Put at the forefront, this means that a party can become number two in all constituencies, but without having a single representative in the House of Commons. A direct consequence is thus that there is not always a clear correspondence between the parties’ percentage support on a national basis and the percentage distribution of the number of seats in parliament.
The figures from the last parliamentary elections, in 2005, illustrate this well. Labor then received 35.3% of the voters’ votes on a national basis, but still won more than half – 55.1% – of the seats in the House of Commons. In comparison, the Conservative Party received 32.3% of the votes on a national basis, ie not so many fewer than Labor, but only 30.7% of the representatives in the House of Commons. Even more skewed was the outcome for the Liberal Democratic Party. It received 22.1% of the votes on a national basis, but only 9.6% of the representatives in the House of Commons
- Favoring the major parties- few parties: A third typical feature of the political system in the UK is that the electoral system tends to favor the largest parties, thus limiting the party landscape to two to three central parties . In the UK, there has in practice been talk of a kind of 2+ model, a two-party system that also includes space for a third party of a slightly more modest size.
- Efficiency considerations:One of the reasons for the “unfair” distribution key in many people’s eyes has been that they have wanted to ensure governing majority governments, ie an effective government. This can be seen as a fourth characteristic of the political system in Britain: the norm of majority governments based on one party, which means that you get strong governments with a lot of power vis-à-vis the parliament.
4: The parties – gathering in the middle
Contrary to what we might think, a party landscape with few parties does not necessarily lead to a greater or clearer political distance between them. On the contrary, some factors suggest that a political system with few parties – such as the British – will increase competition to win voters “in the middle”, also called the so-called “median voter”. Thus, in many cases, the parties will try to orient themselves towards the political center rather than towards the outer wings, so that they do not offend too many voters.
The Conservative Party: To the right of the center of the political scale we find the Conservative Party, often called the Tories . The party has historical roots dating back to the 17th century, but its modern history can be traced back to 1912. The party was in government for much of the last century, and has fostered well-known British prime ministers such as Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan and Margaret Thatcher.
According to HOLIDAYSORT, the party was particularly dominant during the 1980s, during Thatcher’s reign. Thatcher is still the longest-serving British prime minister in modern history, with an impressive eleven years and 204 consecutive days in the chair. Throughout the 1990s, however, the party lost ground to Labor, and since 1997 the party has been in a challenging position.
As the largest opposition party, the Conservatives today form the official “shadow government” in the British Parliament. The current party leader, David Cameron, took over the leadership in 2005, following the Conservatives’ third consecutive election defeat for Labor and Tony Blair. In the current election campaign, the Conservatives have particularly focused on rebuilding the British economy after the international financial crisis. In general, this means that the party wants greater cuts in public spending (excluding health and development assistance), more reduction in taxes and fees and more private elements in e.g. education system than the other parties.
Labor – the British Labor Party – is closer to the political center than its Norwegian sister party, but is still clearly on the left in British politics. The shift towards the center gained momentum from the mid-1990s, after Tony Blair took over as party leader. In 1997, Labor went to the polls promising a “third way” – a compromise between government welfare schemes on the one hand and the market economy on the other. The party has its origins in the late 19th century and in the British labor movement, and grew greatly throughout the 1920s and 30s.
After World War II, the party formed its first majority government. In addition to Tony Blair, names such as Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Neil Kinnock have been central to Labor’s history. Gordon Brown took over as leader in 2007. By then, Blair’s personal support among voters had reached a low point.
In the current election campaign, Labor – like the other parties – focuses a lot on dealing with the financial crisis. Nevertheless, the party has been reluctant to launch drastic cuts in public spending. On issues ranging from market stimulation to education, the party wants a stronger role for the British state than the Tories do.
The Liberal Democratic Party (often called the “Lib Dems”) is closest to the political center of the big three. However, the party has a pull to the left rather than the right. The party was established in its current form as recently as 1988, following a merger between the Social Democratic Party (a breakaway party from Labor) and the Liberal Party. The party’s family tree thus includes the Whig s, which together with the Tories are often regarded as the origin of the first party formations in Great Britain.
The Liberal Democrats focus on values such as freedom for the individual, the environment and the European community, and are also a strong supporter of reforming the political system. Among other things, this applies to the desire to change the electoral system and further democratize the Upper House. In the party’s short history, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell have been important names. The current party leader, Nick Clegg, was elected in 2007.