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What role do political parties play in a representative democracy, and how effectively are these roles fulfilled?

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Introduction

What role do political parties play in a representative democracy, and how effectively are these roles fulfilled? A political party is a group of like-minded people who agree to abide by a set of rules and set out to win political power in order to achieve their common goals; in the UK this is done by standing candidates in elections. Political parties evolved into what is their recognisable state of today from the old Whigs and Tories. After the Great Reform Act in 1867 parties officially were separate entities in Parliament and gave birth to the system we have today. Nowadays political parties are of course well structured both regionally and nationally. In representative democracy, political parties play a vital role- without them there would be severe problems. As far as the parties themselves are concerned their role is more ambitious than a pressure group which merely aims to influence the government. ...read more.

Middle

The second function is one which benefits both the common voter and the candidates standing in constituencies. If a candidate is standing for election as an independent MP he/she will have to be privately funded and will have to broadcast his views and policies to the constituency all on his/her own. However under the wing of a political party the candidate will have their campaigning funded for by the party, making it easier. However, if this candidate wins the seat, they may often find their loyalties split between party and constituency. An MP may face a difficult decision if on behalf of the constituency they have to oppose the government which has greatly helped in their election success. The degree to which an MP will totally represent a constituency is down to the individual. Some will be selfish and get a reputation for always following the party (eg: Tony's cronies), others may be the opposite (eg: Dennis Skinner). ...read more.

Conclusion

Parties are also essential in allowing debate between conflicting views on key issues. For example in the 1980s the ruling conservatives had a main economic goal of low inflation but this was faced by the concern of opposition parties for the resulting high levels of unemployment. The final role of parties is to represent the majority (or largest minority) of the public by making sure that matters of public concern reach the political arena. In cases parties will try to represent specific groups for example the Labour party is often referred to as the party that represents trade unions. However these points can be seen as a negative as parties can spend too much time focusing on slamming opposition policy that in the public view, they lose track of their own. In the 2001 election campaign Labour used a picture of William Hague with the hair of Margaret Thatcher, not only is this campaign simply negative in the direction of the opposition, it is actually a personal mocking of the opposition leader. ...read more.

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