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List of political parties in the United Kingdom

This article lists political parties in the United Kingdom.


Brief history and overviewEdit

Before the mid-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 Right supported a smaller state with less influence on the lives of the public, the Left advocated a larger state with more influence on the lives of the public. 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 3 August 2015 the Electoral Commission showed the number of registered political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as 492.[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   Theresa May 316 31 12 [Note 1] 0 8 19 9,116[10] 124,000 [11] (Does not publish official membership numbers, data based on 3rd party sources) 42.4
Labour Party

Co-operative Party


•1917 (Co-operative)

Centre-left   Jeremy Corbyn 257 23 [Note 2] 29 [Note 3] N/A 12 20 6,470[10] 552,000 [12] 40.0
Liberal Democrats 1988 Centre to centre-left   Vince Cable 12 5 1 N/A 1 1 1,890[10] 100,500 [11] 7.4
Scottish National Party 1934 Centre-left   Nicola Sturgeon 35 63 N/A N/A N/A 2 430[10] 125,500 [13] 3.0
Democratic Unionist Party 1971 Centre-right to right-wing   Arlene Foster 10 N/A N/A 28 N/A 1 131 Not published 0.9
Sinn Féin 1905 (original);

1970 (current)

Centre-left to left-wing   Mary Lou McDonald 7 N/A N/A 27 N/A 1 [Note 4] 103 Not published 0.7
Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales 1925 Centre-left to left-wing   Adam Price 4[9] N/A 11 N/A N/A 1 203[10] 8,000 [14] 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 3 187[10] 41,073 [15] 1.6
Scottish Green Party 1990 Centre-left to left-wing  
Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman 0 6 N/A N/A N/A 0 19[10] 8,120 [16] (December 2016)
UK Independence Party 1993 Right-wing to far-right   Gerard Batten 0 0 4 0 1 7 108[10] 24,200 [17] 1.8
Social Democratic and Labour Party 1970 Centre-left   Colum Eastwood 0 N/A N/A 12 N/A 0 59 Not published 0.3
Ulster Unionist Party 1905 Centre-right   Robin Swann 0 N/A N/A 10 N/A 1 84 Not published 0.3
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 1970 Centre   Naomi Long 0 N/A N/A 8 N/A 0 30 Not published 0.2
Green Party in Northern Ireland 1983 Centre-left   Steven Agnew 0 N/A N/A 3 N/A 0 4[10] 406 [18] (May 2015)
Traditional Unionist Voice 2007 Right-wing   Jim Allister 0 N/A N/A 1 N/A 0 10 Not published 0.1
People Before Profit 2005 Left-wing to far-left   Eamonn McCann 0 N/A N/A 1 N/A N/A 1 Not published
Libertarian Party 2007 Libertarian   Adam Brown 0 0 N/A N/A N/A 1 0 Not published 0.0
Social Democratic Party 1990 Centre William Clouston 0 0 N/A N/A N/A 1 2 Not published 0.0

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.
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.
Scottish National Party Scottish nationalist and social democratic party which supports of Scottish Independence and 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.
Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales 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,[19] environmentalism,[19] and sustainability[19]
Scottish Green Party Green political party in favour of Scottish independence and Scottish republicanism.
UK Independence Party Eurosceptic and right-wing populist party. Favours national sovereignty, direct democracy, 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.
Libertarian Party Libertarian party in favour of traditional libertarianism and Euroscepticism.
Social Democratic Party Social democratic party supportive of localism and Euroscepticism.

† Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats in the UK House of Commons as they refuse to swear allegiance to the Crown, nor recognise Westminster's right to legislate for any part of Ireland.

