List of political parties in the United Kingdom
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United Kingdom
- 1 Brief history and overview
- 2 Major parties
- 3 Minor parties
- 4 Defunct and historical parties in the United Kingdom
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 External links
Brief history and overview
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. In the late 19th century the Liberal Party began to pursue more left wing policies, and many of the heirs of the Whig tradition became Liberal Unionists and moved closer to the Conservatives on many of the key issues of the time.
The Liberal 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 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 since a third party (recently, the Liberal Democrats) can prevent 50% of the votes/seats from going to a single party. Following electoral co-operation as part of the SDP-Liberal Alliance, The Liberal Party merged with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 becoming the Liberal Democrats, which is now the largest third party.
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. Other than the Green Party of England and Wales, the only other parties winning seats in the House of Commons at the 2010 general election were based in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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 per cent of the electorate) to 2005 (1.3 per cent).
Register of Political Parties
The Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties lists the details of parties registered to fight elections, and their registered name, in the United Kingdom. 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 10 June 2011 the Electoral Commission showed the number of registered political parties as 419. In Northern Ireland there are 42 registered parties.
Three 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 and the National Assembly for Wales represent one of these parties:
- Conservative and Unionist Party, centre-right (303 seats in the House of Commons)
Labour Party, centre-left (a broad social-democratic party with Third Way policies, was traditionally democratic socialist in orientation) (258 seats)
- Co-operative Party (all Co-operative Party MPs are also Labour MPs as part of a long-standing electoral agreement)
- Liberal Democrats, radical-centrist to centre-left (heavily influenced by social liberalism). (57 seats)
Political parties with elected representation in the Westminster, devolved and European parliaments
|Party||UK House of Commons members||Scottish Parliament members||National Assembly for Wales members||Northern Ireland Assembly members||London Assembly members||European Parliament members||membership||Notes|
|Conservative and Unionist Party||303||15||14||0||9||19||174,000||Centre-right party which can be loosely divided into three categories, though with considerable overlap: The Thatcherites or Conservative Way Forward, who strongly support a free market and tend to be Eurosceptic, the economically moderate, often more europhile but socially conservative One Nation Conservatives, and the socially conservative, deeply Eurosceptic Cornerstone Group.|
|Liberal Democrats||57||5||5||N/A||2||1||43,000 ||Socially liberal and progressive; strongly support democratisation of the political system. Promotes modern liberal values; opposing what some pen the 'nanny state', while supporting the welfare state for the basic necessities of life. The party's main two branches are the social-liberal grouping, and the dominant 'Orange Book' grouping.|
(inc 28 as Lab Co-op)
(inc 9 as Lab Co-op)
(inc 4 as Lab Co-op)
(July 2014) 
|Centre-left; a big tent party historically allied with the trade union movement; its platform is based upon mixed market Third Way policies since the party's reinvention as New Labour in 1994, whilst maintaining democratic socialist MPs and left-wing factions within the party such as the Socialist Campaign Group; it generally supports greater Pro-Europeanism.|
|Democratic Unionist Party||8||N/A||N/A||38||N/A||1||Hardline Unionist and national conservative party in Northern Ireland. Also very socially conservative with close links to Evangelical Protestantism.|
|Scottish National Party||6||69||N/A||N/A||N/A||2||92,187 ||Nationalist, Social-democratic party in favour of Scottish independence from the UK whilst supporting continued pooling of sovereignty in a more integrated and federalised European Union.|
|Sinn Féin †||5||N/A||N/A||29||N/A||1||Irish republican party that supports the unification of the island of Ireland as a 32-county Irish republic.|
|Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales||3||N/A||11||N/A||N/A||1||8,000||Centre-left party in favour of Welsh independence.|
