Functions of political parties


Functions of political parties

Political parties have certain functions which include:

  • Representation
  • Policy formation
  • Recruitment of leaders
  • Organisation of government.
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A function of political parties is representation of the people:

  • This is their primary function.
  • This is where parties develop policies that appeal to the mass of electorate.
  • This makes them a 'catch party', such as major parties who are 'catch all' parties.
  • It appeals to a wider range of voters.
    • E.g. The Conservatives have moved more centre in the political spectrum, meaning they may not represent just wealthy people. (currently, they pledge to add to the NHS).
    • Whereas the Green Party only represents those who want to protect the environment.

However, representation as a function of parties has been questioned:

  • The electorate is not always informed about each manifesto of the parties.
  • Some are rational when voting for a party. (Some may vote Labour just to spite Cameron etc).
  • The image and personality of the Party leader usually overrides their policies.
  • In addition, many people have partisan dealignment, where no party represents their views or interests.
  • Whereas PGs, may represent more of their views and needs.
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Policy formation

Another function of political parties is policy formation:

  • This is where they set collective goals and formulate public policy.
  • They do this through manifesto and conferences, which is the delevopment of programmes of govt.
  • It also states the policies that the Party proposes to carry out and gives the electorate a list of achievable goals.

However, policy formation has been questioned as a function:

  • Many political parties have recently distanced themselves from traditional ideologies.
  • In addition, political parties are now more eager to follow public opinion abd include the views of focus groups.
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Recruitment of leaders

Recruitment of leaders is another function of political parties:

  • All senior political careers start with joining a party, to gain experience of:
    • Convassing
    • Debating issues
    • Running a constituency.
  • Party membership could lead to political office, by being nominated as Parliamentary candidate, which leads to PM.
  • Parties recruit and train the political leaders of the future.

However, the effectiveness of recruiting leaders has been questioned because:

  • Governments are appointed from the ranks of majority party in the HOC.
  • Therefore, only a small pool of talent is relied upon.
  • Electioneering may be poor training for running a large govt department.
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Organisation of government

Organisation of government is the last function of political parties:

  • Parties help to form government, which means that the UK effectively has a system of party government.
  • It provides a source of opposition.
  • Criticism helps to scrutinise govt policies.
  • It also provides a 'govt in waiting.'

However, this function has been questioned because:

  • Since the 1970s, the Party's majority control in the HOC has been weakened by the decline in party unity..
  • E.g. In the 2010 GE, the Conservatives were 19 seats off a secure majority. Therefore, they had to form a coalition with the Lib Dems, to form a government.
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