Local governmentEdit

Principal authoritiesEdit

Party Ideology Local authorities Leader Councillors
Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell Epsom and Ewell, Surrey Keith Lugton 34[20][21]
Mansfield Independent Forum Mansfield, Nottinghamshire Martin Wright 19[22]
Thurrock Independents Thurrock Graham Snell 17
Canvey Island Independent Party Castle Point, Essex David Blackwell 16[23][24]
Residents for Uttlesford Uttlesford John Lodge 11[25]
Havering Residents Association Havering Ray Morgon 11
Liberal Party Liberalism, Euroscepticism Liverpool, Mid Devon, Peterborough, Ryedale Steve Radford 9[26]
East Devon Alliance transparency[27] East Devon Ben Ingham 9[28]
Derwentside Independents Durham Watts Stelling 7[29] (+5 parish cllrs)[30]
Llais Gwynedd Regionalism Gwynedd Owain Williams 6[31]
Runnymede Independent Residents' Group Runnymede 6
Spennymoor Independents Durham 5 (+16 Parish Cllrs)[10]
Progressive Unionist Party Unionism, democratic socialism Belfast, Causeway Coast and Glens Billy Hutchinson 4[32][33]
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[34]
Newport Independents Party Newport, South Wales Kevin Whitehead 4 [35]
People Against Bureaucracy Cheltenham, Gloucestershire 3[36][37]
Guildford Greenbelt Group Guildford Susan Parker 3[38]
North East Party Regionalism Durham 3[39]
Middlewich First Cheshire East James Basford 3[40] (+5 parish cllrs)
Putting Hartlepool First Hartlepool Kelly Atkinson 3[41]
Highwoods Group Colchester Beverley Oxford 3[42]
Yorkshire Party Regionalism Hambleton, Selby, North Yorkshire Stewart Arnold 3[43]
the BOROUGH first[44] Windsor and Maidenhead Charles Hollingsworth 2[45]
Morecambe Bay Independents Lancaster Roger Dennison 2[46]
Henley Residents Group South Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire 2[47] (+6 parish clllrs)
Nottingham Independents Nottingham City Council, Gedling Borough Council, Nottinghamshire Francesco Lari 1[48]
West Dunbartonshire Community Party West Dunbartonshire Drew MacEoghainn 1[49]
Lincolnshire Independents Lincolnshire Marianne Overton 1[50]
Renew Pro-Europeanism Portsmouth Annabel Mullin 1[51]
Harold Hill Independent Havering Lorraine Moss 1[52]
Merthyr Independents Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Stephen Brown [53] 1[54]
The Cynon Valley Party Rhondda Cynon Taf 1 [55]
The Rubbish Party East Ayrshire Sally Cogley 1

Civil parishes and community councilsEdit

Party Political Position Leader Councillors
Independents for Frome Localism Mel Usher 17[56]
Devizes Guardians Conservationism, Localism Nigel Carter 11[57]
Official Monster Raving Loony Party Satire Howling Laud Hope 6
Animal Welfare Party Animal welfare Vanessa Hudson 1
Pirate Party Pirate politics Harley Faggetter 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 left-wing and far-left partiesEdit

Minor right-wing and far-right partiesEdit

Minor centrist and pro-European partiesEdit

Minor religious partiesEdit

Minor English partiesEdit

Minor Scottish partiesEdit

Minor Welsh partiesEdit

Minor Northern Irish partiesEdit

Joke/satirical partiesEdit

Defunct and historical 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.[64]

Defunct left-wing and far-left partiesEdit

Defunct right-wing and far-right partiesEdit

Defunct joke/satirical partiesEdit

Defunct single-issue Eurosceptic partiesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Including 1 Independent Conservative.
  2. ^ Including 8 as Lab Co-op.
  3. ^ Including 11 as Lab Co-op.
  4. ^ Sinn Féin has one MEP from a UK constituency and three others from the Republic of Ireland.


  1. ^ "Whatever you think of Ukip or the Greens, our electoral system is robbing them". 14 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Green party leader condemns first-past-the-post voting system". 9 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  3. ^ "General Election 2015: Sixty per cent of people want voting reform, says survey". 5 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Election 2015". Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Green party and Ukip join forces to demand electoral overhaul". 18 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  6. ^ John Marshall: Membership of UK political parties; House of Commons, SN/SG/5125; 2009, page 6. Retrieved 5 January 2012
  7. ^ "Party Finance – The Electoral Commission : Regulatory issues : Political parties : Registers : Register of political parties". Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  8. ^ "Search – The Electoral Commission". Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Election 2017 – BBC News". BBC News. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Local Council Political Compositions". Retrieved 23 May 2015.
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  12. ^ "Political party membership figures published by House of Commons library". 1 May 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  13. ^ Keen, Richard; Audickas, Lukas (3 September 2018). "SNP membership overtakes Conservatives across UK" (PDF). British Broadcasting Company. p. 13. Retrieved 4 September 2018. Data from the House of Commons Library shows the SNP has just under 125,500 registered members, compared to 124,000 for the Tories.
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  16. ^ Electoral commission. Statement of accounts for the year ended 31 December 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  17. ^ Walker, Peter (2 August 2018). "Ukip membership surges 15% in a month". the Guardian.
  18. ^ "Greens' growth has just begun". Belfast Telegraph. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  19. ^ a b c "The Green Party's Core Values". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  20. ^ "MyEpsomandEwell". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
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  33. ^ "Councillors". Causeway Coast and Glens District Council. Retrieved 21 Feb 2018.
  34. ^ "Independent1". Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  35. ^ Gareth Willey (5 May 2017). "Newport Local Election Results (2017)". Newport City Radio. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  36. ^ List of Councillors in Cheltenham Borough Council.
  37. ^ List of Councillors in Gloucestershire County Council.
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2016-05-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^ "Your Councillors by Party". Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  40. ^ "Councillors – Middlewich Town Council". Retrieved 2016-09-30.[permanent dead link]
  41. ^ Council, Hartlepool Borough. "Hartlepool Borough Council - Find Councillors".
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  50. ^
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  52. ^ "Councillor Jan Sargent". Havering London Borough Council.
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  55. ^ County Borough Council Elections 2017, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
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External linksEdit