Functions of political parties
Political parties have certain functions which include:
- Policy formation
- Recruitment of leaders
- Organisation of government.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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.