Key Questions- Lesson Objectives
1. Define a Political Party.
2. Explain the roles of the main Political Parties.
3. Assess what they stand for.
4. Evaluate the similarities and differences between Political Parties and
How do we define a political party?
“ A group of like-minded individuals who seek to realise their shared goals by
fielding candidates at elections and thereby securing election to public office”.
P. Lynch and P. Fairclough (2010)
“A political party is a group of people that is organised for the purpose of winning
Government power, by electoral or other means”.
Andrew Heywood (2010)
“A political party is an organisation whose members share a common ideology and/
or policies, and come together to seek election to political office”.
P. Fairclough (2008)
Goodness Gracious Great Balls Of Mainstream and One-Issue
Mainstream Political Parties
Like a tin of Ronseal! These are the main
political parties in the UK, of which the
Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal
Democrats are the ‘Big 3’.
Such parties fit well with the definitions
shown before. They have a massive
organisation structure (from Local to
National level) and will campaign for the
support of the public on a broad range
Single Issue Parties
These are political parties which can
fall into 2 groups:
1.One Idea, Big Vision- e.g. Green
Party, UKIP. These parties have a single
ideological view which gives them a
wide range of issues to campaign on.
2. One Idea, One Vision- e.g. Pro-Life
Alliance and Independent
Kidderminster Hospital and Health
Concern Party. These parties campaign
for support on a single issue of either
local or national importance.
And What Do You Do?
It’s all very well having a political party, but what is the point of them? According to
Lynch and Fairclough (2010) there are 5 main reasons!
1. Representation- Parties represent our traditional views. Is this still true in 2010?
2. Participation- Party members are involved in shaping a party and internal
3. Recruitment- Party members are judged and selected on how appropriate they
are for Government. Picking the most able candidates.
4. Policy- Parties produce manifestos which result from internal discussion and
consultation. This means they know what to do when they get into power.
5. Stability- Parties mean unity in Parliament and the ability to get things done. It
ensures that power is transferred safely and that individuals do not try to
sabotage the system.
Whilst the Mainstream parties sit nicely within our definitions and the Single Issue
parties seem to be sitting in a different room, we also need to look at where
Nationalist Parties are sitting.
Broadly speaking the main Nationalist parties are:
Scottish National Party- Campaign for full independence of Scotland
Plaid Cymru- Campaign for greater autonomy and finance for Wales
Mebyon Kernow- Campaign for recognition of Cornwall as a state
British National Party- Campaign for greater recognition of British values and
Green With Envy
One question which causes some scratching of heads is this:
After Caroline Lucas was elected as the first Green Party MP in history at 2010
General Election (for Brighton Pavilion) it’s worth asking the question…. Are the
Green Party a Political Party or a Pressure Group?
Well at this stage it’s always handy to do a bit of a comparison.
By answering this question it then becomes a lot easier to see what the features
of a Political Party and a Pressure Group are.
Under Pressure Or Getting The Party
1. Broad policies for broad groups.
2. Open Membership and structure
3. Win seats to Win Power
4. Grassroots organisation
5. Internal Democracy
6. Donations from across society to
1. Specific policy or issue.
2. Exclusive or selective membership
3. Win seat to raise public awareness
4. Grassroots based.
5. Run by small group of individuals
6. Usually donations from local
The Green Eyed Monster
To understand whether the Greens are a Political Party its worth looking at what
they actually offer.
History Of The Greens
* Pressure group in 1973 known as ‘People’.
* Formed in 1975 as Ecology Party.
* Renamed as Green Party in 1985.
* Gain 2 MEP’s in 1999 EU elections.
* Wins 2 seats in London Assembly in 2008.
* Wins first MP in General Election 2010.
2010 Manifesto Pledges
• £44 billion stimulus package investing in
jobs, renewable resources and social
• Introduction of a living wage based on
60% of the average hourly earnings of the
UK (now about £8.10 per hour).
• Introduce free prescription, dental costs
and other NHS services. Ending
• Break up Multi-National Banks into Local
Banks and Mutual Building Societies.
• Minimum £170 a week pension and free
insulation scheme for the elderly.
• Re-possess 300,000 abandoned privately
owned homes for public use.
Moving On Swiftly….
I remember saying (I think) a while
back that at the 2010 General
Election the 3 main Political Parties
gained 88.1% of the Public Vote.
Whilst this is still a massive amount, it
doesn’t really credit the wider growth
of smaller fringe political parties.
These groups tend to do better in
Local Elections and slowly but surely
they are gathering support.
