Writing just after the 2004 European elections, Dunleavy (2005) criticized the Westminster focus of much debate on British party politics, arguing that this failed to take account of the increasingly complex and multi-level patterns of party competition that now occur across the UK. Indeed, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have a number of different parties, which means that party competition in these regions has operated in a significantly different manner from the UK norm. This has had a varied impact upon Westminster politics over the years, with, on occasion, parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) holding the balance of power. Since devolution, these parties can no longer be considered ‘minor’ parties in the UK system, but also as significant parties operating in distinct devolved party systems. Moreover, it is not just in the devolved institutions that party competition varies from the Westminster norm, but also in competition for the London Assembly, local government and the European Parliament.
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- The UK’s ‘Multi-Level’ Party Systems
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