List of political parties in the United Kingdom

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This article lists political parties in the United Kingdom.

Brief history and overview

Before the mid-19th century politics in the United Kingdom was dominated by the Whigs and the Tories. These were not political parties in the modern sense but somewhat loose alliances of interests and individuals. The Whigs included many of the leading aristocratic dynasties committed to the Protestant succession, and later drew support from elements of the emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants, while the Tories were associated with the landed gentry, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.

By the mid 19th century the Tories had evolved into the Conservative Party, and the Whigs had evolved into the Liberal Party. In the late 19th century the Liberal Party began to pursue more left wing policies, and many of the heirs of the Whig tradition became Liberal Unionists and moved closer to the Conservatives on many of the key issues of the time.

The Liberal and Conservatives dominated the political scene until the 1920s, when the Liberal Party declined in popularity and suffered a long stream of resignations. It was replaced as the main anti-Tory opposition party by the newly emerging Labour Party, who represented an alliance between the labour movement, organised trades unions and various Socialist societies.

Since then the Conservative and Labour Parties have dominated British politics, and have alternated in government ever since. However, the UK is not quite a two-party system since a third party – recently, the Liberal Democrats and UK Independence Party (UKIP) – can prevent 50% of the votes/seats from going to a single party. Following electoral co-operation as part of the SDP-Liberal Alliance, the Liberal Party merged with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 becoming the Liberal Democrats, which for many years remained the third largest party, although in the 2015 general election it was overtaken by UKIP in terms of votes and the Scottish National Party in terms of seats.

The UK's First Past the Post electoral system leaves small parties disadvantaged on a UK-wide scale. It can, however, allow parties with concentrations of supporters in the constituent countries to flourish. In the 2015 Election there was widespread controversy[1][2][3] when UKIP and the Green Party of England and Wales received 4.9 Million votes[4] (12.6% of the total vote for UKIP and 3.8% for the Greens) yet only gained one seat each in the House of Commons. Following the 2015 election UKIP, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party of England and Wales, together with its Scottish and Northern Ireland affiliated parties, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru delivered a petition signed by 477,000[5] people to Downing Street demanding electoral reform.

Scottish Parliament debating chamber

Since 1997, proportional representation-based voting systems have been adopted for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the London Assembly and the UK's seats in the European Parliament. In these bodies, other parties have had success.

Traditionally political parties have been private organisations with no official recognition by the state. The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 changed that by creating a register of parties.

Membership of political parties has been in decline in the UK since the 1950s, falling by over 65% from 1983 (4 per cent of the electorate) to 2005 (1.3 per cent).[6]

Register of Political Parties

The Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties[7] lists the details of parties registered to fight elections, and their registered name, in the United Kingdom. Under current electoral law, including the Registration of Political Parties Act, the Electoral Administration Act 2006, and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, only registered party names can be used on ballot papers by those wishing to fight elections. Candidates who do not belong to a registered party can use "independent" or no label at all.

As of 3 August 2015 the Electoral Commission showed the number of registered political (inc. 'minor') parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as 492.[8]

Major parties

Two parties dominate politics in the House of Commons. Each one operates throughout Great Britain (only the Conservative and Unionist Party stands candidates in Northern Ireland). Most of the British Members of the European Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales represent one of these parties:

Political parties with elected representation in the Westminster, devolved and European parliaments

Party Political Position Leader UK House of Commons Scottish Parliament National Assembly for Wales Northern Ireland Assembly London Assembly European Parliament Local Government Membership UK Vote Share % (2015 General Election)[9] Notes
Conservative and Unionist Party Centre-right David Cameron 330 15 14 0 9 20 8779[10] 149,800[11]

(Estimated December 2013, does not publish official membership)

36.9 A party which can be loosely divided into three categories, though with considerable overlap: The Thatcherites or Conservative Way Forward, who strongly support a free market and tend to be Eurosceptic, the economically moderate, often more europhile but socially conservative One Nation Conservatives, and the socially conservative, deeply Eurosceptic Cornerstone Group.
Labour Party Centre-left Jeremy Corbyn 232
(inc 24 as Lab Co-op)[12]
(inc 9 as Lab Co-op)
(inc 4 as Lab Co-op)
N/A 12 20 6885[10] 380,000[13] [Note 1]

(September 2015)

30.4 A big tent party historically allied with the trade union movement; its platform is based upon mixed market Third Way policies since the party's reinvention as New Labour in 1994, whilst maintaining democratic socialist MPs and left-wing factions within the party such as the Socialist Campaign Group; it generally supports greater Pro-Europeanism.
Scottish National Party Centre-left Nicola Sturgeon 56 69 N/A N/A N/A 2 416[10] 114,121[16]

(October 2015)

4.7 Nationalist, Social-democratic party in favour of Scottish independence from the UK whilst supporting continued pooling of sovereignty in a more integrated and federalised European Union.
Liberal Democrats Centrism Tim Farron 8 5 5 N/A 2 1 1809[10] 61,452[17]

(June 2015)

