UK Political Parties

by poonam bisht

The Conservative Party or the Tories and the Labour Party are the two principal poles of British politics. The Liberal Democrats, currently part of the ruling coalition along with the…

The Conservative Party or the Tories and the Labour Party are the two principal poles of British politics. The Liberal Democrats, currently part of the ruling coalition along with the Tories, is the third force. What makes the 2015 UK polls particularly interesting is the recent rise of the UK Independence Party, better known as UKIP.

Though it is unlikely to cause a major upset, UKIP is forcing the main parties to re-set their political strategies and calculations ahead of the May election.

Thousands of candidates will be vying for votes in the UK election, which will be held on May 7, 2015. It is estimated that this year a total of 3,973 people will be standing for the Parliament. This is the second highest number as in the 2010 General Elections 4,150 people contested the elections.

Conservative Party

The Tories are the traditional center-right party of British politics. Their guiding philosophy includes a pro-business thrust, preserving traditional British cultural institutions and values, and a robustly nationalistic foreign policy.

The Conservative Party traces its origins to the Tory Party of the early decades of the 19th century and even before that to the Whig Party of the 18th century. Sir Robert Peel, who formed the first Conservative government in the 1830s, is widely considered the founder of the party.

However, it was only after Benjamin Disraeli, the then prime minister, reorganized the party between 1868 and 1880 that it became a real force to be reckoned with.

In the 20th century, figures like Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin continued to spread the roots of the party in the middle-class. Conservative party icon Sir Winston Churchill, the Tory prime minister who led Britain in the World War II, has been named as the greatest Briton in polls.

In the latter part of the 20th century, Margaret Thatcher, the “longest-serving” prime minister of the UK and the Tory leader was loved by her supporters and hated by her opponents in equal measure. Her unabashed pursuit of economic liberalism, steady blows to trade unionism, and leadership during the Falklands War became her defining legacies.

The current leader of the Conservative Party, Prime Minister David Cameron, is regarded by some analysts to be slightly left of his party members. In recent years, Conservatives have been known for their Euro-scepticism and are critical of the kind of multiculturalism followed by the Labour Party.

Labour Party

The Labour Party is a center-left party. It was founded at the turn of the century, in February 1900, and combined socialist traditions with the growing trade union movement of the late 19th century.

It formed a minority government in 1924 under the then prime minister Ramsay MacDonald. Labour became the single largest party in the House of Commons in the 1929 general elections.

After World War II, Clement Attlee formed a majority Labour government. Attlee’s tenure was a defining one for Britain. Multiple industries and utilities were nationalized and the National Health Service was created as the government gave shape to the “welfare state.” Equally far-reaching changes took place in the foreign arena as the British Empire was brought to an effective end. Harold Wilson was another key Labour prime minister in the 20th century, especially when it came to social sector reforms.

Between 1979 and 1997, Labour was out of power in an era dominated by Thatcher.

When the party returned to power, Prime Minister Tony Blair became the symbol of ‘new Labour.’ Blair’s government carried out social and tax reforms that increased its popularity. However, his controversial support for the US President George Bush’s Iraq war dominated his legacy.

Gordon Brown was never as popular a prime minister as Blair, and Labour lost the 2010 general election. Ed Miliband, the current Labour leader, heads the party in opposition.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are currently the third largest party in the UK. It was formed by the merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in 1988. It considers itself to be a centrist party, guided by liberal thought. But commentators have questioned what the party really stands for, particularly after it formed a coalition government with the Tories in 2010.

Explaining the philosophy of his party, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in a speech in 2011 that LibDems stood for an open society “where power is vested in people” instead of the state or other institutions.

Liberal Democrats got 23% of the votes and won 57 seats, coming a distant third after the Conservatives and Labour, in the 2010 election.


UKIP, led by Nigel Farage, is the most right-wing of all British parties, and follows a strong Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant line.

Its performance in the May 2014 European elections – it won the maximum seats among the UK parties – was an important milestone in its ascendancy in the British political system. Currently, it has only one MP in the House of Commons, but nobody is taking it lightly in the 2015 polls.

After its successes in the October 2014 by-polls, the party has reportedly set itself a target of 25 seats in the next election. Meanwhile, there are indications that UKIP could emerge as the country’s third largest party, displacing the beleaguered Liberal Democrats.

Related Maps