Year BNP Green SNP UKIP
2002 31,000 59,000 160,100 100,000
2003 55,000 53,000 95,000 160,000
2004 79,000 63,000 109,000 260,000
2005 65,000 71,000 110,000 190,000
2006 63,000 70,000 126,000 160,000
2007 98,000 74,000 139,000 159,000
2008 118,000 80,000 151,000 146,000
What’s The Story....
My point with this is.... Don’t underestimate the fringe parties.
If you choose to answer a question on Political parties and Pressure Groups then
it’s important not to talk just about the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal
There are a whole world of fringe parties which actively play a role in Britain today.
It’s Our Party And We’ll (Hang On Haven’t I
Already Used This Joke?)
Here are some key terms with regards to parties (and I don’t mean Glow sticks and
Neon Lights) which you need to know!
Single- Party System (e.g.
North Korea, China and
Eritrea)- Quite simple. One
party has total control, there is
no political opposition and no
real means of protest. Elections
may be held but the state
controls the result.
Dominant- Party System (e.g.
Japan, Brazil and Russia) –
These are democratic countries
but one party is dominant and
has held the bulk of power. E.g.
In Japan the Liberal Democratic
Power have held power almost
continuously for the last 55
years.Multi- Party System (e.g. Italy,
Germany and Australia) –
There are numerous parties all
competing for power. Larger
parties are likely to form
coalitions with smaller parties
in making a Government.
Are You UK With This?
The Question is often asked as to whether the UK is a multi-party or a two-party
What do you think?
The Ayes Have It... The Ayes Have It
1. Realistically only Labour and the
Conservatives have the size,
structure and experience to run
2. In 2010 Conservatives and Labour
secured 65.1% of the vote and
won 86.8% of the seats available.
3. Even the 3rd Party Liberal
Democrats are a long way off
forming a Government.
4. The current electoral structure
doesn’t favour the growth of new
Threes a Crowd
1. 34.9% of voters didn’t vote for
Labour and the Conservatives.
2. Whilst the Liberal Democrats are 3rd
Nationally. In individually seats they
are sometimes 2nd or 1st preference.
3. In Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland contests are a lot closer and
there is genuine choice in which
party to vote for.
4. Some 34.9% of the Population don’t
vote. If ANYONE could win them over
they would win an election.
A Quick (ish) Guide To Ideologies In UK Politics
You Spin Me Right Round Or Was It
Political parties in the UK claim to represent the views of certain sections of
society. Clearly everyone has a different opinion of how they want the country to
be run. These views are often referred to as an Ideology.
The measurement of a person or parties ideology is usually done on the ‘Political
Left Wing Right Wing
However the Conventional Left/Right wing
scale is difficult to use on it’s own as it only
relates to the Economic ideologies of people
and parties. To look at how people feel society
should be run we also add a vertical scale.
1. The higher we go up the scale, the more
powerful the state is. The state has a
bigger say and more legal and physical
power to control society.
2. The lower we go on the scale, the smaller
the state is. Traditional features such as
welfare and public services are removed
to allow greater individual freedom.
Nice Pass From The Left To Right There
Left Wing Beliefs
1. Emphasis on people as social
beings working together for
2. The state is chosen by the people
and should reflect their views. The
state should serve to give the
poorer in society similar
opportunities to the richer in
3. The state should provide welfare
and opportunities for people to
Right Wing Beliefs
1. Emphasis on the individual and
the need to preserve order in
2. People need strong Government.
This can only be achieved with
strong leadership and caring for
the very needy.
3. Believe in slow gradual change in
society rather than radical reform.
4. Belief in a small state and minimal
welfare provided by the state, with
more emphasis on the private
Meet Me Halfway Right On The Borderline...
That’s Were I’m Going To Stay.
Both the traditional Left/Right Wing views are based on a society which is divided
into the very rich and very poor. Some argue that as we move away from this,
there is less need for such radical policies. Indeed since 1992 all the main Political
Parties have begun to move from their original positions towards the centre
This area of ideology is commonly referred to as Liberalism and has some of the
1. Minimal state Welfare (aimed at needy)
2. Pragmatic policies (right place, right time)
3. Balance between Public and Private sector
4. Protection of Civil Liberties and Human Rights
5. Maintaining sovereignty of the state.
Truly, Madly, Ideologically You
Whilst the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are all somewhere
on the centre of the ideological spectrum, this doesn’t mean that they have a
In the next slides we’ll look at where each of the parties currently stand on major
ideological issues as well as looking at how they are structured. However
consider the following questions.
