New politics: The public support political variety and cooperation

House Of Commons

A new report by the Electoral Reform Society, ‘Open Up’, highlights the changes and challenges in British politics in the coming years.

The Electoral Reform Society says that the report shows a “clear public appetite for having a larger number of parties on the national stage, and for those parties to be willing to work together in pursuit of the common good.” A ComRes poll of the 40 most marginal Labour-Conservative constituencies, for the ERS report, suggests that 67% of people feel that the surge in support of the smaller parties - such as the Greens, UKIP and the SNP - is “good for democracy”, which suggests positive attitudes towards smaller parties.

Additionally, the report says that 50% of respondents think “the era of two parties dominating British politics is over” (p24), whilst 51% said “it is better to have several smaller parties than two big parties” (p24). A total of 32% disagreed with the first statement, whilst just 27% disagreed with the second. The report shows that the UK is recognising and becoming more positive towards its new multi-party system.

It also highlighted some of the main problems parties face (p19). Many respondents suggested that cronyism and politicians with vested interest play a role in what’s wrong with modern political parties.The report gives four key recommendations to “increase the popularity and effectiveness of political parties” (p9):

Firstly, an increased role for non-members, for example with non-fee paying members.

The second recommendation the report makes is to increase the amount of policy making done at the bottom - by members and supporters - rather than the current “command-and-control” politics.

It also recommends a reformation of the way parties are funded as “reliance on big donors is undermining people’s trust in [parties]”. And finally they argue that electoral reform should be implemented as it would give voters more choice and lead to “more consensual policymaking.”

The report concluded by saying that parties could fall “into terminal crisis” (p42) and that parties can prevent this by opening up further: organisationally, electorally, legistlatively and look to the models of new parties.

People are clearly dissatisfied with the current political process and opening up is part of the answer. Parties need to adapt to the 21st century of social media and easy-access information.

Electoral reform is something that will need to be looked at again, but with the failure of the 2011 AV referendum it is likely to remain at the back of voters’ minds - for now. However, some sort of big change is needed to show the changing landscape of British politics, particularly as almost seven in ten respondents feel that the rise of the smaller parties is good for democracy.

The system needs to open up.

The full report can be accessed here.

ComRes interviewed 1,002 GB adults between the 15th and 24th of November in the 40 most Labour-Conservative marginal constituencies.