Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Future of the Political Party
- and how Ilford North matters

Press release from the Electoral Society

NEW REPORT: “Open Up – the future of the political party”

ERS research shows public support for end to two-party dominance; urges mainstream parties to respond by ‘opening up’ to members and supporters

People prefer a multi-party political system, and not one dominated by the traditional big two parties, new Electoral Reform Society (ERS) research suggests.

A ComRes poll of the 40 most marginal Conservative-Labour constituencies [Ed: not sure if that includes Ilford North but if not it's not far short] (ie. the areas where the traditional two-party battle ought to be fiercest) [Ed: Ah! That's certainly us] found that:
  • 67% believe the rise of smaller parties such as UKIP and the Greens is good for democracy (against just 16% who support the opposite)
  • 51% believe it is better to have several smaller parties than two big parties (against 27% who oppose)
  • 50% believe the era of two parties dominating British politics is over (against 32% who oppose)
The same poll showed that people are comfortable with the implications of a multi-party system, and prefer parties to work together in the common interest rather than continually attack each other:
  • 78% believe the Opposition should work with the government on issues they agree on
  • 54% believe Parliament works best when no party is too dominant so that cross-party agreement is needed to pass laws
These findings come as part of a new report by the Electoral Reform Society on the future of political parties. Open Up sets out the challenges faced by the mainstream parties, the ways in which newer ‘challenger’ parties appear more adept at attracting support in the 21st century, and what the mainstream parties need to do to reconnect with voters.

The report makes four core recommendations for the mainstream parties to address their spiral of decline. These are:
  • Increased role for non-members Parties’ experiments with involving non fee-paying supporters should be accelerated
  • More member- and supporter-led policymaking People want to see an end to top-down, command-and-control politics
  • Party funding reform Parties’ reliance on big donors is undermining people’s trust in them
  • Electoral reform A fairer voting system would help meet people’s expectations of having a greater choice of parties and more consensual policymaking
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“The era of two big political parties slugging it out on the national stage is well and truly over. Our research shows clear public appetite for having a larger number of parties on the national stage, and for those parties to be willing to work together in pursuit of the common good.
“The older, more traditional parties need to wake up to this new reality or face the consequences of ever-dwindling support. They need to embrace new ways of opening up beyond their narrowing band of members, and they need to push through reforms which will give people the type of politics they want.
“Parties should be a force for good. At their best, they bridge the divide between politics and people and make our democracy work. They should be part of the solution to political disengagement, not part of the problem. But to achieve this, the British party system needs to catch up with the type of politics people want to see.”

Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University London, writes in a foreword to the report:
“Parties, believe it or not, are not so cut off from society that they fail to realise they have a serious problem. And they are trying as best they can to think hard about solutions, including some of those discussed [in this report]. Becoming more transparent, less hierarchical and more eclectic surely has to be the way to go.”

Interesting times ahead .... Maybe?


  1. The real block to multi-party government is the first-past-the-post system and no government will want to abolish a mechanism which put it there in the first place.

    Consensus governments are less likely to be extremist but they can also be ineffective.

  2. Wasn't there a referendum on PR voting just a few years ago? And wasn't the verdict No? And whilst most people agree that party funding by big donors is wrong, when you point out that the only viable alterernative is state (i.e. taxpayer) funding the answer is an even more resounding No. Whilst those of in the political arena should listen to the electorate, the electorate must be realistic in their expectations

    1. No, Portly One, we did not have a referendum on PR (the general principle), we had a referendum on AV (a specific instance).

      It is what is known as politicians engineering the question in order to get the answer they want. An argument often put forward in the Fairlop Oak by er… The Portly One, who is opposed to referenda in principle for precisely that reason.

      Party funding is, I grant you, much more tricky and I will be happy to debate this with you next time over a pint or two.