political party

   Parties are organisations of broadly likeminded people who seek political power and public office in order to realise their goals and carry out their policies. Unlike pressure groups, which seek influence only, serious parties wish to operate the levers of government. Much of their work involves fighting elections via which they can seek to win popular support. To this end, they represent socially or culturally significant interests and aggregate (lump together) their preferences, recruit and select candidates for public office, structure the choices available to voters at parliamentary and local elections, facilitate the formation of governments that produce relatively coherent policy responses to the problems they face, and act as a channel of communication between the citizens and the state.
   Parties normally have their distinctive beliefs, principles and values. In Western Europe, they often have a fairly coherent ideological framework, a large – if declining – membership base, and operate on the basis of strong party loyalty in the legislature. In North America, they are by contrast less ideologically driven, weaker and more decentralised. They may share their broad approaches and ideological stances with parties from across several different countries.
   In recent years, there has been much debate over whether or not parties in Western Europe are in decline and moving in the direction of their North American counterparts. This is because in several cases they no longer offer radically distinctive visions and solutions, suffer from weakening popular loyalty and support, have declining and ageing memberships, and have become less relevant as political leaders often speak more directly with the electorate via television rather than through the traditional modes of party electioneering.
   Further reading: P. Webb, The Modern British Party System, Sage, 2000

Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.

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