Students hoping to gain an insight into the political culture of any society will be rewarded by a close study of the patterns of party competition. Institutionalised party conflict in Britain dates back to the seventeenth century and the division between ‘Tories’ and ‘Whigs’. Meaningful party conflict resumed towards the end of the eighteenth century, in the wake of the French Revolution. Few Whigs advocated a similar upheaval in Britain, but many of them did favour a rationalisation of the electoral franchise and a redistribution of seats to reflect the rising population of cities like Manchester and Birmingham. The most familiar way of defining party systems is to look at the number of parties which have a realistic chance of participating in a government rather than the number of organisations that nominate candidates at elections. The victory of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives had several important additional effects on the party system.