List of political parties in the United Kingdom

This article lists political parties in the United Kingdom.

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Brief history and overview[edit]

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 parties[edit]

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 parties[edit]

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:

Before the dissolution of Parliament due to the beginning of the election campaign, the number of seats for each party in the House of Commons was as follows:

No other party had any elected representation in the House of Commons as of when Parliament was dissolved.

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 % (2019 general election)
Conservative and Unionist Party 1834 Centre-right Boris Johnson FCA.jpg Boris Johnson TBA 31 11 N/A 8 4 7,530[9] 191,000[10] TBA
Labour Party

Co-operative Party

1900

•1917 (Co-operative)

Centre-left Jeremy Corbyn closeup.jpg Jeremy Corbyn TBA 23[Note 3] 29[Note 4] N/A 12 10 6,344[9] 485,000[Note 5][11] TBA
Scottish National Party 1934 Centre-left
Big tent
Official portrait of Nicola Sturgeon (cropped 2).jpg Nicola Sturgeon TBA 63 N/A N/A N/A 3 433[9] 125,482[12] TBA
Liberal Democrats 1988 (1859 as Liberal Party) Centre to centre-left Jo Swinson TBA 5 1 N/A 1 16 2,552[9] 120,845[13] TBA
Democratic Unionist Party 1971 Centre-right to right-wing Arlene Foster MLA (cropped) 2.jpg Arlene Foster TBA N/A N/A 27 N/A 1 122 Not published TBA
Sinn Féin 1905 (original);

1970 (current)

Centre-left to left-wing Mary Lou McDonald (official portrait).jpg Mary Lou McDonald TBA[Note 6] N/A N/A 27 N/A 1 105 Not published TBA
The Independent Group for Change 2019 Centre Official portrait of Anna Soubry crop 2.jpg Anna Soubry TBA N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A TBA
Plaid Cymru 1925 Centre-left to left-wing Adam Price in July 2014.jpg Adam Price TBA N/A 11 N/A N/A 1 204[9] 11,500[14] TBA
Green Party of England and Wales 1990 Left-wing Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley, 2018.jpg Siân Berry and Jonathan Bartley (job share) TBA N/A N/A N/A 2 7 360[9] 49,500[15] TBA
Brexit Party 2019 Single-issue Nigel Farage MEP 1, Strasbourg - Diliff (cropped).jpg Nigel Farage TBA N/A 4[16] N/A N/A 23[17] 32 115,000[18] TBA
Scottish Green Party 1990 Centre-left to left-wing PatrickHarvieMSP20110510.JPG Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater TBA 6 N/A N/A N/A N/A 19[9] 6,412[19]
Social Democratic and Labour Party 1970 Centre-left Colum Eastwood MLA.JPG Colum Eastwood TBA N/A N/A 11 N/A N/A 59 Not published TBA
Ulster Unionist Party 1905 Centre-right Steve Aiken TBA N/A N/A 10 N/A N/A 75 Not published TBA
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 1970 Centre Cropped image of Naomi Long.JPG Naomi Long TBA N/A N/A 8 N/A 1 53 Not published TBA
UK Independence Party 1993 Right-wing to far-right Patricia Mountain (Interim)[20] TBA N/A 1 N/A 1 N/A 35[21] 26,447[22] TBA
Green Party in Northern Ireland 1983 Centre-left Clare Bailey.png Clare Bailey TBA N/A N/A 2 N/A N/A 8[23] 406[24] (May 2015)
Traditional Unionist Voice 2007 Right-wing JimAllister (cropped).jpg Jim Allister TBA N/A N/A 1 N/A N/A 6 Not published TBA
People Before Profit 2005 Left-wing to far-left Eamonn McCann (cropped).jpg Eamonn McCann[Note 7] TBA N/A N/A 1 N/A N/A 5 Not published TBA

Party descriptions[edit]

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, Blue Labour, 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,[25] environmentalism,[25] and sustainability.[25]
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 government[edit]

Principal authorities[edit]

