List of political parties in the United Kingdom

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This article lists political parties in the United Kingdom.

Brief history and overview[edit]

Before the mid-19th century politics in the United Kingdom was dominated by the Whigs and the Tories. These were not political parties in the modern sense but somewhat loose alliances of interests and individuals. The Whigs included many of the leading aristocratic dynasties committed to the Protestant succession, and later drew support from elements of the emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants, while the Tories were associated with the landed gentry, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.

By the mid 19th century the Tories had evolved into the Conservative Party, and the Whigs had evolved into the Liberal Party. In the late 19th century the Liberal Party began to pursue more left wing policies, and many of the heirs of the Whig tradition became Liberal Unionists and moved closer to the Conservatives on many of the key issues of the time.

The Liberal and Conservatives dominated the political scene until the 1920s, when the Liberal Party declined in popularity and suffered a long stream of resignations. It was replaced as the main anti-Tory opposition party by the newly emerging Labour Party, who represented an alliance between the labour movement, organised trades unions and various socialist societies.

Since then the Conservative and Labour Parties have dominated British politics, and have alternated in government ever since. However, the UK is not quite a two-party system since a third party (recently, the Liberal Democrats) can prevent 50% of the votes/seats from going to a single party. Following electoral co-operation as part of the SDP-Liberal Alliance, The Liberal Party merged with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 becoming the Liberal Democrats, which is now the largest third party.

The UK's First Past the Post electoral system leaves small parties disadvantaged on a UK-wide scale. It can, however, allow parties with concentrations of supporters in the constituent countries to flourish. Other than the Green Party of England and Wales, the only other parties winning seats in the House of Commons at the 2010 general election were based in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Since 1997, proportional representation-based voting systems have been adopted for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the London Assembly and the UK's seats in the European Parliament. In these bodies, other parties have had success.

Traditionally political parties have been private organisations with no official recognition by the state. The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 changed that by creating a register of parties.

Membership of political parties has been in decline in the UK since the 1950s, falling by over 65% from 1983 (4 per cent of the electorate) to 2005 (1.3 per cent).[1]

Register of Political Parties[edit]

The Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties[2] lists the details of parties registered to fight elections, and their registered name, in the United Kingdom. Under current electoral law, including the Registration of Political Parties Act, the Electoral Administration Act 2006, and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, only registered party names can be used on ballot papers by those wishing to fight elections. Candidates who do not belong to a registered party can use "independent" or no label at all.

As of 10 June 2011 the Electoral Commission showed the number of registered political parties as 419. In Northern Ireland there are 42 registered parties.

Major parties[edit]

Three parties dominate politics in the House of Commons. Each one operates throughout Great Britain (only the Conservative and Unionist Party stands candidates in Northern Ireland). Most of the British Members of the European Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales represent one of these parties:

Political parties with elected representation in the Westminster, devolved and European parliaments[edit]

