According to Schattschneider (1942) ‘modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of political parties’. Yet although political parties are a recognizable feature of democratic politics, they are also often the source of much disillusion among electors. In recent years parties have been said to be in decline in a number of ways, whether in terms of their membership, or in their ability to motivate electors to turn out to vote for them. Against this backdrop, this chapter assesses the current literature on British parties to ask two key questions: what is the role of political parties in the modern UK; and to what extent are parties successfully fulfilling their democratic functions? The first part of the chapter begins by setting out various definitions of political parties and highlighting their functions in democracies. The second part of the chapter addresses itself to the question: to what extent are the UK’s parties successfully fulfilling these roles? British parties are argued to be fulfilling these functions to varying degrees. While they continue to simplify the electoral choices available to voters, they are decreasingly able to command the loyalty of voters. Nevertheless, through their position in organizing both government and opposition in the House of Commons, parties play a crucial, if not always necessarily central, role in providing political accountability in the UK.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
- The Role of Political Parties in the UK
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number