chapter  15
34 Pages

Party organisation

Most commentators accept that political parties are an inevitable feature of liberal democracy. Yet in the UK today parties are often accused of bringing democracy into disrepute. Critics claim that they are more interested in ‘playing party politics’ than in addressing national priorities in a constructive way. Accordingly, while the proportion of voters prepared to turn out at elections has fallen sharply, there has been an even more spectacular decline in membership of the parties themselves. In defence of UK parties, it can be argued that their plight merely reflects a more general tendency of people to disengage from traditional forms of voluntary activity. In particular, citizens are more inclined to throw their energies into single-issue pressure groups, which lobby MPs instead of putting themselves to the trouble of securing their own elected representatives (see Chapter 19). However, it is still worth asking whether there are respects in which the main political parties are responsible for their own predicament by mismanaging factors under their own control, like the scope for active participation allowed to their members, and the way in which they raise funds.