Party Ideology Local authorities Leader Councillors
Ashfield Independents Ashfield, Nottinghamshire Jason Zadrozny 37 (+12 Parish Cllrs)
Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell Epsom and Ewell, Surrey Keith Lugton 34[26][27]
Mansfield Independent Forum Mansfield, Nottinghamshire Martin Wright 19[28]
Thurrock Independents Thurrock Graham Snell 17
Canvey Island Independent Party Castle Point, Essex David Blackwell 16[29][30]
Residents for Uttlesford Uttlesford John Lodge 11[31]
Havering Residents Association Havering Ray Morgon 11
Temple & Farringdon Together Localism City of London Corporation 10[32]
Liberal Party Liberalism, Euroscepticism Liverpool, Mid Devon, Peterborough, Ryedale Steve Radford 9[33]
East Devon Alliance transparency[34] East Devon Paul Arnott 9[35]
Independent Union Hartlepool Borough Council John Tennant 8[36]
Derwentside Independents Durham Watts Stelling 7[37] (+5 parish cllrs)[38]
Yorkshire Party Yorkshire regionalism, social democracy East Riding, Selby, North Yorkshire Chris Whitwood 7
Llais Gwynedd Regionalism Gwynedd Owain Williams 6[39]
Runnymede Independent Residents' Group Runnymede 6
Spennymoor Independents Durham 5 (+16 Parish Cllrs)[9]
Morley Borough Independents Leeds Robert Finnigan 5
Socialist Labour Party Socialism Hartlepool Borough Council Arthur Scargill 4[40]
Progressive Unionist Party Unionism, democratic socialism Belfast, Causeway Coast and Glens Billy Hutchinson 4[41][42]
Independent Community and Health Concern Single-issue politics Wyre Forest, Worcestershire, Shropshire Dr Richard Taylor 4[9]
Mebyon Kernow Cornish nationalism Cornwall Dick Cole 4[9]
Barnsley Independent Group Barnsley Phillip Birkinshaw 4[43]
Newport Independents Party Newport, South Wales Kevin Whitehead 4 [44]
Nottingham Independents Nottingham City Council, Gedling Borough Council, Nottinghamshire Francesco Lari 3 (+ 1 Parish Cllr)[45]
People Against Bureaucracy Cheltenham, Gloucestershire 3[46][47]
Guildford Greenbelt Group Guildford Susan Parker 3[48]
North East Party Regionalism Durham 3[49]
Middlewich First Cheshire East James Basford 3[50] (+5 parish cllrs)
Putting Seaton First Hartlepool 3[51]
Democrats and Veterans Euroscepticism[52] Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council John Rees-Evans 3[53][54]
Highwoods Group Colchester Beverley Oxford 3[55]
the BOROUGH first[56] Windsor and Maidenhead Charles Hollingsworth 2[57]
Morecambe Bay Independents Lancaster Roger Dennison 2[58]
Henley Residents Group South Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire 2 (+6 parish clllrs)[59]
For Britain Movement Far-right politics Hartlepool Borough Council, Epping Forest District Council Anne Marie Waters 2[60][61]
West Dunbartonshire Community Party West Dunbartonshire Drew MacEoghainn 1[62]
Lincolnshire Independents Lincolnshire Marianne Overton 1[63]
Harold Hill Independent Havering Lorraine Moss 1[64]
Merthyr Independents Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Stephen Brown [65] 1[66]
The Cynon Valley Party Rhondda Cynon Taf 1 [67]
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 councils[edit]

Party Political ideology Leader Councillors
Independents for Frome Localism Mel Usher 17[68]
Devizes Guardians Conservationism, Localism Nigel Carter 11[69]
Official Monster Raving Loony Party Satire Howling Laud Hope 2
Animal Welfare Party Animal welfare Vanessa Hudson 1[70]
Cornish Nationalist Party Cornish Nationalism, Pan-Celticism Androw Hawke 1

No elected representation[edit]

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 parties[edit]

Minor centrist and pro-European parties[edit]

Minor left-wing and far-left parties[edit]

Minor right-wing and far-right parties[edit]

Minor English parties[edit]

Minor Scottish parties[edit]

Minor Welsh parties[edit]

Minor Northern Irish parties[edit]

Minor religious parties[edit]

Joke/satirical parties[edit]

Defunct and historical parties[edit]

Miscellaneous defunct minor parties[edit]

Defunct single-issue Eurosceptic parties[edit]

Defunct left-wing and far-left parties[edit]

Defunct right-wing and far-right parties[edit]

Defunct English parties[edit]

Defunct Scottish parties[edit]

Defunct Welsh parties[edit]

Defunct Northern Irish parties[edit]

Defunct religious parties[edit]

  • ProLife Alliance. Still operating as a pressure group, ProLife deregistered as a political party in 2004.[77]

Defunct joke/satirical parties[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Including 33 as Lab Co-op.
  2. ^ Sinn Fein operate a policy of Abstentionism and do not take their Commons seats
  3. ^ Including 7 as Lab Co-op.
  4. ^ Including 11 as Lab Co-op.
  5. ^ Excluding 11,021 as Lab Co-op as membership subscription is independent from The Labour Party.
  6. ^ Sinn Fein operate a policy of Abstentionism and do not take their Commons seats
  7. ^ Party operates a policy of collective leadership, but Eamonn McCann is listed as the party's leader for the purposes of registration to the UK Electoral Commission.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]