The ‘Others’ in the British Party System
It is fair to say that the British party system is no longer a rigid two-party affair. With the obvious addition of the Liberal Democrats, there are MPs returned from nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales. Moreover, in Northern Ireland there is a unique party system reflecting the special circumstances of that part of the United Kingdom. However, it is misleading to argue that Britain is therefore a multiparty system since there are so few electoral contests that are more than two-party affairs. Britain does not have a multiparty system, but it can be argued that there are a number of different party systems at work in different parts of the United Kingdom. It is fairer to say, nationally, that Britain has a two-anda-half-party system. For example in 1992, of the 634 seats contested at the General Election, 65 per cent were primarily Labour-Conservative contests; 24 per cent Conservative-Liberal Democrat and 2 per cent Labour-Liberal Democrat. Only 9 per cent of seat contests did not fall into these categories (Johnston, Pattie and Fieldhouse, 1994:261).
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