Political Parties

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Mainstream and One Issue Parties

Mainstream Parties:

  • main parties witin the UK - Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats (the big three)
  • massive organisation structure (from local to national level) and will campaign for public support on a broad range of issues

Single Issue Parties:

  • Political parties that can fall into two groups

1. One Idea, Big Vision - e.g. Green Party / UKIP - parties with one ideological view, giving them a broad range of issues to campaign on

2. One Idea, One Vision - e.g. Pro-Life Alliance and Independent Kiddermaster Hospital and Health Concern Party - parties that campaign for support regarding one issue of either local or national importance (this is similar to the Snowdrop Pressure Group that campaigned for one issue)

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Reasons for having political parties

1. Representation of traditional views

2. Participation (party members get involved in shaping the direction of the party as well as internal democracy)

3. Recruitment (locals judge party members and select the ones they deem the most approprite for government / choosing the most able candidates)

4. Policy (each party produces a manifesto based on internal discussion and highlights exactly what the party intends to do once it gets into power)

5. Stability (by having parties there is unity within Parliament and things are able to get done. It also ensures that power is safely trasnferred and individuals cannot try to sabotage the system)

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Political Parties and Pressure Groups - Difference

Political Parties:

  • Broad groups with a wide range of policies
  • Open membership
  • In order to gain power, need to win majority of seats in a general election
  • Grassroots organisation
  • internal democract
  • People across society make donations to a specific party

Pressure Groups:

  • Focus on a specific issue / area of policy
  • Exclusive / select membership
  • win seats to gain public awareness
  • grassroot based
  • run by small group of individuals
  • usually donations from the community
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Left and Right Wing

Left wing beliefs:

  • emphasis on people as social beings working together for common good
  • the state is chosen by the people and should therefore reflect their views, serve the poorer members of society and give them the same oppurtunities as the richer people
  • the state should provide welfare and chances for people to better themselves

Right wing beleifs:

  • emphasis on people as individuals and need to maintain order within society
  • people need a strong government, which can only be acheived through strong leadership and caring for the very needy
  • slow and gradual change to society is better than radical reform
  • a small state and minimal welfare should be provided by the state, with greater emphasis on the private sector
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It is beleived that since 1992 the main parties have started a shift towards the centre ground (rather than left or right wing). this area is generally referred to as liberalism.

Liberalism beliefs:

1. Minimal state welfare (aimed only at the needy)

2. Pragmatic Policies (right place, right time)

3. Balance between the Public and Private Sector

4. Protection of Civil Liberties and Human Rights

5. Maintaining the Sovereignty of the State

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The Conservative Party / Conservatism

The Conservative Party

  • Oldest of the parties having begun in the 17th Century and evolved to became a party primarily associated with the Middle and Upper Classes from 1817 onwards
  • throughout the 19th Century their main rivals were the Liberals


  • the Conservative Party of the 19th Century developed "One Nation Conservatism" - means to justify implementing limited welfare reforms and alleviate dire poverty in Britain / deter a Socialist Revolution.. Conservatism began as a reaction against the liberal ideas spreading across Europe during the French Revolution 
  • Conservatives attacked liberalism for many reasons - argued that it destroyed tradition (by rushing to overturn the old and bring in the new, it ruthlessly attacked traditional institutions and beleifs)
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Conservatism Beleifs

Stability: stability is precious and, in order to preserve it change must be made gradually. if stabiliy is undermined, it is very dangerous as societies can easily fall into chaos and violence.

Concreteness: Liberalism is too astract. it focuses on freedom and equality, not the concrete way people live everyday

Human Fallibility: liberalism overestimates human beings. humans are frequently ignorant, prejudiced, and irrational. by ignoring these defects, liberalism becomes unrealistic

Unique Circumstances: there is no universal answer to the problems of society - circumstances are unique in each country

Conservatism is a feature of all societies and its ideologies occupy a broad space along the political spectrum between the centre right and far right.

Conservatives share many ideas and themes, such as respect for authority and convention, but there are major differences between forms of conservative thought (paternalistic, authoritarian and libertarian)

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Libertarianism, Paternalism, Authoritarianism

Libertarianism: radical individualist doctrine, which holds that the state cannot use coercion to control individuals, even for their own good or protection. self-ownership is the moral right of all individuals

Paternalism: the principle and practise of paternal administration; the belief that government must supply the needs and regulate the lives of citizens as a father does his children

Authoritarianism: political outlook that favours obedience to authority rather than liberty

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Conservatism - Ideology or Disposition?

