Is the Party Over? The function and future of political parties in the UK

Is the Party Over - The function and future of political parties in the UK
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Date(s) - 17/09/2012
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

British Library Conference Centre

A British Library and Strategic Society Centre joint debate on the future of political parties.

Date and time: 17.30-19.00, Monday September 17th, 2012

Location: British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB

No other 17th century invention has such an impact upon 21st century Britain as the political party.

However, contemporary political parties confront major challenges to both their legitimacy and survival.

Voter disinterest and antipathy toward political parties in general is reaching record levels, suggesting today’s political parties struggle with their role in representing and motivating the political views of society.

Only 1% of the electorate belong to a party, and just over six out of 10 of those eligible voted in the 2010 general election, with barely one in three voting in European and local elections.

Simultaneously, the operating costs and ‘financial arms race’ facing today’s political parties have led directly to funding scandals and a growing perception that ‘cash buys influence’.

In the background, new technology and online publishing is revolutionising the way in which both the public and politicians form, communicate and share political views and policy ideas.

This debate therefore explored:

  • Does representative democracy in the 21st century still need political parties?
  • What are the main challenges for today’s political parties?
  • How can the political party be renewed for the modern era?
  • What is the function of party conferences now that few members attend and few decisions are taken?

Speakers at this event comprised:

  • Katie Ghose, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society
  • Tony Wright, Professor of Government and Public Policy at UCL and former chair of the Select Committee on Public Administration
  • James Lloyd, Director, Strategic Society Centre

The event was chaired by Jude England, Head of Social Sciences, British Library.

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