The Party System: The Green Party
In the post regarding Carswell’s defection I referred to Britain’s drift towards becoming a multiparty system.
A party system is defined as the number of ‘relevant’ parties operating within a state’s political system. Historically (1945- 1983) the answer to this question in Britain was two- Labour and Conservatives. They won each election (European, General, local… there were no devolved assemblies) and a vast majority of both the seats and votes (in 1951 the Liberals had only 6 MPs and secured only 2.5% of the vote).
However in the last thirty years this picture has started to change, the Liberals merged with the SDP to form the Liberal Democrats and secure approximately 20% of the vote in 10% of the seats in most recent general elections), it is impossible to say that the Lib Dems are not ‘relevant’ as they are currently in government. This feeling that the Liberals are ‘relevant’ but not as ‘relevant’ (think ‘some animals are equal but some are more equal than others’…) has led to some commentators to suggest that Britain has become a two and a half party system.
However even this label has been challenged recently with commentators increasingly willing to say that there are a multitude of ‘relevant’ parties therefore Britain has become a ‘multiparty system’ to some extent this was the product of the rise of Nationalism in Scotland and Wales with the SNP and Plaid Cymru securing seats in the Westminster Parliament and since 1998 in the devolved Assemblies- however these are regional parties, you can argue there are four relevant parties in Scotland and Wales- but England dominates the UK politically- is there a case for more than three relevant parties here?
The growth of UKIP has added credence to the claim that the UK is a multiparty system. UKIP won the most recent European Elections, they polled strongly and thin the latests local elections and are currently polling at 16 points (the Lib Dems have only 7) in the latest predictions for the General election. However- UKIP as yet (and this may change with the Clacton by- election) do not have an MP. In contrast the Greens who are polling at 5 points do- and have done since Caroline Lucas won a interesting four way marginal in Brighton Pavilion in 2010 / polling.
This interesting piece from the LSE politics blogs suggests that the Green will retain their seat in Pavilion and potentially have a more generally significant impact in the election next May.
Do have a look at this piece from the LSE- and particularly the map, remember you don’t have to win a seat to impact on the outcome of the contest.