political parties in UK

Still, confused about the number of political parties in the Uk? This article brings answers to that question.

Different countries operate different government systems, leading to different political systems.

The UK as a government is large and made up of four major states; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, political parties are almost impossible to count, that’s why the focus is always on the dominant political parties.

Taking you through the structure of their political system will advance your knowledge of why some parties are dominant and some are not.

So, allow us to answer the questions you have concerning political parties in the UK within the next few minutes.


The first thing to understand is the political system or system of government practised in the UK; it practises “parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy”. 

 It is a constitutional monarchy in that the king or the queen is the head of state. It does not make political decisions. 

The parliament and the government take all political decisions. Limited authority is an excellent attribute of the United Kingdom as a constitutional monarchy. 

Parliamentary democracy as a system practised entails that nationals have the right to elect a legislative representative who is saddled with the responsibility of representing their interest in the government.

However, looking at this structural political system, the monarch comes first, followed by the government, the parliament and finally the electorates.


Since the political union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland on 1 May 1707, there have been 13 British monarchs.

The monarchy of the UK, commonly known as the British monarchy, is the constitutional form of government whereby a  hereditary sovereign reigns as the head of state and not the head of government. The monarch is most times referred to as a ceremonial body.

 Queen Elizabeth II who reigned for 70 years, 215 days, from 6th Feb 1952 died on 8th September 2022. 

The King/Queen appoints the Prime Minister, and all the other ministers, to open new sessions of parliament; and to give royal assent to bills passed by parliament, signifying that they have become law.

They have the ability to make and pass legislation that resides with an elected Parliament.

As it is generally known that the queen Reigns and not rules, the ruling is basically done by her government and the parliament.

 The government

Government is dependent on the parliament to make certain laws or legislations. The government is usually represented by a prime minister, their cabinet and junior ministers.

The Parliament

The parliament is a two-house system; “The house of commons and the house of Lords”. The house of commons is the member of parliament. Over 1000 non-elected members make up the house of lords.

The central role of the parliament is to make laws, debate on important issues of the day, and check and approve government spending. The parliament is an important aspect of UK politics because it interacts with a number of important issues bothering the government.

 Elections are conducted every five years following an electoral system called “First-past-the-post”. This system is used to elect members of parliaments (MP) to the house of commons. 

Through voting, voters are also taking steps in choosing a government. However, the party with the highest number of MPs becomes the Government.

According to research in the year 2019, The conservative party became the government because they had the highest number of members of parliament.

Having understood the structure of the UK political system, there are several political parties that make up the UK political system.


The U.K. government was an absolute monarchy from the earliest times, the queen/king was both the head of state and head of government. The Magna Carta was a bill introduced to protect the elites from uncontrolled kings’ powers.

The situation led King John I of England to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 which marked the constitutional monarchy’s beginning.

Political parties in the UK were dominated by the Whigs and the Tories before the 19th Century.

The Whigs involved 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.

The Tories evolved into the Conservative Party, and the Whigs evolved into the Liberal Party by the mid-19th century, 

Initially, in France, the concept of Right and left originated were supporters of the monarchy sat on the right wing of the National assembly and the republicans on the left. 

The Liberal Party in the 1920s declined in its popularity and suffered a long stream of resignations leading the Labour and Conservatives to dominate the political scene.

It was replaced as the main anti-Tory opposition party by the newly emerging Labour Party, which represented an alliance between the labour movement, organised trade unions and various socialist societies.

The Conservative and Labour parties have dominated British politics. The UK however is not quite a two-party system as other parties have significant support. 

The Liberal Democrats were the third largest party in the Uk. They were overtaken by the Scottish National Party in terms of seats and UK political party membership, and by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in terms of votes during the 2015 general election.

The first-past-the-post electoral system practised in the UK sometimes leaves small parties disadvantaged on a wide scale.


There are several political parties in the Uk some of which are represented by the parliament either the house of commons or the house of lords.

In the Uk of Great Britain, there are dominant political parties that have ruled

  1. Conservative party 
  2. Labour party
  3. Scottish National Party
  4. Liberal Democrats
  5. Alliance party
  6. Co-operative party
  7. Green party
  8. Democratic unionist party
  9. Plaid Cymru

Conservative party

The Conservative party is one of the numerous political parties in the UK  which is officially or generally known as the conservative and unionist party and was formerly known as the “whigs”. It was founded in 1834. The Conservative party forms a majority government. 

Liz (Elizabeth) Truss is the current leader of the conservative party and also the current Prime minister of the UK. Liz Truss has been in the position since September 2022 when she won the party leadership contest after the previous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had resigned. 

