The Minor Parties

In the televised debates held in the 2015 general election campaign, seven parties took part. Two of these small parties, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the Green Party, have derived their importance from campaigning to promote a particular issue or group of related issues. They do not expect to win enough seats to form a government. Instead their aim is to force the larger parties to accept their agenda, either in whole or in part. They have behaved more like pressure groups than traditional political parties. The other small parties are regionally based. The Welsh Nationalist Party (Plaid Cymru), established in 1925, is officially committed to independence for Wales within the EU, but in practice has been more concerned with the preservation of a distinctive Welsh language and culture. The party has never had more than four MPs at Westminster at any one time (at the 2015 general election it had a total of three) but it has been more successful in the National Assembly for Wales. In 2007 Plaid Cymru became the second largest party in the Assembly and was in coalition government with Labour until it dropped to third place after the 2011 election.

However in 2017 Theresa May refused to take part in TV debates and in 2019 Johnson would only debate with Jeremy Corbyn. So so far the 2015 all party debates is a one off.

The ideas and policies of other minor parties (Edexcel learn two)

The Democratic Unionist Party DUP


Founded by Ian Paisley in 1971, at the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles, and now led by Arlene Foster, the DUP is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and is currently the fifth-largest party in the Commons - with ten MPs. The DUP nominally governs Northern Ireland with its republican rivals Sinn Fein as part of a power-sharing deal set out in the Good Friday Peace Agreement.

However, discord between the two parties means the Stormont Assembly led to a suspension of government in N Ireland form 2017 to 2020 .The DUP emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Westminster in the wake of the 2017 general election. The result left the then prime minister Theresa May politically weakened and unable to command a majority in Parliament, turning the DUP’s ten MPs into kingmakers in a “confidence and supply” agreement to prop up the Government.

The Democratic Unionist Party are Ulster unionists, which means that they support Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom and are opposed to a united Ireland. The party sees itself as defending Britishness and Ulster Protestant culture against Irish nationalism and republicanism. It supports marching rights for the loyalist Orange Order, which many DUP members are members of; is also in favour of flying the British Union Flag from government buildings all year round. The DUP assert that "Irish and Gaelic culture should not be allowed to dominate funding" in Northern Ireland and have blocked proposed laws that would promote and protect the Irish language. The DUP are staunch supporters of the British security forces and their role in the Northern Ireland conflict. The party wants to prevent British soldiers and police officers from being prosecuted for killings committed during the conflict.


Euroscepticism and foreign policy

The DUP is a Eurosceptic party that supported the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in 2016 Brexit referendum.

The Johnson government and the DUP have fallen out over the Brexit Deal which seem to offer the possibility of negotiating a separate arrangement for N Ireland- which the DUP is opposed to .Under Mr Johnson's deal, Northern Ireland will effectively stay in the EU's single market for goods but Stormont can vote to end that arrangement.

Mrs May's deal could have seen Northern Ireland enter a "backstop" arrangement which could only have been ended with the EU's approval. Whether the DUP use their veto will depend on the results of the final deal with the EU to be concluded by the end of 2020.

The Scottish National Party

The Scottish National Party, founded in 1934, is a centre-left party whose main purpose is to secure independence for Scotland from the UK. The growing strength of the SNP helped persuade the Labour Party to take up the cause of devolution ahead of the 1997 general election.

The Blair government believed that granting devolution would ensure that Labour would remain the dominant political force in Scotland. Its strategy was to give the Scottish people just enough self-governing power to ensure that they did not vote for the SNP. The strategy worked until 2007 when a talented nationalist leader, Alex Salmond, formed a minority SNP government, transforming this into a small majority in the 2011 election. This was undoubtedly a major reason why the Westminster government was prepared to support the extension of more powers to the

Edinburgh administration (for example, over taxation and borrowing). The fruits of this were the 2012 Scotland Act and the holding of a referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014. Towards the end of the referendum campaign, all three major party leaders agreed to abandon Prime Minister's Questions at Westminster, in order to go to Scotland to present a united front for staying in the Union. Although the independence option was defeated, it was clear that the issue would not go away. A new SNP First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, argued that as Scotland faced being taken out of the EU against its will, following the June 2016 'Brexit' referendum vote, the SNP was entitled to hold another vote on independence in the near future.

Another area of concern has been the SNP's capacity to influence legislation at Westminster, especially after the 2015 general election, when it won 56 of Scotland's 59 seats. The SNP's official position (unlike, for example, that of Scottish Labour MPs in the past) has been one of refraining from voting on purely English issues, in order to underscore the nationalist argument that the two countries should not interfere in each other's internal affairs.

Since October 2015, the passing of the English votes for English laws (EVEL) measure has placed limits on all Scottish MPs at Westminster, but with important exceptions. In March 2016, SNP MPs helped to defeat the Cameron government's proposal for an extension of Sunday trading laws in England and Wales. The party's argument was that the measure would affect Scottish workers because UK-wide employers would use it to set new, less advantageous rates of pay on both sides of the border. The SNP seems likely to continue to use its leverage at Westminster to keep the case for independence on the agenda.