1. What are the strengths of having an clear ideological view?
2. What are the weaknesses of having a clear ideological view?
3. Is pragmatic policies all we seem to get now?
4. Is this the end of ideologies?
Party 1 (See What I Did There?)
A Beginners Guide To.....
The Labour Party
What Is The Labour Party?
If your Northern you might shout ‘Saviour’, if your Southern you might shout
‘Communists’. However a better definition comes from Labour’s own website:
“Labour, are the people to carry out this next stage of national renewal because of
our values and our understanding of the role of government: to stand by ordinary
people so they can change their lives for the better. It is our belief that it is active,
reforming government, not absent government, that helps make people powerful”.
From this quote is it clear who Labour are aimed at?
What Makes It Tick?
The Labour Party has a very distinct hierarchy which is evident when you join.
National Executive Committee (NEC)
(National Organ of Labour Party)
General Committee of Constituency Labour (CLP)
(Organises party at Constituency level)
Local Branch of Labour Party
(Local Members of Labour Party)
Local and Regional Policy
Local Branch Of Labour For Local People
For all new recruits to the Labour party the Local branch (BLP)
(e.g. St. Helens Labour Party, or Knowsley Labour Party).
The Local Branches of the Labour party are essentially the
grassroots activists of the Labour Party. According to the Labour
Party website they are:
“Your local party, based on the ward boundaries for the election
of councillors. A lot of Labour Party activity takes place at branch
level. Labour members can take part in choosing local council
They are primarily responsibly for organising the Local Labour
Party, campaigning on Local Issues, putting forward candidates
and sending their best representatives to the CLP.
Constituency Labour Party
The General Committee of the Constituency Labour Party
(CLP) is described by Labour as:
“Made up of several branches and based on the electoral
area for the election of MPs. Via your CLP, you can choose
the members from your area to represent you at annual
conference and you can help select your parliamentary
However its role is much bigger then this definition the
CLP is also responsible for ensuring that the Constituency
parties are following the Party line and the CLP also plays
a vital role in checking that all Labour candidates at any
election are suitable.
Don’t forget the so-called ‘Parachute Regiment’.
The National Executive Committee is the ‘Top Banana’ in the Labour party. This
body contains Labour members from all sections of the party including MP’s, MEP’s,
Councillors, Trade Unions and CLP’s (elected every year).
When Labour is at a party conference, members vote on the annual policies. At
other times it is the responsibility of the N.E.C. to run the Labour Party.
This mainly involves the funding and monitoring of the party nationally. The N.E.C
ensures that policy is followed Nationally and that internally disputes are resolved.
How a party picks a leader says a lot about how democratic they are. Labour has
been a proud advocate of the One Member One Vote (OMOV) system since 1981.
Before we look at the voting, when electing a leader the party is split into 3 groups:
Group 1- Parliamentary
Group 2- Constituency
• Local Councils
• Local Party Members
Group 3- Affiliate
• Trade Unions
• Socialist Societies
• Professional Bodies
The Fall and Deeper Fall Of Gordon
If you don’t like the Labour leader (and who does these days?) then there are 2
ways you can go about this you sneaky urchin.....
1. If there is a vacancy- You need
the support of 20% of Labour
MP’s to run for leader.
2. If challenging a current leader-
You need 20% of Labour MP’s
and 66.6% of the Labour Party
Out of Power:
1. If there is a vacancy- You need
the support of 12.5% of Labour
MP’s to run for leader of
2. If challenging a current leader-
You need 20% of Labour MP’s
Pick A Card.... ANY Card
Once our candidate has secured this level of support voting slips are sent out to all
members of the Labour party (divided into the 3 groups shown before). Each
College Group gets an equal share of the vote. Members rank their candidates in
order of preference.
1. Parliamentary Labour Party (and MEP’s)- 33.3% of the vote
2. Affiliated Organisations- 33.3% of the vote
3. Constituency Labour Party- 33.3% of the vote
All members vote under the One Member One Vote System (OMOV) and the
winner is selected using Alternative Vote (must secure over 50% of the vote)
Can you see any mathematical problems with this system?
Choice and Loose Change
Whilst we all know a little bit about how Labour gets new leaders, what about new
candidates? Well it’s surprisingly straight forward (honest).
1. The N.E.C gives a list of
‘Approved Candidates’ to
the Constituency Labour
2. The Constituency
Labour Party draws up a
shortlist from this
3. Constituency Labour
Party members vote for
their preferred candidate
on shortlist (OMOV).
