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List of political parties in the United Kingdom

Brief history and overviewEdit

Before the middle of the 19th century, politics in the United Kingdom was dominated by the Whigs and the Tories. These were not political parties in the modern sense but somewhat loose alliances of interests and individuals. The Whigs included many of the leading aristocratic dynasties committed to the Protestant succession, and later drew support from elements of the emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants, while the Tories were associated with the landed gentry, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.

By the mid 19th century, the Tories had evolved into the Conservative Party, and the Whigs had evolved into the Liberal Party. The concept of right and left came originally from France, where the supporters of a monarchy (constitutional or absolute) sat on the right wing of the National Assembly, and republicans on the left. In the late 19th century the Liberal Party began to lean towards the left. Liberal Unionists split off from the Liberals over Irish Home Rule and moved closer to the Conservatives over time.

The Liberals and Conservatives dominated the political scene until the 1920s, when the Liberal Party declined in popularity and suffered a long stream of resignations. It was replaced as the main anti-Tory opposition party by the newly emerging Labour Party, which represented an alliance between the labour movement, organised trades unions and various socialist societies.

Since then the Conservative and Labour parties have dominated British politics, and have alternated in government ever since. However, the UK is not quite a two-party system as other parties have significant support. The Liberal Democrats were the third largest party until the 2015 general election when they were overtaken by the Scottish National Party in terms of seats and UK political party membership, and by the UK Independence Party in terms of votes.

The UK's First Past the Post electoral system leaves small parties disadvantaged on a UK-wide scale. It can, however, allow parties with concentrations of supporters in the constituent countries to flourish. In the 2015 election there was widespread controversy[1][2][3] when UKIP and the Green Party of England and Wales received 4.9 million votes[4] (12.6% of the total vote for UKIP and 3.8% for the Greens) yet only gained one seat each in the House of Commons. After that election, UKIP, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party of England and Wales, together with its Scottish and Northern Ireland affiliated parties, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, delivered a petition signed by 477,000[5] people to Downing Street demanding electoral reform.

 
Scottish Parliament debating chamber

Since 1997, proportional representation-based voting systems have been adopted for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the London Assembly and the UK's seats in the European Parliament. In these bodies, other parties have had success.

Traditionally political parties have been private organisations with no official recognition by the state. The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 changed that by creating a register of parties.

Membership of political parties has been in decline in the UK since the 1950s, falling by over 65% from 1983 (4% of the electorate) to 2005 (1.3%).[6]

The start of political partiesEdit

The Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties[7] lists the details of parties registered to fight elections in the United Kingdom, including their registered name. Under current electoral law, including the Registration of Political Parties Act, the Electoral Administration Act 2006, and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, only registered party names can be used on ballot papers by those wishing to fight elections. Candidates who do not belong to a registered party can use "independent" or no label at all.

As of 2 August 2019 the Electoral Commission showed the number of registered political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as 408.[8]

Parliamentary partiesEdit

Two parties dominate politics in the House of Commons. Each one operates throughout Great Britain (only the Conservative and Unionist Party stands candidates in Northern Ireland). Most of the British Members of the European Parliament, Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales represent one of these parties:

Party Date of foundation Political position Leader House of Commons Scottish Parliament National Assembly for Wales Northern Ireland Assembly London Assembly European Parliament Local Government Membership UK vote share % (2017 general election)[9]
Conservative and Unionist Party 1834 Centre-right   Boris Johnson 288 31 11 0 8 4 7,615[10] 124,000[11] 42.4
Labour Party

Co-operative Party

1900

•1917 (Co-operative)

Centre-left   Jeremy Corbyn 247[Note 1] 23[Note 2] 29[Note 3] N/A 12 10 6,327[10] 552,000[12] 40.0
Scottish National Party 1934 Centre-left
Big tent
  Nicola Sturgeon 35 63 N/A N/A N/A 3 430[10] 125,500[11] 3.0
Liberal Democrats 1988 (1859 as Liberal Party) Centre to centre-left   Jo Swinson 18[13] 5 1 N/A 1 16 2,588[10] 120,845[14] 7.4
Democratic Unionist Party 1971 Centre-right to right-wing   Arlene Foster 10 N/A N/A 27 N/A 1 122 Not published 0.9
Sinn Féin 1905 (original);

1970 (current)

