Politics

What are the Political Parties of the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom is home to a variety of political parties, who represent a spectrum of views.

Before the 19th century, the political landscape in the UK was dominated by the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs were made up of most of the prominent aristocratic dynasties agitating for Protestant succession and subsequently enjoyed the support of the wealthy merchants and emerging industrial interests. The Tories were mostly associated with the Church of Scotland; the landed gentry and the Church of England. Towards the mid 19th century, the Whigs evolved into the Liberal Party while the Tories became the Conservative Party. The Labour Party emerged in the place of the Liberal Party in the 1920s. The Conservative and Labour Parties are the major political players in the UK although they are other many parties.

Conservative Party

The Conservative Party has a centre-right position in UK's politics. The party garnered the largest number of seats in the House of Commons at the last election in 2015 and is thus the party that formed the government. The party's chair is Theresa May who is currently the UK's Prime Minister. Among the major views of the party is the belief that free markets in addition to individual achievement drive economic growth. The party advocates for supply-side economics, a theory which stipulates that reduced income tax rates triggers GDP growth and thus amounts to the same or more revenue collected by the government from the lesser tax on the additional growth. This theory is in line with the party's advocacy for tax cuts. The Conservative Party has established a wide range of global alliances including ties with the US. Other views of the party are restrictions on trade union, a strong national defense, fiscal conservatism, and deregulation.

Labour Party

The Labour Party occupies a centre-left position in UK's politics. After garnering 231 seats in the 2015 election, the Labour Party assumed the place of the Official Opposition. Jeremy Corbyn is currently serving as the party's chair. The party initially favored socialist policies including the redistribution of wealth, a belief in publicly funded education and healthcare, government intervention, and public ownership of strategic industries. The Labour Party began embracing several free market policies in the mid-1980s under the leadership of Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, and John Smith. The party's current political stand has been described as ‘Third Way.'

Scottish National Party

The Scottish National Party is the third-largest in the UK in terms of membership. The party has the majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament as well as the majority of representatives in the Parliament of the UK. The party is currently under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish National Party is associated with Scottish Nationalism, and it has been at the forefront in agitating for Scottish independence. Being a social democratic party, some of its views include investments in renewable energy, construction of affordable social housing, progressive personal taxation, same-sex marriage, and government-subsidized higher education.

Liberal Democrats

In 1988, the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party merged into the Liberal Democrats. Tim Farron is the party’s current leader. The Liberal Democrats advocate for civil liberties, electoral and constitutional reform, environmentalism, progressive taxation, European integration, drug decriminalization, and human rights laws.

Emerging Trends

The UK's two party system which is dominated by the Conservative and Labour Parties has been decreasing in popularity. Smaller parties have been registering increasing support such as the Scottish National Party which is pushing for Scottish independence. Another rising party is the Green Party of England and Wales as well as the Green Party in Northern Ireland. The Green Party advocates for peace and non-violence, environmental consciousness, social justice, and grassroots democracy. The UK Independence Party has garnered support due to its stances on British Nationalism, Economic liberalism, immigration, and exit from the EU.

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