The Green Party

The Green Party (officially known as the Green Party of England and Wales) was formed in 1990 when the Green Party of Great Britain separated amicably into three political parties, the other two being the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party in Northern Ireland. The Green Party of Great Britain had originated in 1973 as a political movement called ‘People’, subsequently recognised as perhaps the world’s earliest green party. People was renamed the Ecology Party in 1975, and was known as such until 1985. A moderate environmentalist party committed to the principle of ecology, the Green Party has ten core values. These include a commitment to social and affirmative action, the preservation of other species, a ‘sustainable society’, ‘basic material security’ (a universal, permanent entitlement) and non- violent solutions to conflict. The party’s first MP, Caroline Lucas, was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2015; it also has three MEPs and two members of the London Assembly. In the 2015 general election, the Green Party placed, as ever, a distinctive emphasis on environmental issues. It promised, for example, to work with other countries to ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2°C and committed itself to spending £85 billion on a programme of home insulation, renewable electricity generation and improved flood defences. However, in the areas of economic and social policy, the party’s position has much in common with the left-populism of the Corbyn-led Labour Party and the SNP. The Green manifesto for the 2017 general election thus contained a commitment to renationalise energy, water, railways, buses and the Royal Mail, to scrap university tuition fees, and to introduce a wealth tax on top earners.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

UKIP began as a fringe nationalist party in 1991, and by the 21st century was associated with one man — Nigel Farage — and one issue: opposition to Britain's membership of the EU.


Having gained three seats in the 1999 European Parliament election, UKIP came third with 12 MEPs in 2004 and second with 13 MEPs in 2009. Its major electoral breakthrough came with the 2014 European elections, the party becoming the largest UK party gaining a total of 24 MEPs, there has been disagreement about the nature of UKIP as a political movement. In Revolt on the Right (2014), Ford and Goodwin challenged the idea that UKIP supporters are either single-issue anti-EU voters or middle-aged, middle-class disaffected Conservatives. Instead, UKIP’s electoral base consists of angry, old, white men, the less-skilled, less-educated working-class voters who had been ‘written out of the political debate’.Ukip supporters oppose the European Union, dislike immigration, distrust mainstream politicians of all parties and are pessimistic about the future.

UKIP signals the beginning of Labour's loss of the 'Red Wall' (Northern constituencies lost in 2019)

In 1964 almost half the British workforce did blue collar jobs, 40% were in unions and 70% had no formal educational qualifications. Now manual jobs represent less than 30% of the total, fewer than 20% of people are in unions, and voters with educational qualifications equal those without. Old, white, impoverished males – once the people who decided elections – have been left behind, becoming little more than spectators of a political battlefield now dominated by a university-trained metropolitan elite. Hence the huge drop in the numbers voting in the Labour heartlands, not just in 2010, but also in 2005. This analysis suggests that UKIP poses a significant threat to Labour, and not just to the Conservatives, as had often been assumed. This has become more apparent in UKIP’s electoral strategy since the election of Paul Nuttall as the UKIP leader in November 2016, with an accompanying focus on attracting support from the ‘patriotic working class’. UKIP is the leading face of right-wing populism in the UK. As such, it is part of a larger trend in European politics that includes the French National Front, the Italian Northern League, Alternative for Germany and the Austrian Freedom Party.

At the heart of UKIP’s ideology is the desire to strengthen national identity in the face of the twin threats of supranationalism and globalisation, represented, respectively, by EU membership and immigration. Indeed, these have been seen as linked issues, on the grounds that increased immigration into the UK, particularly since the early 2000s, has stemmed, in significant part, from the joint impact of the EU’s enlargement into Eastern Europe and the organisation’s commitment to the principle of ‘freedom of movement’.


In the 2014 European elections UKIP gained a total of 24 MEPs, making it the largest

UK party in the European Parliament. It won 3.9 million votes in the 2015 general election, although under the first-past-the-post voting system this total returned only one MP. Nigel Farage (party leader 2006-09 and 2010-16), was a charismatic individual whose chummy, outspoken persona was one to which many ordinary people could relate. By not conforming to the image of mainstream 'liberal establishment' figures such as Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, he appealed to voters who felt disillusioned with the three main parties.

In 2016, Paul Nuttall was elected leader of the UK Independence Party, replacing Nigel Farage. The 39-year-old Member of the European Parliament, who served as UKIP’s deputy leader for 6 years, won 62.6% of support among party members.

He promised to ‘put the great back into Britain’ and force the government to ‘give us a real Brexit’. It was UKIP’s second leadership election in a year, after previous winner Diane James quit after 18 days in the role. Mr Farage acted as interim leader while the second leadership race took place. In his acceptance speech, Mr Nuttall said: ‘The country needs a strong UKIP more than ever before. If UKIP is to be an electoral force, there will be an impetus on [thePrime Minister] Theresa May, and her government, to give us a real Brexit.’ He added: ‘I want to replace the Labour Party and make UKIP the patriotic voice of working people … speaking the language of ordinary working people. We’re going to move into the areas the Labour Party has neglected. We will be focusing on the issues that really matter to working-class people on doorsteps — immigration, crime, defence, foreign aid, ensuring that British people are put to the top of the queue in the job market’