4. The N.E.C either agrees
with the CLP choice or
imposes its own
A Brief-Ish Guide To Labour- Part 1
The Labour party has it’s origins in the Trade Union Movement and evolved as a
Socialist party committed to improving the conditions of the working class.
It’s most notable successes where the Attlee administration (1945-1950) during
which the party was responsible for introducing a raft of Welfare Reform such as
the creation of the NHS, Compulsory National Insurance, Nationalising of key
Industries, Social Housing and State Benefits.
It spent some time in opposition until re-election in 1964 under Harold Wilson. In
this Labour era the party was best known for it’s social policy developments such as
decriminalising homosexuality, legalising abortion, the creation of the Open
University and Ending Capital Punishment.
Part 2- A Brief-Ish Guide To Labour
As we all know Labour wasn’t exactly successful during the late 70’s and 80’s and
early 90’s. In fact they say if you remember Labour being, you weren’t really their.
However a young buck called Tony Blair became the first party leader elected
under the OMOV system in 1994.
What Tony Blair did to Labour between 1994 and 2006 should not be
underestimated. He revitalised a party that had been deflated by 4 straight election
defeats. Repositioning the party at the centre on the political spectrum and
removing Clause IV from the party constitution gave Labour a fresh start and
spurred them onto an unprecedented 3 successive election victories.
What Does Labour Stand For?
• Nationalised industries such as Coal
and Steel to minimise unemployment.
• Inclusive Welfare System to tackle
poverty and improve social justice.
• Working-Class policies- improve lives
of the poor at expense of rich.
• Improving equality in society through
• Social Housing schemes
• Keynesist Economics- Top Down
Spending to encourage economic
• Part Privatised/Public ownership
schemes e.g. NHS Trusts and
• Increase types of welfare such as
Child Tax Credits.
• Broader policies to appeal to all
• Encourage equality through
legislation and growth.
• More power to Local Councils
• 3rd Way Economics in Public
Party 2 (2’s Company)
A Beginner’s Guide To……….
The Conservative Party
What Is The Conservative Party?
If your Southern you might shout ‘Saviours’ and if you’re a Northerner you might
shout ‘Milk-Snatcher’. However the Conservatives define themselves as:
“Our vision is for a stronger, safer society where opportunity is
spread much more widely and fairly. We want to reverse the
school failure, low skills and lack of opportunity that are holding
Britain back. Labour’s approach hasn’t worked: their big,
impersonal state-controlled schemes fail to support the
institutions that could really help tackle social problems – like
schools, families, communities and the voluntary sector”.
Born To Lead
Behold the structure of the Conservative Party:
Local Branch of Conservative Party
(Local Party Members by Council Ward)
(Constituency Level Organisers)
Conservative Campaign Headquarters
(CCHQ)- Organises all aspects of party
1. National Conservative
2. Conservative Political
Advisory Bodies to party
The Local Branch of the Conservative party performs a similar role to their Labour
They are predominantly involved in grassroots local events and recruiting and
organising the Conservative Future Movement (aimed at members under 25).
They are designed to reflect Council boundaries and as such are responsible for
picking candidates to be local councillors.
Again the Conservative Associations play a
similar role to the CLP’s of Labour. They are
mainly responsible for ensuring that the
Branches are behaving and that candidates
are following the policies appointed from
They are also mainly responsible for putting
candidates forward for Parliamentary
Election (though they don’t have the final
Conservative Campaign Head Quarters (based at 30
Milbank London) is where all the magic happens.
CCHQ are responsible for organising the activities of the
National Conservative party, they also decide policy
(through the party leader) and ensure that this policy is
quoted and used by the Local Conservative organisations.
CCHQ used to have the final say on Parliamentary
candidates for an election. However thanks to David
Cameron’s lust for new ideas this has all changed.
Toff At The Top
It’s that time when we look at how the Conservatives get rid of a leader:
If leader resigns....
15% of Parliamentary MP’s call
for motion of ‘No Confidence’.
Conservative MP’s then vote
on this motion More then 50% support leader? Leader stays in charge
MP’S Vote for candidates
More than 2 Candidates
Only 2 candidates
MP’s vote in rounds until
only 2 candidates left
Final Ballot of all party
How Many Brilliant Ideas Can D.C.
Have In The Space Of 5 Years?
