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Political Parties, Role and Ideology/Policies Essay Sample

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Political Parties, Role and Ideology/Policies Essay Sample

Qa (i)

Ideology is the core fundamental beliefs the make up basic principles of a political party, for example views of individualism, equal opportunities and free market are considered as Ideologies. Policy is the ‘plan of action’ that a political party follows and implements, this will be compiled/decided by eg. the cabinet or focus groups. It often goes through two stages the first being the preliminary green paper stage before becoming a white paper as it becomes legislation.

Qa (ii)

The purpose of a political party is to represent the views of the people in order to gain support from the electorate. This system which has existed since the 18th century, depends upon there being organised political groups, each of which presents its policies to the electorate with extensive lobbying for approval. The party that wins most seats (although not necessarily the most votes- due to first past the post system) at a General Election, or which has the support of a majority of members in the House of Commons, usually becomes the Government. In our democratic system there is a wide range of parties that endeavour to cater for the radical revolutionists to the moderate middle ground with different ideologies, which is crucial for a fair and representative democracy to function. Then in theory the opposition parties then ensure with reason that the government performs their duties in a professional and appropriate manner, with the endless scrutiny of every move they make.


It could be argued however that the larger parties are failing to fulfil their roles and duties as mentioned above, and after numerous events such as ever decreasing electoral turn outs and scandals like ‘cash for questions’ the integrity of the main parties can be justifiably questioned. However this doesn’t mean the political system is a dishonourable, disreputable scandal riddled establishment that needs a major overall, but that there are problems that need consideration and possibly addressing with firm action.

One of the major issues, which is widely recognised as a major problem is the almost epidemic levels of voter apathy that has spread through the country in recent elections, with turn out at the 7 June 2001 general election being the lowest for 83 years. If you study the official statistics from the last elections there was around a 11.5% drop in turnout compared to 4 years previous and in seats that Labour held there was a 13.3% drop.

Why? Its not 100% clear but voter apathy appears to be largely down to the fact the electorate feels disillusioned with UK politics and are beginning to stereotype politicians as sleazy, untrustworthy characters whose exterior motives (such as promotions) out weigh their efforts in representing their constituents. Furthermore if one refers to a July 2004 poll conducted by ICM, which surveyed 1008 adults by telephone on 14th and 15th of July, it is clear that lack of trust and confidence in the three main parties is evident. The figures speak for them selves, when questioned about keeping promises 49% of people believe none of them do and 21%, 17% and 18% believe Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats keep their promises respectively. Consequently people could be said to be voting with their feet and not turning up at the ballot box

Another area that ‘eyebrows’ have been raised at is how the parties have a tendency to deviate away form the traditional ideology, with the labour party being by far the worst culprit. In 1994 and with dawn of New Labour, the beginning of a new era and a markedly different era began. Gone were the traditional socialist views and ideals and in were the centre-right ideals with specific emphasis on equality of opportunity of wealth. Thus people have criticised and argued that this action was just opportunism, as they felt the traditional socialist- working class, was shrinking and consequently wanted to take advantage of the expanding middle class who were becoming an increasingly dissatisfied band of established Tory supporters. It was then argued that this action was a major cause of voter apathy, the working class felt unrepresented and that they were being taken advantage of and simply became fed up of what they thought was the corrupt and underhanded nature of British politics

Moreover when you couple this with the various scandals that hit the so called ‘sleazy’ Tories such as two cabinet ministers who were forced to serve at stint at Her Majesties pleasure- in jail, for perjury in the form of Jeffery Archer and Jonathan Aitken. Likewise with the Labour party when Geoffrey Robinson gave Peter Mandelson an undisclosed loan of �300,000+ to buy a house. Robinson and Mandelson who at the time were Paymaster General and Trade & Industry secretary respectively, and who were both forced to resign, plus episodes with the Hinduja brothers and a second acrimonious departure of Mandelson. All could understandably be perceived by voters as being a sure sign that politicians had lost what little credibility they had and that they were no longer accountable to the people they represent but seemed more interested in being accountable to their bank balance.

Hence any actions of any dubious nature, could be said to contradict parties obligation and duties to the political system, although on the other hand is it not just evidence of changing times, which means the changing face of politics? Especially with the highly aggressive vulture like nature of the country’s media, events of even the smallest magnitude can cause huge ructions within any concerning fraternity. Therefore are political parties failing or is that the problems within, that have and will always exist, have simply been over-hyped which has created this undue concern?


Old and New Labour are two quite distinct and different sections of Labour. Old Labour effectively sticks to the original core beliefs of Labour and is somewhat socialist, whereas New Labour has moved more to the centre (a shift to the right effectively), and is less socialist than Old Labour.

The core beliefs of old labour are the concepts of class, collectivism, equality, organised labour, and the role of the state. Old Labour is a fervent believer in the theory that most political conflicts stem initially from class conflicts. Essentially, there is a clash between the working class and the capitalist class in the eyes of Old Labour. Old Labour tried to redress the perceived imbalance of power between the capitalist class and the working class in favour of the latter. This was attempted through the protection of workers’ rights, giving trade unions considerable power, and the nationalising of major industries. New Labour on the other hand has come to accept that the class system has broken down and that this old fashioned concept of segregation between the classes is no longer true in our modern society. People identify less with a specific class; they are more interested in their own personal issues. New Labour has come to recognise this.

