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Political Parties / Elections in the United Kingdom. 2010 General Election: Hung Parliament/Coalition Government. Conservatives: 306 seats (gain of 98 seats) ; 36.1% of vote Labour: 258 seats (loss of 91 seats) ; 29.0% of vote Liberal Democrats: 57 (loss of 5 seats); 23% of vote

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2010 general election hung parliament coalition government
2010 General Election: Hung Parliament/Coalition Government

  • Conservatives: 306 seats (gain of 98 seats) ; 36.1% of vote

  • Labour: 258 seats (loss of 91 seats) ; 29.0% of vote

  • Liberal Democrats: 57 (loss of 5 seats); 23% of vote

  • Other Parties: 28 seats (loss of 1 seat); 11.9% of vote

Foundations of the party system
Foundations of the Party System

  • Two-plus system

  • 2 dominant parties (Labour + Conservative)

  • Party system reflects class identification (main social identifier in UK)

  • Also, ideological (Liberal Democrats) + Regional parties (Scottish National Party, Welsh Plaid Cymru)

    • 2010 - Labour + Conservative only won 65% of popular vote, but have 87% of seats in Commons

Labour party
Labour Party

  • Largest/strongest party on the “left” of political spectrum

  • Traditionally labor unions have provided majority of funds for the party

Tony blair s third way
Tony Blair’s “Third Way”

  • Moderate “New Labour” Party

  • Centrist alternative to “Old Labour” Party on left and Conservative Party on right

  • Initiated by Blair in late 1990s:

    • Acceptance of market economy by Labour Party

    • Devolution

Conservative party tories
Conservative Party (Tories)

  • Dominant party in Great Britain between WWII and late 1990s

  • Main party on the right

  • 98% of all Conservative seats are in England

Thatcher s reforms 1980s
Thatcher’s Reforms (1980s)

  • Privatized business and industry

    • Sold many government-owned enterprises to private sector

  • Cut back on social welfare programs

  • Strengthened national defense (staunch anti-communist)

  • Resisted complete integration into the European Union (EU)

    • “Euroskeptics” – feel EU threatens British sovereignty

    • Rejected single currency (Euro)

Liberal democratic party
Liberal-Democratic Party

  • Alliance between the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties during the 1980s

  • Supports social programs, integrated Europe (EU)

  • Currently part of coalition government with Conservatives

Other parties
Other Parties

  • Scottish National Party

  • Plaid Cymru – Welsh nationalist party (Wales)

  • Sinn Fein – political arm of the IRA (Irish Republican Army)


  • Members of Parliament (MPs) are the only national officials that British voters select

  • Elections must be held at least every 5 years, but Prime Minister may call them earlier

  • Power to call elections very important –Prime Ministers always call elections when they think that the majority party has the best chance to win

Elections ii
Elections II

  • “Winner-take-all” system

  • Single-member district plurality system

  • Parties select a candidate to run in each district

  • “First-past-the-post” winner

Elections iii
Elections III

  • MPs do not have to live in the district in which they are running, therefore party selects who runs in what districts = parties powerful

  • Party leaders run from safe districts – districts that the party almost always wins

Voting patterns
Voting Patterns

  • Conservative Party:

    • Middle and upper classes

    • Educated

    • Residents of England, mostly rural and suburban areas

  • Labour Party:

    • Working class

    • Residents of urban / industrial areas

    • “Third Way” centrist policies/devolution made Labour Party appealing to Scots, Welsh, and the poor

U s vs british elections

United States

Parties are less powerful

Members must live in districts

Party leaders run in their respective districts

Citizens vote for three officials on national level

Between 30 and 60% of the eligible voters actually vote

First-past-the-post, single-member districts; virtually no minor parties get representation

Great Britain

Party determines who runs where

Members usually don’t live in their districts

Party leaders run in “safe districts”

Citizens vote for only one official on the national level

About 65-75% of the eligible voters actually vote (number was less in 2001 & 2005)

First-past-the-post, single-member districts; some representation from minor parties, but still less than if they had proportional representation

U.S. vs. British Elections

Conservative party tories1
Conservative Party (Tories)

  • Weakened by division of party in late 1990s:

    • Traditional Wing – values noblesse oblige and elitism, supports Britain’s membership in EU

    • Thatcherite Wing – strict conservatives, support full free market

      • “Euroskeptics” – feel EU threatens British sovereignty