Ideology - political conservatism represents a distictive set of beleifs and ideas that draw on, but are no means restricted to, conventional or traditional ways of thinking and being

Disposition: we tend to depict someone as conservative if they hold "traditional" views, if they prefer "conventional" ways of doing things and if they dislike new or modern ideas

there is a dualism that lies at the heart of conservative ideology which is centred on the status and role of the individual in society. this dualism is the cause of tension in modern conservatism - there has been a radical departure from the early origins of conservative ideology, and few modern-day conservatives no longer subscribe to such outdated laws

Figures associated with conservatism:

Benjamin Disraeli (One Nation Conservatism), Margaret Thatcher (Thatcherism / New Right), David Cameron (Cameron; Compassionate Conservatism)

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New Right

This form of Conservatism is also referred to as Thatcherism. There are two main strands attached to it:

Neo-Liberalism: stresses need to liberate the economy from the government, who cannot, it suggests, run economies effectively and simply crowd out the more efficient free market. government should be small, meaning that it should do less, leaving as much as possible (including public services) to the private sector. individuals should be allowed to act as free economic agents.

Neo-Conservatism: stresses that on social and moral issues, there should be constraints on individual liberties and diversity. government needs to be strong, having sufficient authority over people to make sure they behave themselves. the nuclear family should be the basis of soicety, with alternative family structures being a threat to social stability, for example, a child without a father lacks a strong male role model and is subsequently more likely to misbehave. this strand emphasises social conformity - diversity undermines social cohesion and therefore social stability.

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One Nation Conservatism

This was the name given to the general ideology of the party until Thatcherism in the 1970s.

Key beliefs / Core Values:

  • redistribution of tax
  • social welfare - provision for the poor
  • state education and healthcare
  • state pension schemes
  • compromise and consensus among the people

Paternal Conservatism (State as a `father`)

  • government should provide for and regulate for its citizens as a father would his children
  • ruling class has a deputy to promote the welfare of its people
  • compassionate, concern for other- more inclusive
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Cameron`s compassionate conservatism, Big Society

Political philiosophy that stresses using traditionally conservative methods and concepts in order to improve the general welfare of society.

Social problems such as healthcare or immigration better tackled through charities / corporations etc rather than directly through government departments and the transfer of state responsibilities to external agencies - communities taking control of themselves.

Big emphasis on Social Justice - e.g. giving individuals and families facing multiple disadvantages the support and tools they need to turn their lives around.

Supports the ideals of:

  • traditional families
  • welfare reform to promote individual responsibility
  • active policing
  • standards-based schools (No Child Left Behind)
  • assistance (economic or otherwise) to poor countries
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The Labour Party

overtook the Liberal Party in the 1920s in the two party system

Old Labour:

  • Trade Union ideas and interests dominated the early history of the Labour party
  • product of the trade union movement

Clause Four - original basis of the party in 1918:

  • Public ownership of key industries (Nationalisation)
  • Government intervention in the economy
  • redistribution of wealth
  • increased rights of workers
  • welfare state - `cradle to the grave`
  • state education and healthcare (1948 NHS)
  • raise taxes to pay for public services
  • maintained close relationship with trade unions
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New Labour / the Third Way 1997-2010

the loge was changed in 1983 from manual workers tools to red rose logo.

there was an increasing problem for labour - led by middle class graduates, working class white men had been its supporters. the middle class was growing and working class population / proportion was smaller than it once was. it also became fragmented under gender and ethnic lines / private and public / skills and unskilled workers

Core values and beleifsL

  • equality for all - equality of oppurtunity
  • community ` we acheive more togethr than we do alone`
  • break away from old labour - didn`t raise taxes to pay for public services
  • public / private mix. rejects public ownership
  • equal and mutual respect for freedom for all

Some important implementations - National minimum wage, devolution, EU Court of Human Rights into UK law

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Post 2010 - Miliband - `One Nation`

Ed Miliband publically criticised the policies / ideology of New Labour and suggests that the party needs to attract traditional labour voters which, he claims, were alienated by Blair. He aso argued for further government in the economy.

He unveiled plans for new taxes for higher paid workers, an assault in City bankers and new trade union rights for employees.

Predistribution: Idea that inequality isn`t tackled by redistributing money to the poor by taxing the rich in order to provide benefits, but by fairer, more equal wages so that welfare services are less needed.

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Consensus Politics

Consensus politics means the broad agreement in a consultative style of governing, in particular concerning policies and ideas relating to domestic and foreign issues.

This is not the term to use when considering post world war 2 politics as it can be interpretted as there were no differences between the parties. During this period ideas and policies were often challenged by the left of the Labour party and the free market / right wing of the Conservatives. Much of the political elite - the media, civil service and the leaderships of the parties - shared many post WW2 ideas.

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Adversary v Consensus politics


  • deep and widespread ideological differences
  • the early 1980s when Labour and Conservatives diverge - Labour nationalisation, nuclear disarm and increase welfare provision. Conservatives advocate privatisation, multilateral nuclear disarm and privatisation
  • also the adversarial style of layout House of Commons, ministerial question times


  • recent times a high degree of consensus on issues such as Northern Ireland and anti-terrorism
  • 1950s and 60s UK - little difference between the parties on a range of public policy
  • formation of the Coalition Agreement 2010 - a national mood that in the face of severe economic crisis a period of consensus politics would be beneficial. There was agreement on responsible economic management, personal taxation as low as possible, maintenance of free market, preserving the unions, good quality public services within basic principles of the welfare state, support for parliamentary democracy, reform of the 2nd chamber
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