|Social Democratic and Labour Party||3||N/A||N/A||14||N/A||0||Social-democratic and Irish nationalism party supporting a United Ireland.|
|UK Independence Party||2||0||0||2||0||24||40,094 ||Populist Eurosceptic party, which favours withdrawal from the European Union, national sovereignty, direct democracy, individual liberty, small government and economic liberalism.|
|Alliance Party of Northern Ireland||1||N/A||N/A||8||N/A||0||Liberal party in Northern Ireland that aims to break down sectarian divisions between Catholics and Protestants. Has a neutral stance on the Constitutional issue of Northern Ireland's status and is linked with the Liberal Democrats via ELDR.|
|Green Party of England and Wales||1||N/A||0||N/A||2||3||25,000 ||Green political party. Favours British republicanism.|
|Respect Party||1||0||0||N/A||N/A||0||Left-wing, socialist, and populist party active in Great Britain; concentrates on an anti-war platform.|
|Ulster Unionist Party||0||N/A||N/A||14||N/A||1||Unionist party in Northern Ireland (previously affiliated to the British Conservative Party via the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists electoral arrangement at the 2009 General Election). Also is socially conservative but with some small liberal factions.|
|Scottish Green Party||0||2||N/A||N/A||N/A||0||8,000||Green political party in favour of Scottish independence.|
|NI21||0||N/A||N/A||1||N/A||0||Unionist in Northern Ireland, which advocates progressive and liberal policies, with non-sectarian ideals|
|Green Party in Northern Ireland||0||N/A||N/A||1||N/A||0||Green party in Northern Ireland.|
|Traditional Unionist Voice||0||N/A||N/A||1||N/A||0||Strongly social and national conservative unionist party in Northern Ireland, opposed to the St Andrews Agreement.|
†Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats in the UK House of Commons as they do not to swear allegiance to the crown.
Minor UK parties
- 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP)
- Animal Welfare Party
- An Independence from Europe
- Independent candidates)
- Liberal Party, remnant of the historical Liberal Party; has around 30 district, borough, city and county councillors.
- Libertarian Party
- No Candidate Deserves My Vote
- People's Democratic Party, a populist party focused in Northern England.
- Peace Party
- Pirate Party
- Populist Alliance, launched after a split from UKIP.
- Reality Party
- Social Democratic Party, remnant of the 1980s Social Democratic Party; has several councillors in the East Riding of Yorkshire and Neath Port Talbot.
- United in Europe
- Veritas, launched in 2005 by Robert Kilroy-Silk after a split with UKIP.
- We Demand a Referendum, split from UKIP
Minor left-wing parties
- Alliance for Workers' Liberty (stands as Socialist Unity in elections)
- Class War
- Communist League
- Communist Party of Britain
- Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
- Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
- Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee)
- Democratic Labour Party (part of TUSC, has 1 councillor in Walsall)
- Independent Working Class Association
- International Socialist League
- Left Unity
- New Communist Party
- Peace and Progress Party
- Revolutionary Communist Group
- Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
- Socialist Equality Party
- Socialist Labour Party
- Socialist Party (England and Wales) (part of TUSC. Also stands as Socialist Alternative in elections.)
- Socialist Party of Great Britain
- Socialist Peoples Party
- Socialist Resistance (part of TUSC)
- Socialist Workers Party (part of TUSC)
- Spartacist League
- Workers Power
- Workers' Revolutionary Party
Minor far-right parties
- Britain First
- Britannica Party
- British Democratic Party
- British National Party (has 1 borough councillor in Pendle)
- Liberty GB
- National Front
- National Liberal Party
Minor religious parties
- Christian Peoples Alliance
- The Common Good
- Christian Party (successor to Operation Christian Vote)
- Christian Democratic Party (UK)
- Adam Lyal's Witchery Tour Party
- The Blah! Party
- Church of the Militant Elvis Party
- Death, Dungeons and Taxes Party
- Fancy Dress Party
- Happening Happy Hippy Party
- Miss Great Britain Party
- New Millennium Bean Party
- Official Monster Raving Loony Party, who have previously run Ashburton town council (in Devon).
- Raving Loony Green Giant Party
- Rock 'n' Roll Loony Party
- Teddy Bear Alliance
- Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, an electoral coalition formed by trade unionists and left political parties. Has affiliated councillors in Southampton, Maltby and Walsall.
- No2EU, a European Parliament electoral coalition linked to the Socialist Party and Communist Party of Britain.