The UK has had a Conservative-led government since 2010, with successive prime ministers being the then leader of the Conservative Party. 

Labour party

The Labour Party is a political party in the UK described as an alliance of democratic socialists, social democrats and trade unionists. It sits on the centre-left of the political scope.

The labour party sits on the central left of the political system of the UK. The Labour party has been recognised as a governing party or an official opposition since the general election in 1922.

It was formed as a means for the trade union movement to establish political representation for itself.

In the early 1920s labour party overtook the liberal party thereby becoming the main opposition to the conservative party.

The current party leader is Angela Rayner (2020-Date)

Liberal party

The Liberal Party originated from the Whigs, having their origins in an aristocratic faction during the reign of Charles II and the early 19th century.  

It has been recognised as one of the largest UK political parties, specifically the third-largest by the number of votes cast. The liberal party was the second largest political party before the Labour party rose in British politics.

It has 14 MPs in the House of Commons, four Members of the Scottish Parliament, 84 members of the house of Lords and one in the Welsh Senedd.

The party had 89 peers in the House of Lords as of 2020. In September 2020, it was revealed by the party’s new campaigning chief that the Liberal Democrats had started planning a four-year drive to woo “soft conservatives”.

They draw on both the liberal and social democratic traditions together, emphasising the link between equality and liberty.

 Ed Davey was elected as leader of the party on 27 August 2020, by a margin of almost 18,000 votes and is still their leader to date.

Scottish National Party

The Scottish National Party has sought to make Scotland an independent state. It was formed from a union of the National Party of Scotland in 1934. 

The Scottish National Party accepts a legal decentralisation of power to the British regions. It is recognised as moderate and left on centre.

In 1998, the SNP made a significant shift in its policy, abandoning its earlier opposition to an independent Scotland’s membership in the EU.

The party made a comeback in the early legislative elections held in December 2019, picking up 13 seats to win 48 members in the House of Commons. 

The SNP increased its representation in the Scottish Parliament by one seat in the May 2021 elections, giving them a total of 64 seats—just one seat short of an absolute majority.

A proportional representation system for elections into the new parliament was adopted by Uk government, and this made it possible for the SNP to extend its influence despite the opposition of the Conservative Party and the House of Lords.

Alliance party

This is a liberal and centrist political party in Northern Ireland formed in April 1970 from the New Ulster Movement. Their ideology is based on the legitimacy of a Northern Irish Community, the formal agreements between two or more parties.

It affiliated with parties  like the American Party of South California, Independent party of Connecticut, and Reform Party of Florida

Their Objectives were centred on bringing parties together. They are against the practice of politics that involves fear and division.

In the 2010 general election, the Alliance Party won their first seat in the UK House of Commons over taking Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Cooperative Party

The Co-operative Party was created in 1917 by cooperative organizations with the goals of influencing public policy to better the treatment of cooperative industry and electing “co-operators” to Parliament. 

The Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Union, which was founded in 1881, is where the party’s roots are.

They believe in building a society where power and wealth are shared.

Green party

Green party has three members of the London Assembly, hundreds of councillors at the local government level, one representative in the House of Commons, and two in the House of Lords.

The party’s ideology combines environmentalism with left-wing economic policies, including well-funded and locally controlled public services. 

Non-violence, universal basic income, a living wage, and democratic participation are what the party strongly believes in.

It is divided into regional divisions, including the semi-autonomous Wales Green Party. It is internationally affiliated with the European Green Party and the Global Greens.

Its current leaders are Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay 2021 to date.

Plaid Cymru

Usually referred to as the Party of Wales, Plaid Cymru is a centre-left to left-wing Welsh nationalist political party committed to Welsh independence from the United Kingdom.

 The party was founded in 1925, and in 1966 it was elected to its first seat in the UK Parliament. The party is in power in 202 of 1,231 primary local authority council seats, 13 of the 60 seats in the Senedd, and four of the 40 Welsh seats in the UK Parliament. It belongs to the European Freie Allianz.

Their current incumbent president is Adam price leading since 2018 to date.


The UK is a classic multi-party state in which just a handful of parties have any political significance due to the electoral system they practise; ‘first past the post in an election. 

In terms of electoral success, the UK has frequently been referred to as a two-party state; similar to America.

Irrespective of the various political parties in the UK, there are three dominant political parties: Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

All the Governments in the UK have been formed by either the Labour Party or the Conservative Party since the Second World War.

Usually, the party with the most MPs after a general election forms the Government. The next largest party becomes the official Opposition.

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