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Evaluate the view that minor parties have a significant impact on the UK political system.
One argument why minor parties do have a significant impact on the UK political system is due to their ability to influence UK politics. Indeed in 2015 GE, the UKIP became the third most popular party by winning 27.5% of the vote who influenced Cameron to hold a referendum on EU membership. This has a significant impact on the UK political system as they helped turn public opinion in favour of Brexit by managing to persuade 17m to cast their vote for leaving the EU in 2016. Another minor party, the SNP also had a considerable impact on the UK political system when they influenced Cameron to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. This holds considerable weight due to the fact that they managed to make it an issue for the first time in generations, pushing the government to give more power to the Scottish Parliament ergo increasing their representation in the UK political system. It also accentuates that the SNP held enough power to threaten the status quo as it nearly led to the break-up of the UK.
Contrastingly, others may argue that minor parties do not have a significant impact in the UK political system as they are disproportionately under-represented by the FTPT electoral system. The FTPT electoral system is designed to support a two-party system in order to create a stable and strong government, meaning it doesn’t favour minority parties. For example, in 2015 UKIP managed to secure 3.8m votes but they only gained 1 seat in Parl. That is because FPTP requires a party’s support to be concentrated in constituencies so they can win them rather than spread across the country. This discriminates against small parties with legitimate aims and objectives such as the Green party as FPTP favours two parties leading to an unrepresentative government and wasted votes, hindering minor parties’ potential impact in the UK political system.
Hence, although minor parties such as the SNP and UKIP did manage to impact the UK political system significantly, it was fleeting as regardless they do not possess substantial support because they have to rely upon the FPTP system which indeed doesn’t effectively represent them.
Evaluate the view that UK politics is more adversary than consensus.
Some may argue that the UK is more adversary than consensus due to Thatcherism. Although post WW2, there was indeed a consensus between Labour and Conservative who cooperated over the creation of a welfare state and the adoption of a Keynesian style economy, it ultimately broke down as adversarial politics arose. It is evident that some of Thatcher’s radical policies threatened the consensus as Thatcherism is individualistic and promotes a free-market economy whereas the post-war consensus promotes a mixed economy and puts greater emphasis on social welfare. This stark distinction over policies between parties would make it difficult to reach an agreement, hence creating conflict for those in power.
In contrast, others may argue that the UK is less adversary than consensus. For example, in 2003, under the Blair government, there was a similarity detected between Labour and Cons over foreign policy. Both parties supported the initiation of the war in Iraq and in fact, the bill was passed in Parliament due to C support of the invasion. This proves the view that even if these two parties have a stark difference in their ideologies aims and objectives, there is a general consensus on the policy direction the UK should take, largely impacting UK politics. This example also proves that although these parties are in a sense rivals, it doesn’t mean that they can’t reach co-exist without dissension.
Thus, despite the exceptional example of L and C sharing similar policies in 2003, their major ideological distinction would mean that UK politics is more adversary than consensus.
Evaluate the view that the UK has a two-party system.
To conclude, I disagree that the UK has a two-party system. Whilst it is recognised that some may assert that the UK does indeed have a two-party system because realistically Labour and Conservative are the only parties that have a chance of winning elections. Thus, traditionally one of these two parties would be forming a government or being the senior partner in a coalition at Westminster. The two-party system is not as prominent as it once was, since the electorate has begun branching out and voting for a range of third-parties such as SNP and UKIP, diminishing the importance of the ‘big two’ duopoly.
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