One way in which the Conservatives vary massively from Labour is the way in which
they select candidates to stand in Parliamentary Elections. Since he was elected
leader of the Conservatives in 2005, David Cameron has introduced new methods.
The A-Lists (2005)
When Cameron became
leader he introduced these
new lists. Branch parties
must seek out a diverse
range of candidates within
their communities. These
lists are then submitted to
the Associations and CCHQ
to decide whether to
interview or not.
In more then 100 seats
candidates were selected
using hustings. These are
public meetings in which all
members are invited. The
prospective candidates will
debate a range of issues.
Members will then vote for
the one the prefer to stand
as their election candidate.
Open Primaries (2009)
This has only been used to
select the candidate for
Totnes so far. In Open
Primaries all members of
the local community are
invited to vote to decide
which candidate they want
to stand in the next general
election. All 68,000 locals
were eligible to vote and it
cost the party £38,000.
How Conservative Is Your Love- Part 1
The Conservative Party is the oldest of all the political parties. It has its origin in pro-
monarchist movements in the 17th Century and evolved to become a party which is
primarily associated with the Middle and Upper Class from about 1817 onwards.
The Conservative Party of the 19th Century developed a policy of ‘One-Nation
Conservatism’ which it used to justify introducing limited welfare reforms to
alleviate the dire poverty in British society in a bid to deter a Socialist Revolution.
Throughout the 19th Century the Conservatives main rivals for power where the
The Sum Of All Conservatives
After the Second World War the Conservatives and Labour exchanged similar
policies whilst in Government on a range of issues. At this stage the Conservative
Party was primarily about slow and steady change.
However after Ted Heath’s electoral defeat, the party elected Margaret Thatcher in
1976. She became Prime Minister in 1979 and preceded over a period of radical
change such as mass privatisation, defeating the miners’ strikes, war with
Argentina, the growth of the FTSE, social upheaval, industrial decline, the poll tax,
poor relations with the EU and the shrinking of the welfare state.
Now under David Cameron it is still unclear whether the Conservatives are ‘One-
Nation Tories’ (looking at the Big Society and ring-fencing the NHS) or Neo-Liberal
Thatcherites (the Spending Review and slashing of the Welfare Bill).
Party 3 (And Easy… Like Sunday Mornings)
A Beginners Guide To….
The Liberal Democrats
What Are The Liberal Democrats?
The Liberal Democrats are definitely the babies of modern British Politics (they
were only conceived in 1988), they describe themselves as:
“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in
which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and
community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or
conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we
acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to
develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to
nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to
attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the
decisions which affect their lives."
Structure of the Lib Dems
So how exactly are the Liberal Democrats structured?
Federal Conference- One each
for England, Scotland and
Wales meet twice to decide
Federal Executive- Run by
party leaders, checks everyday
running of the party.
State- Liberal Democrats for
the individual states in the UK.
Regional- The Liberal
Democrats representatives in
Local- The Liberal Democrats
party at local council level.
local levels meet up to
produce policy to be
referred to higher up
The Old Clegg Over (How To Become
Leader Of The Liberal Democrats).
Party Leader Resigns or
Over 51% of Lib Dem
MP’s or 75 Local
Parties demand a
2 years have passed
since General Election
Candidate must be:
• Proposed and seconded
by 10% of Lib Dem MP’s
• Supported by 200 Lib
Dem members from at
least 20 different local
Where Do I Sign?
Becoming a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate couldn’t be simpler:
Candidates write to
their federal party
(either England, Wales
or Scotland) to express
Once accepted by
their local party.
Local Party then selects
a shortlist of candidates
from the applicants.Members of the
chose a candidate from
the shortlist (OMOV).
I Remember When The Lib Dem’s Were
The Liberal Party had been a major political force in Britain since
the 1800’s, however by the beginning of the 19th Century they had
dwindled as a Political force.
Throughout the period of 1914-1945 they were always a small
party within a larger coalition. By the time Labour had formed its
first single Government in 1945 the Liberal Party were down to
single figures of MP’s.
Throughout the age of consensus (1950-1979) they began to
dwindle as a political force.
Could ANYTHING save our heroes?
Me And The SDP Had So Much Fun
In 1981 there was a massive internal split within
the Labour party (caused in part by the choice of
Michael Foot as new party leader) and 4 Labour
MP’s (Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams
and William Rogers) split from the party to form
their own known as the Social Democratic Party
Almost immediately the Liberals and SDP entered
an election pact. They consistently gained at least
20% of the vote until they merged to form the
Liberal Democrats in 1988.