Political parties are the lifeblood of electoral politics in Britain, as in almost every other democracy in the world. The overwhelming majority of Parliamentary candidates are party adherents, and it is an exceptionally rare event for an independent candidate to secure election. The reader may, therefore, be surprised to learn that their existence has been almost totally ignored by law, and in British general elections up to and including 1997, parties were unrecognised, unregulated and the elections regarded offi cially as wholly a contest between individual candidates. This has now changed. Under reforms introduced before the 2001 election, political parties have been recognised by law for the first time ever in Britain, their names registered, their accounts opened to public scrutiny and some of their activities regulated. Yet in reality, this reform of the law will make little real difference to the way British elections work. Though unrecognised by law for so long, political parties have been the dominant factor for well over a century, and it is impossible to understand how an election works without understanding how the parties play their part in it and shape it.
KeywordsPolitical Party Trade Union Labour Party Liberal Party Conservative Party
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Notes and References
- 7.For more information about the history of the minor parties see David Butler and Gareth Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000(Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 135–84Google Scholar
- 7.or the even more exhaustive catalogue in David Boothroyd, The History of British Political Parties (London: Politico’s Publishing, 2001).Google Scholar