Political divergence between the major parties in modern day Britain

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“There are significant differences between the three main parties”

The British political system has seen significant fluctuations between policy convergence and divergence between between the three main parties since 1945. These can be categorised by eras of 'consensus' – the 'Post-war' consensus of the need for a government that has an active role in the lives of its citizens, the 'Post-Thatcher' consensus to 'roll back the frontiers of the state' & promote individualism, and some have theorised a 'Post-Blair' consensus (or 'Third Way') where public spending is encouraged but Thatcherite concepts of free market and privatisation are present.

In the 2005 general election, policy divergence was clearly evident. Policies in areas such as the economy, family international aid, terrorism, penisions and transport were strikingly similar. For example, all three parties proposed an increase in the state pension, a concept that could be considered Socialist in ideological terms but in reality is more likely to be based on public opinion – a decrease in public pensions would be certainly unpopular. The Liberal Democrats came across as the party with the most radical policies in 2005, such as their proposal to scrap tuition fees and impose a 50% income tax on those earning above £100,000.

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However, the 2010 election suggested a re-emerging trend of divergence. This was most significant in terms of the economy. While all three parties had previously agreed a need for an increase in spending on public services, Conservative proposals for defecit reduction measures saw a complete change in direction. Labour, on the other hand, campaigned for an increase in public spending for a period of two years before pursuing cuts in this election.  Family, where party policies of the 'main three' had been very similar in the preceding election, also saw the Conservatives come out with ideas different to those ...

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