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WEEK 5 – ARE POLITICAL PARTIES IN BRITAIN BECOMING OBSOLETE? PowerPoint Presentation
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WEEK 5 – ARE POLITICAL PARTIES IN BRITAIN BECOMING OBSOLETE?

WEEK 5 – ARE POLITICAL PARTIES IN BRITAIN BECOMING OBSOLETE?

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WEEK 5 – ARE POLITICAL PARTIES IN BRITAIN BECOMING OBSOLETE?

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  1. WEEK 5 – ARE POLITICAL PARTIES IN BRITAIN BECOMING OBSOLETE?

  2. THE ‘CRISIS’ OF POLITICAL PARTIES “Few aspects of the political system investigated by POWER received more hostile comment than the main political parties … [there is] a widespread sense that, at best, the main parties are failing in the basic function of connecting governed and governors, and, at worst, are serious obstacles to democratic engagement.” POWER Inquiry, ‘Power to the People (2006), p.181

  3. THE ‘CRISIS’ OF POLITICAL PARTIES “Political parties have formed the cornerstone of our representative system since long before the era of universal suffrage. Yet there are signs that the age of the mass party is coming to an end; that our political parties are dying on their feet.” Vernon Bogdanor, New Statesman (Oct 2006)

  4. ISSUES FOR TODAY • What role do political parties play? • How far have parties lost their legitimacy and strength? • How far has the party system changed?

  5. FUNCTIONS OF POLITICAL PARTIES • Communicate with, and inform, citizens • Encourage participation • Articulate and aggregate interests • Form and run governments Source: Webb (2007)

  6. FUNCTION OF PARTIES: REPRESENTATION OF INTERESTS ISSUE A ISSUE A ISSUE B ISSUE X PARTY 1 PARTY 2 ISSUE C ISSUE C ISSUE D ISSUE Y ISSUE E ISSUE Z

  7. FUNCTION OF PARTIES: REPRESENTATION OF INTERESTS ISSUE A ISSUE A ISSUE B ISSUE X PARTY 1 PARTY 2 ISSUE C ISSUE C ISSUE D ISSUE Y ISSUE E ISSUE Z CITIZENS

  8. FUNCTION OF PARTIES: REPRESENTATION OF INTERESTS GOVERNMENT ISSUE A ISSUE A ISSUE B ISSUE X PARTY 1 PARTY 2 ISSUE C ISSUE C ISSUE D ISSUE Y ISSUE E ISSUE Z CITIZENS

  9. FUNCTION OF PARTIES: REPRESENTATION OF INTERESTS GOVERNMENT ISSUE A ISSUE A ISSUE B ISSUE X PARTY 1 PARTY 2 ISSUE C ISSUE C ISSUE D ISSUE Y ISSUE E ISSUE Z CITIZENS

  10. LINKS BETWEEN PARTIES AND SOCIAL GROUPS WORKING CLASS SALARIAT

  11. LINKS BETWEEN PARTIES AND SOCIAL GROUPS WORKING CLASS SALARIAT Environment Europe Human rights; personal morality

  12. DECLINE OF CLASS VOTING Non-manual Con voters + Manual Lab voters All voters Source: Paul Webb, The Modern British Party System (2000) Table 2.3

  13. TWO PARTY (CON/LAB) SHARE OF VOTES AND SEATS Source: House of Commons Library papers

  14. PARTY SYSTEMS AT WESTMINSTER AND EUROPEAN ELECTIONS Source: House of Commons Library papers

  15. MEMBERSHIP OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN BRITAIN, 1964-2001 Source: Paul Webb,, ‘Political Parties in Britain’, in Webb et al, eds, Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies (2002)

  16. … AND IN OTHER COUNTRIES Source: Susan Scarrow, in Dalton/Wattenberg, eds, Parties Without Partisans (2000)

  17. MEMBERSHIP OF SINGLE ISSUE GROUP AND PARTIES, 1960-1997 Sources: Party members: Webb (2002); RSPB members: RSPB website. (Note data points not always the same.)

  18. POPULAR ATTITUDES TOWARDS POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS Source: Eurobarometer 61 (2004)

  19. ATTITUDES TO PARTIES IN BRITAIN, 1973-2003 Source: Bromley et al, 2001; British Social Attitudes

  20. PARTY DOMINATION OF ELECTIONS/LEGISLATURE/GOVNT Elections • In 2005 general election, of 3,500 candidates, just 180 were independents. Government • At national level, very few ministers come from outside party • At local level, of 293 councils controlled by single group, just 14 were Independent run (2006)

  21. SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT • Parties less aligned to social groups • More free-floating in search of voters • Not unresponsive; but less ‘natural’ constituency • Two party system breaking down • Less ‘natural’ ties to parties mean citizens less trusting in/engaged with parties than before

  22. SOLUTIONS? Parties not representative • Parties more internally democratic • Reform party funding to encourage grassroots Parties don’t offer adequate choices • Electoral reform to encourage more parties • Direct democracy to allow greater choice on issues