To what extent is declining membership of political parties a bad thing?
To answer this question the consequence of declining party membership must be considered, which is the growth in pressure group membership. Some of the key functions of political parties are to represent the nation, to encourage participation in the political system and to educate the public. Therefore, if pressure groups do not enhance representation and participation more than parties, the decline in party membership could be considered ‘a bad thing.’ Political parties are funded by their members, so funding is also a point to consider. Having considered all of these points it is clear that the decline in party membership is ‘a bad thing’
Firstly, the question asking why party membership has declined needs to be addressed. The rise of new labour under Tony Blair and a more central conservative party under David Cameroon has meant that parties represent a smaller spectrum of interests, thereby leaving some voters feeling unrepresented. Furthermore, in the 2010 election the similarities between the parties lead to a coalition government, which in turn meant that neither the Conservative or the Liberal-Democrats could fulfil their manifesto’s promise which, in many cases, led to public unrest due to the feeling of poor representation. The tuition fee protests in December 2010 are the best example of this. Therefore, it is clear the decline in party membership is for a good reason, it is not clear, however, if the increase in pressure group membership enhances representation. Pressure groups are able to represent the specific interests or concerns of citizens. For example, groups such as Life and SPUC serve to represent the interest of those who oppose abortion. Therefore, pressure groups do enhance the representation of those who are affected by a particular concern or interest; these people however, will inevitably have other concerns and interests that are not represented by one...
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