as a minority government, with the support of the DUP, May was forced to drop many of her more controversial policies. The Labour Party Labour party was created at the start of the 20th century. Although the independent Labour Party, the Fabians and the Social Democratic Federation were involved in forming the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, it is
important not to underestimate the power of the Trade Union Congress (TUC). In 1900, 94% of Labour Representation Committees affiliated membership was from the unions and in the 1990s they still controlled around 80% of the votes at party conferences & provided a similar proportion of the partys annual income. Labour party formed to represent the working classes when the franchise had not yet been extended to such groups. The decision to give all men over 21 the right to vote in1918 provided the Labour party with potential base of support to launch a serious electoral challenge. Partys origins in the unions and socialist societies meant that it originally pursued an agenda centered on socialism. Socialism seen as similar to communism and associated with the Labour Party.
2 The Labour party Socialism can be divided in two distinct strands: Revisionist (or reformist) socialism, which looks to improve capitalism (e.g. social democracy) Revolutionary (or fundamentalists) socialism which aims to abolish capitalism and bring all property into common ownership (e.g. Marxist communism The extension of the franchise to all adult men in 1918 coincided with the adoption of the new Labour Party constitution provided a clear
commitment to public ownership of key industries and the redistribution of wealth. Glossary Mandate: The right of the governing party to pursue the policies it sets out in its general election manifesto. Manifesto: A pre-election policy document in which a party sets out a series of policy pledges and legislative proposals that it plans to enact if returned to the office. Salisbury Doctrine: The convention that the House of Lords does not block or try to wreck legislation that was promised in the manifesto of the governing party. Two-party system: Where two fairly equally matched parties compete for power at elections and others have little realistic chance of breaking duopoly.
Dominant-party system: Where a number of parties exist but only one holds government power. Single-party system: Where one party dominates, bans other parties and exercises total control over candidacy at elections. Multiparty system: Where many parties compete for power and the government consists of a series of coalitions formed by different combinations of parties. Glossary Political spectrum: A device by which different political standpoints can be mapped across one axis or more as a way of demonstrating their ideological position in relation to one another. Paternalist conservatism: where power and authority are held centrally but the state acts benevolently and cares for the neediest. Paternalism is said to be a key
characteristic of tradition one-nation conservatism. Conservatism: A loose ideology favouring a pragmatic approach to dealing with problems, while seeking to preserve the status quo. Some argue that conservatism is not an ideology because it looks to work with, and improve upon, what exists already, as opposed to building from the ground up from a more ideological standpoint. Monetarism: economic theory which advocates controlling the money supply as a means of keeping inflation in check. Neo-liberalism: a political ideology closely related to classical liberalism. Neo-liberals stress the importance pf the free market, individual rights and limited government. In the UK context, neo-liberalism is closely associated with Thatcherism. Glossary
Thatcherism: An ideological approach combining a free-market, neo liberal economic policy with a more orthodox conservative social policy in areas such as the family and law and order. Thatcherism dominant Conservative party ideology of the 1980s and 1990s. Post-war consensus: The agreement between Labour and Conservative party over domestic and foreign policy that emerged after WW2. The consensus saw the parties cooperating over the creation of the welfare state and the adaption of a Keynesian economic policy. The consensus broke down in the 1970s and was said to have ended with more of the ideological, adversarial approach that accompanied Thatcherism. Adversarial politics: The instinctive opposition between the two main Westminster parties. Socialism: Advocating greater equality and the redistribution of wealth. Socialists are suspicious of capitalism . They favour greater government intervention, in both
economic and social policy. Social democracy: a political ideology that accepts the basic premise of capitalism while advocating a more equitable distribution of wealth along the lines favoured by all socialists. Glossary
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