Britain is a how many party system?

May 14th, 2013

Harry Hayfield’s historical prespective

The main news narrative over in recent days has been “Britain is a four party system country” following the success of UKIP in the county council elections, I, however would counter that by saying “Britain is in fact a thirteen party system” and hasn’t been a four party system for well over twenty years

Parties that have scored more than 1% of the national vote at a UK general election since 1950
Great Britain only
1950: Con, Lab, Lib
1951: Con, Lab, Lib
1955: Con, Lab, Lib
1959: Con, Lab, Lib
1964: Con, Lab, Lib
1966: Con, Lab, Lib
1970: Con, Lab, Lib, SNP
February 1974: Con, Lab, Lib, SNP
October 1974: Con, Lab, Lib, SNP
1979: Con, Lab, Lib, SNP
1983: Con, Lab, Lib, SDP, SNP
1987: Con, Lab, Lib, SDP, SNP
1992: Con, Lab, Lib Dem, SNP
1997: Con, Lab, Lib Dem, Referendum Party, SNP
2001: Con, Lab, Lib Dem, SNP, UKIP
2005: Con, Lab, Lib Dem, SNP, UKIP, Green
2010: Con, Lab, Lib Dem, SNP, UKIP, BNP

Today, there are eleven parties at Westminster with at least one MP (Con, Lab, Lib Dem, Plaid, SNP, DUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein, Alliance, Green, Respect) and taking in account the Assemblies and Parliaments across the UK, you can add the Traditional Unionist Voice, UKIP and the various Independents in Holyrood, Stormont and Westminster whch gives you a grand total of thirteen parties across the United Kingdom (and that’s just those with elected parliamentarians). Go down to the local level and you can add various shades of Independents, Ratepayers, English Democrats, Liberals, Health Campaigners, Mebynon Kernow, Social Democrats and the Scottish Socialists, giving the UK a staggering twenty political parties with elected members to chose from. And that could mean that the once uncommon sight of the three way marginal may give way to the five way marginal (as seen in history)

Election 1983: Wrexham: Lab 34.27%, Con 33.37%, Alliance 29.71%
Election 1987: Brecon and Radnor: Alliance 34.81%, Con 34.67%, Lab 29.22%
Election 1992: Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber: Lib Dem 26.04%, Lab 25.14%, SNP 24.67%, Con 22.62%
Election 1997: Shrewsbury and Atcham: Lab 37.01%, Con 33.99%, Lib Dem 25.00%
Election 2001: Moray: SNP 30.32%, Lab 25.07%, Con 23.10%, Lib Dem 15.72%
Election 2005: Watford: Lab 33.55%, Lib Dem 31.23%, Con 29.62%
Election 2010: Norwich South: Lib Dem 29.35%, Lab 28.70%, Con 22.92%, Green 14.92%
Election 2015 (based on by-elections): Cambridgeshire South: Lab 24.43%, Con 24.29%, Lib Dem 17.86%, Ind 16.26%, UKIP 14.90%

Harry Hayfield