Also, the attitude towards collectivism has shifted a lot. Old Labour believes that people enjoy working collectively to achieve a common goal. New Labour has come to accept that people nowadays are actually more interested in working towards their own personal goals, than towards collective goals. An example of this is the welfare state. This was and to an extent still is a symbol of collectivism, however, nowadays; New Labour tries to implement policies that encourage individuality, for instance, owning your own home. The welfare system has been restructured to promote self-reliance rather than dependency on the state.

The concept of equality has also changed. Old Labour was quite keen to stress that it did not try and impose equality; it rather tried to reduce inequalities. New Labour has changed this view by accepting that in a free market capitalist state inequality will grow. It has however, implemented safeguards to ensure that people do not fall below a certain standard of living. The concept of equality is no longer seen in the same light as it was before; it has lost some of its previous importance. Inequality is now accepted, but there are measures to prevent too much inequality.

As one can see, New Labour has dramatically shifted from Old Labour. It has not completely abandoned its core beliefs, but it has modified them so that they appear more appealing to the general public. It has also done away with its traditional image of being very close to trade unions; a good example of this is when the RMT Union was kicked out of the party. It has shifted towards the right more and more and some would say that it has abandoned the ideals of true Labour. New Labour has effectively become more Conservative than before. It has adopted many Conservative policies and has therefore gathered more support than the more socialist wing of Old Labour. In 1983, Labour presented its most Socialist manifesto ever. Labour suffered a resounding defeat to the Conservatives and decided to alter its policies. Once Blair was elected leader in 1994, he ushered in a new age of bringing the party back closer to the centre. His policy reforms clearly paid off with victory in the 1997 General Election. New Labour is the new way forward for Labour; it is the third way.

Q (D)

The conservative and Labour parties up until about 10-15 years used to have considerably different views in terms of ideals and policies. Since the dawn of Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1994 which Neil Kinnock put in motion in 1992 the differences have all but disappeared in some areas, although in other areas there are still clear differences

On the issue of tax and the economy which traditionally would have seen a clear divide in policies between the two parties but recently it has all changed, now they both favour only limited intervention in the economy that comes in the form of regulations implemented by the DTI. Their monetary and fiscal policies are also similar, although the Tories accuse Labour of introducing 66 stealth taxes and that their government is following in the footsteps of past Labour governments of ‘tax and spend’. They both attempt to keep income tax at a low level, and Labour even reduced it by 1% in their ‘honeymoon’ period after they were elected, as well as stating they were to stick to the conservative spending policy for the first two years that was currently in place. Although this isn’t uniform throughout the Labour Fiscal policy with Labour having tendencies to introduce more indirect taxes, which the Tories dubbed stealth taxes, as well as the more major 1% increase in National Insurance which was very heavily opposed by the Conservatives. Therefore although there are some noticeable similarities there is still some distinct differences which are quite clear, and can easily be portrayed by party spin-doctors as distinct difference between them and the other party.

This pattern of having similarities within areas of government whilst still having noticeable differences are unilaterally followed, although the amount and degree of difference does vary. As both parties, in particularly the Conservatives, fight to for a fixed unchallenged place in the political spectrum, instead of what they were particularly worried about after Labour’s shift to the right was being in political limbo which would mean voters couldn’t identify with them.

Although the parties may have principally the same ideas in an area, small policy differences can be magnified by huge proportions which is largely down to the media. For example although they supported the invasion of Iraq the Tories now say the case for war was presented on false evidence and consequently now oppose the war. As the Iraqi war was such a controversial issue and by and large one most of the public have an opinion on, having a different political stance will be much more affective at being seen as different than if policies on other ‘less news-worthy’ issues would. Therefore it could be argued that it is not necessary to be vastly different in policies, but just different in controversial areas, and cynics might well argue that’s what the Conservatives do now. The question of whether the voter has a real choice, can then be questioned along the lines of do voters actually want vastly different ideals from parties? Do they care about whether they use league tables in schools? Is it that they just want to see differences in terms of the major issues, that in general people do care about and do have opinions on?

What defines a real choice in political terms? Is it that the Labour and Conservative parties should have clear differences for the good of the representative democracy that this country has or is that there should be an option for every view and opinion of a particular person to be represented within reason. This is fundamentally what the present situation is now, with a whole menagerie of minority parties representing the minority views. The theory of having clear differences would be very hard to implement because they are both fighting for the middle-ground, and thus have to have a similar manifesto to appeal to them. One cannot be confused about the nature of political parties, they are not in the business of getting ethics awards, they are in a fight for votes. A totally dog eat dog world, they cannot afford to take too much consideration into their moral obligation to provide a real choice, that is if its their moral obligation.

Hence one now has to refer back to the question ‘Do the Labour and Conservative Parties offer a sufficient difference in policies to give the voter a real choice’? If you look at the specific detail you could well argue they don’t with them being policy wise similar, but in reality the similarities can only be expected, an rationally speaking you cant really do anything about it. Does the answer then not depend on your opinion as to what role political parties should fulfil and in what way it should conduct itself and from that one can conclude whether you think that they offer a real choice. If you think they should cater for the masses in general you may well believe they offer a real choice, but on the other hand if you believe they should endeavour to cater for a much wider range of opinions and views you may well feel they don’t offer a real choice. Therefore there seems to be no clear answer, and that it may simply come down to personal opinion and preference, because after all what the parties are trying to do is represent peoples opinions, and its just how they do this that is up for debate.

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