Centre-left to left-wing   Mary Lou McDonald 7[Note 4] N/A N/A 27 N/A 1 105 Not published 0.7
The Independent Group for Change 2019 Centre   Anna Soubry 5 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Plaid Cymru 1925 Centre-left to left-wing   Adam Price 4 N/A 11 N/A N/A 1 203[10] 10,500[15] 0.5
Green Party of England and Wales 1990 Left-wing   Siân Berry and Jonathan Bartley (job share) 1 N/A N/A N/A 2 7 187[10] 49,500[16] 1.6
Brexit Party 2019 Single-issue   Nigel Farage N/A N/A 4[17] N/A N/A 29 19 Not published N/A
Scottish Green Party 1990 Centre-left to left-wing   Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater N/A 6 N/A N/A N/A N/A 19[10] 7,091[18] (December 2017)
Social Democratic and Labour Party 1970 Centre-left   Colum Eastwood N/A N/A N/A 11 N/A N/A 59 Not published 0.3
Ulster Unionist Party 1905 Centre-right   Robin Swann N/A N/A N/A 10 N/A N/A 75 Not published 0.3
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 1970 Centre   Naomi Long N/A N/A N/A 8 N/A 1 53 Not published 0.2
UK Independence Party 1993 Right-wing to far-right Richard Braine [19] N/A N/A 2 N/A N/A N/A 62[20] 24,200[21] 1.8
Green Party in Northern Ireland 1983 Centre-left   Clare Bailey N/A N/A N/A 2 N/A N/A 8[22] 406[23] (May 2015)
Traditional Unionist Voice 2007 Right-wing   Jim Allister N/A N/A N/A 1 N/A N/A 6 Not published 0.1
People Before Profit 2005 Left-wing to far-left   Eamonn McCann N/A N/A N/A 1 N/A N/A 5 Not published

Party descriptionsEdit

Party Description
Conservative and Unionist Party A party loosely divided into three categories: The Thatcherites or Conservative Way Forward, who strongly support a free market and tend to be Eurosceptic; the economically moderate, often more pro-European and socially liberal One Nation Conservatives, and the socially conservative, deeply Eurosceptic Cornerstone Group.
Labour Party A social democratic party with democratic socialist elements that has its roots in the trade union movement. The party in recent years is seen to have several internal factions, which include: Momentum, Open Labour, Progress and, the Labour members who stand on a split ticket with the Co-operative Party.
Scottish National Party Scottish nationalist and social democratic party which supports of Scottish Independence and membership of the European Union.
Liberal Democrats Liberal and social liberal. The party's main two branches are the social-liberals based around groups like the Social Liberal Forum, and the 'Orange Book' grouping, which supports classical economic liberalism. Strongly supports membership of the European Union.
Democratic Unionist Party Unionist and national conservative party in Northern Ireland. Socially conservative with close links to Protestantism.
Sinn Féin Irish republican party that supports the unification of the island of Ireland as a 32-county Irish republic.
The Independent Group For Change Pro-EU party that favour a second EU referendum.
Plaid Cymru Social-democratic and Welsh nationalist party in favour of Welsh independence.
Social Democratic and Labour Party Social-democratic and Irish nationalist party supporting a United Ireland.
Ulster Unionist Party Unionist party in Northern Ireland, conservative but with liberal factions.
Green Party of England and Wales Green political party that favours eco-socialism,[24] environmentalism,[24] and sustainability.[24]
Scottish Green Party Green political party in favour of Scottish independence and Scottish republicanism.
UK Independence Party Eurosceptic, right-wing populist party. Favours national sovereignty, social conservatism and economic liberalism.
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland Liberal and centrist political party in Northern Ireland.
Green Party in Northern Ireland Green political and nonsectarian party in Northern Ireland.
Traditional Unionist Voice Strongly social and national conservative unionist party in Northern Ireland, opposed to the St Andrews Agreement.
People Before Profit Socialist party with Trotskyist elements that is active in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Brexit Party Hard Eurosceptic party that supports leaving all the institutions of the EU and is strongly positioned against a second EU referendum.

