- The English system of government.
- Political parties a natural result of it.
- Conservatives and Liberals-both needed.
- The advantages of the party system.
- Its disadvantages.
The party system is best studied in the English method of government. The English way of governing by an elected parliament is by free discussion based on popular representation. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, it is “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” The Parliament (or rather its most important part, the House of Commons) consists of representatives elected by the people of Great Britain. They, after open discussion make the laws of the country by majority vote.
Now all the people of a big nation are not likely to think exactly the same on all questions policy. As a matter of fact, there is generally a good deal of difference of opinion. People who hold one view naturally want to get it accepted, and people who hold the opposite view naturally oppose them. To get their views accepted by the people as a whole, both sections must organize themselves into political parties. Ever-since the 17th Century, there have, in consequence, been at least two great political parties in England. Up to the middle of the 19th Century, there were the Whigs and the Tories; and since that time there have been the Conservatives and the Liberals (or, the Labor Party).
Conservatives and Liberals represent two types of mind, to be found in any nation. One sort of mind is all for preserving the past; the other is all for change and improvement. The Conservatives wanted to “conserve” or keep thing unchanged; they dreaded change. The Liberals or Progressives were all out for progress and improvement. Both policies are really necessary; for, while changing for the better , we do not want to lose what is good from the past.
The chief advantage of the party system is this. It secures that the opinions of the majority shall in the end prevail, while at the same time ensuring that the opinion of the minority are heard and discussed. The result is generally, agreeable to both. So an essential part of the English Constitution is the existence of His Majesty’s Opposition in the House of Commons, the Government being the representatives of the party in the majority fort the time being.
The chief disadvantage of the party system is that purely party policy may prevail over the true interests of the nation as a whole. Party politicians are too often tempted to sacrifice the nation’s good for the sake of purely party triumph.