Minor English parties
- Community, local party in the London Borough of Hounslow.
- Community Action Party, local centre-left party active in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Salford, St Helens and Warrington.
- Community Group, local party in Doncaster with four Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster councillors.
- Derwentside Independents, local party with four councillors on Durham County Council.
- Devizes Guardians, local party based in Devizes, Wiltshire
- English Democrats, campaigning for self-government for England.
- Henley Residents Group, local party which has controlled Henley Town Council 1991-1999, 2003-current
- Idle Toad, independent party in Lancashire.
- Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern
- Mebyon Kernow, Cornish nationalist party campaigning for Cornish self-government; has a number of local councillors.
- Middlewich First, local party which holds three seats on East Cheshire Unitary Authority, six seats on Congleton Borough Council and seats on Middlewich Town Council.
- Morecambe Bay Independents, local party active in the Morecambe and Heysham wards of Lancaster. Currently joint second largest with 12 councillors.
- National Health Action Party
- Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell, local party who run the borough council in Epsom and Ewell.
- Roman Party
- Wessex Regionalist Party, campaigning for devolution for Wessex.
- Yorkshire First, campaigning for devolution for Yorkshire.
Minor Scottish parties
- Borders Party, party exclusively supporting the interest of the Scottish Borders.
- Communist Party of Scotland
- Independent Green Voice
- Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers
- Scottish Democratic Alliance - the successor to Scottish Enterprise Party
- Scottish Christian Party - the successor to Operation Christian Vote in Scotland.
- Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party
- Scottish Socialist Party
- Solidarity (part of TUSC)
Minor Welsh parties
- Communist Party of Wales
- Llais Gwynedd - Gwynedd Regionalist party
- Socialist Party Wales
- Wales Green Party (a semi-autonomous regional party of Green Party of England and Wales)
- Welsh Christian Party - the successor to Operation Christian Vote in Wales.
Minor Northern Irish parties
- Fianna Fáil
- Labour Party of Northern Ireland
- People Before Profit Alliance
- Protestant Coalition
- Republican Sinn Féin
- Socialist Party (Ireland)
- Workers' Party
Defunct and historical parties in the United Kingdom
- Boston Bypass Independents
- Campaign for Social Democracy (1973–1974)
- Countryside Party (2000–2008)
- Democratic Labour (1972–1979)
- Democratic Party (1998–2010)
- Green Party (UK), formed as PEOPLE, or the Ecology Party, in 1973 and succeeded in 1990 by the Green Party of England and Wales, the Green Party in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Green Party
- Fellowship Party (1955–2007). Environmentalist, pacifist and socialist party.
- Islamic Party of Britain (1989–2006)
- Legalise Cannabis Alliance (1999–2006). Party campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis, deregistered and became a pressure group in 2006.
- Liberal Party (1839–1988)
- Liberal Unionist Party (1886–1912)
- Make Politicians History (2005–2009)
- National Democratic and Labour Party (1918–1923)
- National Liberal Party (1922–1923)
- National Liberal Party (1931–1968)
- National Liberal Party - The Third Way
- National Socialist Party (1916–1919)
- Natural Law Party (1992–2004)
- New Party (1931–1932)
- New Party (2003–2010)
- ProLife Alliance. Still operating as a pressure group, ProLife deregistered as a political party in 2004.
- Referendum Party (1997 election)
- Science Party. Launched in April 2010, with initial press support from Newscientist.com. Campaigning for increased importance and use of Science in Politics.
- Social Credit Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1931–1951, 1965–1978)
- Social Democratic Party (1981–1990)
- Trust Party (2010–2011)
- Women's Party (1917–1919)
Defunct English parties
- Corrective Party (1988–1990s) - the electoral vehicle for Lindi St Clair (aka Miss Whiplash) to campaign on the liberalisation of sex laws.
- Free England Party (2008–2009)
- Liverpool Protestant Party
- New England Party (2005–2007, merged with the English Democrats)
- One London (November 2005–November 2008). A London political party formerly with two seats on the London Assembly, a split from UK Independence Party.
