According to Schattschneider (1942) ‘modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of political parties’. Yet political parties 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 section begins by setting out various definitions of political parties and highlighting their functions in democracies. The second section 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 have been decreasingly able to command the loyalty of voters.
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- The Role of Political Parties in the UK
Dr Alistair Clark
- Macmillan Education UK
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