7.9 Socially liberal and progressive; strongly support democratisation of the political system. Promotes modern liberal values; opposing what some pen the 'nanny state', while supporting the welfare state for the basic necessities of life. The party's main two branches are the social-liberal grouping, and the dominant 'Orange Book' grouping.
Democratic Unionist Party Right-wing Arlene Foster 8 N/A N/A 38 N/A 1 104 Not Published 0.6 Hardline Unionist and national conservative party in Northern Ireland. Also very socially conservative with close links to Evangelical Protestantism.
Sinn Féin Left-wing Gerry Adams 4 N/A N/A 29 N/A 1[Note 2] 105 Not Published 0.6 Irish republican party that supports the unification of the island of Ireland as a 32-county Irish republic.
Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales Left-wing Leanne Wood 3[18] N/A 11 N/A N/A 1 170[10] 7,863[19]

(Jan 2015)

0.6 Left-wing party in favour of Welsh independence.
Social Democratic and Labour Party Centre-left Colum Eastwood 3 N/A N/A 14 N/A 0 66 Not Published 0.3 Social-democratic and Irish nationalism party supporting a United Ireland.
Ulster Unionist Party Centre-right Mike Nesbitt 2 N/A N/A 14 N/A 1 87 Not Published 0.4 Unionist party in Northern Ireland (previously affiliated to the British Conservative Party via the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists electoral arrangement at the 2009 General Election). Is conservative but with liberal factions.
UK Independence Party Right-wing Nigel Farage 1 0 0 1 0 23 496[10] 44,041[20]
(Mar 2015)
12.6 Populist Eurosceptic party, which favours withdrawal from the European Union, national sovereignty, direct democracy, individual liberty, small government and economic liberalism.
Green Party of England and Wales Left-wing Natalie Bennett 1 N/A 0 N/A 2 3 180[10] 65,964[21]

(September 2015)

3.8 Green political party that favours Eco-socialism,[22] Environmentalism,[22] Sustainability[22] and Non-Violence.[22] It also takes a progressive approach to social policies such as animal rights, LGBT rights and drug policy reform.[23]
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland Centre David Ford 0 N/A N/A 8 N/A 0 32 Not Published 0.2 Liberal party in Northern Ireland that aims to break down sectarian divisions between Catholics and Protestants. Has a neutral stance on the Constitutional issue of Northern Ireland's status and is linked with the Liberal Democrats via ELDR.
Scottish Green Party Left-wing Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman 0 2 N/A N/A N/A 0 14 9,000+[24]

(May 2015)

Green political party in favour of Scottish independence.
NI21 Centre Basil McCrea 0 N/A N/A 1 N/A 0 1 Not Published Unionist in Northern Ireland, which advocates progressive and liberal policies, with non-sectarian ideals
Green Party in Northern Ireland Left-wing Steven Agnew 0 N/A N/A 1 N/A 0 4 406[25]

(May 2015)

Green political party in Northern Ireland.
Traditional Unionist Voice Right-wing Jim Allister 0 N/A N/A 1 N/A 0 13 Not Published 0.1 Strongly social and national conservative unionist party in Northern Ireland, opposed to the St Andrews Agreement.

†Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats in the UK House of Commons as they refuse to swear allegiance to the crown.

Minor parties

Political parties with elected representation at local government level only

Party Political Position Leader Local Government members Notes
Independents for Frome Local issues Mel Usher 17[26] Frome-based localism agenda
Liberal Party Centre Steve Radford 13[10] Liberal Eurosceptic party
Llais Gwynedd Centre-left Owain Williams 10[27] Welsh nationalist local party
Residents for Uttlesford Centre John Lodge 10[28] Essex-based localism agenda
Independent Community and Health Concern NHS & local issues Dr Richard Taylor 5[10] Mainly local party campaigns on NHS and local issues.
TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) Far-left Dave Nellist 4[10] Socialist electoral alliance
Mebyon Kernow (The Party for Cornwall) Centre-left Dick Cole 4[10] Cornish nationalist party
Respect Party Left-wing George Galloway 4[10] Democratic Socialist, Trade Unionist, Eurosceptic party
Social Democratic Party Centre-left Peter Johnson 3[29] Social democratic and Euro-sceptic party
Independence from Europe Right Wing Mike Nattrass 3[30] Euro-sceptic party
Scottish Socialist Party Left-wing to Far-left Bill Bonnar and Frances Curran 1[10] Campaigns for the establishment of an independent socialist Scotland
British National Party Far-right Adam Walker 1[31] Neo-fascist, White nationalist, Euro-sceptic party

Political parties with no elected representation

Miscellaneous minor UK parties

This is a list of notable minor parties. Many parties are registered with the Electoral Commission but do not qualify for this list as they have not received significant independent coverage.

Minor UK left/far-left parties

Minor UK far-right parties

Minor UK religious parties

Minor English parties

Minor Scottish parties

Minor Welsh parties

Minor Northern Irish parties

Joke/satirical parties

See Joke political parties in the United Kingdom

Defunct and historical parties in the United Kingdom

Defunct English parties

Defunct Scottish parties

Defunct Welsh parties

Defunct Northern Irish parties

Defunct left-wing parties

Defunct far-right parties

Defunct joke/satirical parties

See also


  1. In addition, the party has 147,134 affiliated supporters (members of trade unions and socialist societies who opted to affiliate) and 110,827 registered supporters, making a total of about 630,000 members and supporters.[14][15]
  2. Sinn Féin has one MEP from a UK constituency and three others from the Republic of Ireland.


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    'Total party membership, which is still rising fast, is now around 380,000'.
    Independent [online], published 22/09/15, sourced 22/09/15.
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    'The Green party currently has 65,964 members' (September 2015).
    The Guardian [online], published 25/09/15, sourced 25/09/15.
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External links