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Study Notes

Minority party

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

A minority party is a political party with a smaller role than the mainstream parties in a country’s politics and elections. There will be differences between minority and mainstream parties in terms of membership total, donations and the number of candidates they are able to produce in elections. Minority parties generally receive very small numbers of votes at an election – frequently losing their deposit as they don’t receive more than 5% of the vote.

In the UK, the mainstream parties are the Conservative and Labour Party, and, until the 2015 election, the Liberal Democrats. Minority parties ranged from the ‘Nationalist’ parties such as the SNP in Scotland toPlaid Cymru in Wales to Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall, and ‘Single Issue’ parties such as UKIP (immigration and the EU) and the Green Party (environmental issues). Single issue parties sometimes blur the distinction between pressure groups and political parties, with many being pressure groups that decide to put forward candidates at elections.

However, some minority parties have grown massively in influence over the past few years. The mainstream parties moving towards the centre have left some voters feeling unrepresented, some people want to make protest votes, more proportional election systems are being used for other elections than the Westminster one, and the UK parties are being seen as not representing local interests enough. This explains the growth in votes (if not seats) for the Greens and UKIP, and both for the SNP.

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