- SOS! Voters Against Overdevelopment of Northampton (? - November 2009). The Save Our Soil party campaigned on planning issues in the Northampton area.
- Vectis National Party (1970s) - Isle of Wight regionalist party.
Defunct Scottish parties
- East Dunbartonshire Independent Alliance
- East Kilbride Alliance
- Fife Socialist League (1950s–1960s)
- Crofters Party
- Fishing Party (Scotland) (?–2003)
- Free Scotland Party (2004–2012?)
- Highland Land League (1909–1920s)
- Highlands and Islands Alliance
- Labour Party of Scotland
- Left Alliance
- National Party of Scotland (1928–1934)
- Orkney and Shetland Movement
- Progressives (1920s–1970s)
- Publican Party (2005–2007), campaigned against the smoking ban in pubs and bars.
- Scottish Enterprise Party (2004–2009), a centre-right party in favour of Scottish independence
- Scottish Independence Party
- Scottish Jacobite Party (July 2005–July 2007), a semi-serious independence party.
- Scottish Labour Party (1888–1893)
- Scottish Labour Party (1976–1981)
- Scottish Militant Labour (1990s)
- Scottish Party (1932–1934)
- Scottish Prohibition Party (1901–1935)
- Scottish Republican Socialist Party (1982–1998)
- Scottish Separatist Group, party with former links to both the Scottish National Liberation Army and the Maoist International Movement
- Scottish Socialist Alliance
- Scottish Socialist Federation
- Scottish Socialist Party (1987–1990)
- Scottish Unionist Party (modern) (1986–2009), campaigned to prevent the dissolution of the United Kingdom. Had strong links with the Orange Order.
- Scottish Voice
- Scottish Workers' Representation Committee (1899–1909)
- Scottish Workers Republican Party
- Unionist Party (1912–1965)
- Workers Party of Scotland
Defunct Welsh parties
- Balchder Cymru
- Blaenau Gwent People's Voice (2005–2010)
- Communist Party of South Wales and the West of England
- Cymru Annibynnol
- Cymru Goch
- Cymru Rydd
- John Marek Independent Party (2003), evolved into Forward Wales
- South Wales Socialist Society
- Welsh Republican Movement
- Forward Wales
Defunct Northern Irish parties
- All-for-Ireland Party (1910–1918)
- British Ulster Dominion Party
- Irish Independence Party
- Irish Parliamentary Party
- Nationalist Party
- Northern Ireland Labour Party
- Northern Ireland Women's Coalition
- People's Democracy
- Protestant Unionist Party
- Republican Labour Party
- Ulster Democratic Party
- Ulster Independence Movement
- Ulster Liberal Party
- Ulster Popular Unionist Party (1980–1995)
- United Kingdom Unionist Party (1995–2008)
- United Ulster Unionist Party (1977–1984)
- Unionist Party of Northern Ireland
- Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party (1973–1978)
Defunct left-wing parties
- British and Irish Communist Organisation
- British Socialist Party (1911–1920)
- Common Wealth Party (1942–1945)
- Communist Forum (1986–1987)
- Communist League of Great Britain
- Communist Organisation in the British Isles
- Communist Party of Great Britain (1920–1991)
- Communist Workers League of Britain (Marxist–Leninist) (1969–1981)
- Independent Labour Party (1893–1975)
- International Leninist Workers Party (1979–2006)
- International Marxist Group (1968–1981)
- International Socialist Group (1987–2009)
- Labour Party of Scotland (1973)
- League for Socialist Action (UK) (1976–1982)
- Left List (2008–2010)
- Marxist Party (1987–2004)
- Movement for a Socialist Future (1990–2005)
- Movement for Socialism
- Permanent Revolution (UK) (2006–2013)
- Red Party (2004–2005)
- Revolutionary Communist League (UK)
- Revolutionary Communist League of Britain (1968–1998)
- Revolutionary Communist Party (1944–50)
- Revolutionary Communist Party (1978–1997)
- Revolutionary Marxist–Leninist League (1968–1980)
- Revolutionary Socialist League (1938–44)
- Revolutionary Workers Party (Trotskyist)
- Socialist Alliance (1994–2005)
- Social Democratic Federation (1884–1911)
- Socialist Labour Party (1903–1980)
- Socialist League (1886–1903)
- United Socialist Party (2004–2010?)