Local governmentEdit

Principal authoritiesEdit

Party Ideology Local authorities Leader Councillors
Ashfield Independents Ashfield, Nottinghamshire Jason Zadrozny 35
Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell Epsom and Ewell, Surrey Keith Lugton 34[25][26]
Mansfield Independent Forum Mansfield, Nottinghamshire Martin Wright 19[27]
Thurrock Independents Thurrock Graham Snell 17
Canvey Island Independent Party Castle Point, Essex David Blackwell 16[28][29]
Residents for Uttlesford Uttlesford John Lodge 11[30]
Havering Residents Association Havering Ray Morgon 11
Temple & Farringdon Together Localism City of London Corporation 10[31]
Liberal Party Liberalism, Euroscepticism Liverpool, Mid Devon, Peterborough, Ryedale Steve Radford 9[32]
East Devon Alliance transparency[33] East Devon Ben Ingham 9[34]
Independent Union Hartlepool Borough Council John Tennant 8[35]
Derwentside Independents Durham Watts Stelling 7[36] (+5 parish cllrs)[37]
Yorkshire Party Yorkshire regionalism, social democracy East Riding, Selby, North Yorkshire Chris Whitwood 7
Llais Gwynedd Regionalism Gwynedd Owain Williams 6[38]
Runnymede Independent Residents' Group Runnymede 6
Spennymoor Independents Durham 5 (+16 Parish Cllrs)[10]
Morley Borough Independents Leeds Robert Finnigan 5
Socialist Labour Party Socialism Hartlepool Borough Council Arthur Scargill 4[39]
Progressive Unionist Party Unionism, democratic socialism Belfast, Causeway Coast and Glens Billy Hutchinson 4[40][41]
Independent Community and Health Concern Single-issue politics Wyre Forest, Worcestershire, Shropshire Dr Richard Taylor 4[10]
Mebyon Kernow Cornish nationalism Cornwall Dick Cole 4[10]
Barnsley Independent Group Barnsley Phillip Birkinshaw 4[42]
Newport Independents Party Newport, South Wales Kevin Whitehead 4 [43]
People Against Bureaucracy Cheltenham, Gloucestershire 3[44][45]
Guildford Greenbelt Group Guildford Susan Parker 3[46]
North East Party Regionalism Durham 3[47]
Middlewich First Cheshire East James Basford 3[48] (+5 parish cllrs)
Putting Seaton First Hartlepool 3[49]
Democrats and Veterans Euroscepticism[50] Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council John Rees-Evans 3[51][52]
Highwoods Group Colchester Beverley Oxford 3[53]
the BOROUGH first[54] Windsor and Maidenhead Charles Hollingsworth 2[55]
Morecambe Bay Independents Lancaster Roger Dennison 2[56]
Henley Residents Group South Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire 2 (+6 parish clllrs)[57]
For Britain Far-right politics Hartlepool Borough Council, Epping Forest District Council Anne Marie Waters 2[58][59]
Nottingham Independents Nottingham City Council, Gedling Borough Council, Nottinghamshire Francesco Lari 1[60]
West Dunbartonshire Community Party West Dunbartonshire Drew MacEoghainn 1[61]
Lincolnshire Independents Lincolnshire Marianne Overton 1[62]
Harold Hill Independent Havering Lorraine Moss 1[63]
Merthyr Independents Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Stephen Brown [64] 1[65]
The Cynon Valley Party Rhondda Cynon Taf 1 [66]
The Rubbish Party East Ayrshire Sally Cogley 1
Cross-Community Labour Alternative Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Owen McCracken 1
Aontú Derry City and Strabane District Council Peadar Tóibín 1

Civil parishes and community councilsEdit

Party Political ideology Leader Councillors
Independents for Frome Localism Mel Usher 17[67]
Devizes Guardians Conservationism, Localism Nigel Carter 11[68]
Official Monster Raving Loony Party Satire Howling Laud Hope 2
Animal Welfare Party Animal welfare Vanessa Hudson 1[69]
Cornish Nationalist Party Cornish Nationalism, Pan-Celticism Androw Hawke 1

No elected representationEdit

This is a list of notable minor parties. Many parties are registered with the Electoral Commission but do not qualify for this list as they have not received significant independent coverage.

Miscellaneous minor partiesEdit

Minor centrist and pro-European partiesEdit

Minor left-wing and far-left partiesEdit

Minor right-wing and far-right partiesEdit

Minor English partiesEdit

Minor Scottish partiesEdit

Minor Welsh partiesEdit

Minor Northern Irish partiesEdit

Minor religious partiesEdit

Joke/satirical partiesEdit

Defunct and historical partiesEdit

Miscellaneous defunct minor partiesEdit

Defunct single-issue Eurosceptic partiesEdit

Defunct left-wing and far-left partiesEdit

Defunct right-wing and far-right partiesEdit

Defunct English partiesEdit

Defunct Scottish partiesEdit

Defunct Welsh partiesEdit

Defunct Northern Irish partiesEdit

Defunct religious partiesEdit

  • ProLife Alliance. Still operating as a pressure group, ProLife deregistered as a political party in 2004.[79]

Defunct joke/satirical partiesEdit

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Including 33 as Lab Co-op.
  2. ^ Including 7 as Lab Co-op.
  3. ^ Including 11 as Lab Co-op.
  4. ^ Sinn Fein operate a policy of Abstentionism and do not take their Commons seats

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit