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"The use of the single - member plurality means that the USA and the UK will always have a two-party system." Discuss.

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"The use of the single - member plurality means that the USA and the UK will always have a two-party system." Discuss. (50 Marks) The conventional view of both American and British politics suggests that they are both dominated by a two - party system. In many ways this is undeniably true, nevertheless there are competing theories of British party politics and the American system. One factor, with regard to the British system, is that we now experience single - party dominance and will do for the foreseeable future. Another is that the UK is a multiparty state in reality, but that various aspects inhibit this reality. Concerning the American system is that there is a desire for more than two parties, as the social, ethnic and regional diversity of Americans suggests, but due to mechanical impediments these cannot also be borne out. It must be noted that a two-party system does not preclude the existence of other parties, and in the United States and Great Britain several other third and main parties continue to operate. What is does mean is that only the main parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, the Conservatives and Labour, have a meaningful chance of achieving a majority in the Commons in the UK or in Congress in the USA. ...read more.


The second regards the fact that support for the two main parties has slowly declined, despite the occasional blip. Thus, generalisations about this aspect of the two-party system must be treated with great suspicion. Coupled with this is the fact that the percentage of seats won by Labour and Conservative parties together has not fallen below 85% since 1945. This discrepancy between the percentage of votes cast and seats won, which becomes marked after 1970, is due to the unusual electoral system (FPTP) that the UK operates. Whatever this causes there is no doubt that seats in the House of Commons are almost totally monopolised by the Conservative and Labour Parties. Several factors may be advanced to explain the American system, some institutional, some cultural or historical. The two-party divide had come about at the time of formation of the Republic, then it has always likely that it would be retained for 'there is a tendency in human institutions for a persistence of the initial form.' Discussion of the form of the Constitution resolved itself into a battle between two opposing viewpoints, and even thereafter in American history, such as slavery and the civil war, perpetuated this pattern. ...read more.


In Britain in recent years we have seen the introduction of devolution of power from Westminster to devolved assemblies in Scotland and Wales. In these assemblies more proportional systems of election are used than is used for elections to Westminster. This has caused third parties to gain more power and it therefore could be said that in the UK as a whole there now exists a three party system. In England however the high percentage of support for the Liberal Democrats is never allowed to manifest itself in terms of seats won in the House of Commons due to the support being spread out as opposed to being concentrated in a number of constituencies, whereas Labour and the Conservatives can rely on their respective strongholds in the North and South of England. In conclusion, it is hard to say that a two-party system is not perpetuated and exaggerated by the single member plurality systems in both the US and the UK. Furthermore the traditions and mechanics of both countries would support the historical evidence that a two-party system will continue in the UK and the US despite recent increases in the support for the UK's third party, the Liberal Democrats. ...read more.

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