PartyUK House of Commons membersScottish Parliament membersNational Assembly for Wales membersNorthern Ireland Assembly membersLondon Assembly membersEuropean Parliament membersNotes
Conservative and Unionist Party3031514N/A925Centre-right party which can be loosely divided into three categories, though with considerable overlap: The Thatcherites or Conservative Way Forward, who strongly support a free market and tend to be Eurosceptic, the economically moderate, often more europhile but socially conservative One Nation Conservatives, and the socially conservative, deeply Eurosceptic Cornerstone Group.
Liberal Democrats5755N/A211Socially liberal and progressive; strongly support democratisation of the political system. Promotes modern liberal values; opposing what some pen the 'nanny state', while supporting the welfare state for the basic necessities of life. The party's main two branches are the social-liberal grouping, and the dominant 'Orange Book' grouping.
Labour Party257
(inc Lab Co-op)
37
(inc 9 as Lab Co-op)
30
(inc 4 as Lab Co-op)
N/A1213Centre-left; a big tent party historically allied with the trade union movement; its platform is based upon mixed market Third Way policies since the party's reinvention as New Labour in 1994, whilst maintaining democratic socialist MPs and left-wing factions within the party such as the Socialist Campaign Group; it generally supports greater Pro-Europeanism.
Democratic Unionist Party8N/AN/A38N/A1Hardline Unionist and national conservative party in Northern Ireland. Also very socially conservative with close links to Evangelical Protestantism.
Scottish National Party6[3]69N/AN/AN/A2Social-democratic party in favour of Scottish independence.
Sinn Féin5N/AN/A29N/A1[4]Irish republican party that supports the unification of the island of Ireland as a 32-county Irish republic.
Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales3[3]N/A11N/AN/A1Centre-left party in favour of Welsh independence.
Social Democratic and Labour Party3N/AN/A14N/A0Social-democratic and Irish nationalism party supporting a United Ireland.
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland1N/AN/A8N/A0Liberal party in Northern Ireland that aims to break down sectarian divisions between Catholics and Protestants. Has a neutral stance on the Constitutional issue of Northern Ireland's status and is linked with the Liberal Democrats via ELDR.
Green Party of England and Wales1N/A0N/A22Green political party. Favours British republicanism.
Respect Party100N/AN/A0Left-wing, socialist, and populist party active in Great Britain; concentrates on an anti-war platform.
Ulster Unionist Party0N/AN/A15N/A1Unionist party in Northern Ireland (previously affiliated to the British Conservative Party via the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists electoral arrangement at the 2009 General Election). Also is socially conservative but with some small liberal factions.
Scottish Green Party02N/AN/AN/A0Green political party in favour of Scottish independence.
NI210N/AN/A2N/A0Unionist in Northern Ireland, which advocates progressive and liberal policies, with non-sectarian ideals
Green Party in Northern Ireland0N/AN/A1N/A0Green party in Northern Ireland.
Traditional Unionist Voice0N/AN/A1N/A0Strongly social and national conservative unionist party in Northern Ireland, opposed to the St Andrews Agreement.
UK Independence Party0001013Eurosceptic party which favours withdrawal from the European Union, small government and economic liberalism.
British National Party000001British nationalist party who support withdrawal from the European Union, halting mass immigration and Third position economics.

†Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats in the UK House of Commons as they choose not to swear allegiance to the crown.

Minor parties[edit]

Electoral coalitions[edit]

Minor English parties[edit]

Minor Scottish parties[edit]

Minor Welsh parties[edit]

Minor Northern Irish parties[edit]

Minor far-left parties[edit]

Minor far-right parties[edit]

Minor religious parties[edit]

Joke parties[edit]

See Joke political parties in the United Kingdom

Defunct and historical parties in the United Kingdom[edit]

Defunct English parties[edit]

Defunct Scottish parties[edit]

Defunct Welsh parties[edit]

Defunct Northern Irish parties[edit]

Defunct far-left parties[edit]

Defunct far-right parties[edit]

Defunct joke parties[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ John Marshall: Membership of UK political parties; House of Commons, SN/SG/5125; 2009, page 6. www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-05125.pdf Access date: 5 Jan 2012
  2. ^ "Party Finance - The Electoral Commission : Regulatory issues : Political parties : Registers : Register of political parties". Registers.electoralcommission.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-06-10. 
  3. ^ a b The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru work as a group in the House of Commons
  4. ^ Sinn Féin have one MEP from a UK constituency and another from the Republic of Ireland.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "List of Political Parties either renamed or deregistered since 2002". 16 December 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2010. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Ex-Tory donor launches Trust Party on expenses pledge". BBC News. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  7. ^ Boggan, Steve (25 February 1993). "Miss Whiplash faxes by-election promise". The Independent (London). Retrieved 15 April 2010. 
  8. ^ Amos, Annabel (28 April 2005). "How will Northampton grow?". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  9. ^ "United Kingdom Unionist Party - Statement of Accounts for 2006" (PDF). Electoral Commission. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-13. [dead link]

External links[edit]