- Workers International League (1937–1944)
- Workers International league (1987–2006)
- Workers' Internationalist League (1983–1984)
- Workers International to Rebuild the Fourth International (1990–2002)
- Workers Socialist Federation (1914–1921)
- Working People's Party of England (1968–1986)
Defunct far-right parties
- British Democratic Party (1979–1982)
- British Fascisti (1920s–1930s)
- British Movement (1968–1983)
- British National Party (1960–1967)
- British People's Party (1940s)
- British Peoples Party (2005–2013)
- British Union of Fascists (1930s)
- Constitutional Movement (1979–1984)
- England First Party (2003-2012)
- Flag Group (1980s)
- Freedom Party (2000–2006)
- Greater Britain Movement (1964–1967)
- Imperial Fascist League (1929–1939)
- National Democratic Party (1960s–1970s)
- National Democrats (1995–2011)
- National Fascisti (1920s)
- National Independence Party (1970s)
- National Labour Party (1957–1960)
- National Party (1975–1977)
- National Socialist League (1937–1939)
- National Socialist Movement (1962–1967)
- National Socialist Movement (1990s)
- Nationalist Alliance (2005–2008)
- New Britain Party (1976–2008)
- New Nationalist Party (2006–2007/8)
- Official National Front (1980s)
- Union Movement (1948–1973)
- United Country Party (1970s)
- White Defence League (1958–1960)
- White Nationalist Party (2002–2005)
- British Freedom Party (2010–2012)
- British First Party (1977-2009)
Defunct joke parties
- Adam Lyal's Witchery Tour Party (1999–2009)
- Death, Dungeons and Taxes Party
- Free Party (2001–2002)
- Miss Great Britain Party (2008–2009)
- MP3 Party (2002–2007)
- Rock 'n' Roll Loony Party (?–2007)
- Timeline of political parties in the United Kingdom
- List of political parties in the United Kingdom by representation
- Political make-up of local councils in the United Kingdom
- List of political parties by country
- Politics of the United Kingdom
- Political party membership in the United Kingdom
- List of political parties in Northern Ireland
- List of political parties in Scotland
- List of political parties in Wales
- List of political parties in the Isle of Man (a British Crown dependency)
- List of political parties in Gibraltar (a British overseas territory)
- United Kingdom Election Results
Notes and references
- John Marshall: Membership of UK political parties; House of Commons, SN/SG/5125; 2009, page 6. www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-05125.pdf Access date: 5 Jan 2012
- "Party Finance - The Electoral Commission : Regulatory issues : Political parties : Registers : Register of political parties". Registers.electoralcommission.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-06-10.
- The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru work as a group in the House of Commons
- Sinn Féin have one MEP from a UK constituency and three others from the Republic of Ireland.
- Goodwin, Matthew (19 August 2012). "The far right is fragmenting". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Gable, Sonia (8 April 2012). "Britannica Party fields four candidates". Searchlight. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Beaton, Connor (21 June 2014). "BNP splinter joins anti-indy campaign". The Targe. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- "List of Political Parties either renamed or deregistered since 2002". 16 December 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
- "Ex-Tory donor launches Trust Party on expenses pledge". BBC News. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- Boggan, Steve (25 February 1993). "Miss Whiplash faxes by-election promise". The Independent (London). Retrieved 15 April 2010.
- Amos, Annabel (28 April 2005). "How will Northampton grow?".
- "United Kingdom Unionist Party - Statement of Accounts for 2006" (PDF).
- "List of all parties standing at the 2005 election". Archived from the original on 9 March 2006.
- "List of parties that stood candidates in the 2001 general elections". Archived from the original on 25 September 2006.
- Electoral Commission: Database of Registers, includes Register of Political Parties
- Links to UK political websites from the BBC
- NSD: European Election Database - UK descriptions of main parties