Britain Essay, Research Paper
Comparing the Party Structure of
the United States and Great Britain
When a decision on foreign policy has to be made, looking
carefully about the nations’ party is especially important. Not just on the
basis of their clientele, their programmes and ideology but also on their
structural characteristics. In this paper, I would like to focus on comparing
the two super powers which are the United States and Great Britain.
Both parties of the United States and Great Britain that have established
themselves successfully within the party system , and which have managed
to win seats at elections , possess three levels of organizational
First , they obviously have some sort of legislative structure ; indeed,
this was the sole level of organizational structure which the earliest parties
possessed. The parliamentary party will normally have a leader or chairman ,
some form of business manager or “whip”, and , if sufficiently large to warrant
it, a pattern of commitees, many of which will be related to the policy sectors
with which the legislature concerns itself.
Second, parties normally have a national organization, with a head
office and necessary staff, a national party leader ( who may or may not also
be the leader of the parliamentary party), an executive committee to manage the
party on a day-to-day basis, and a periodic party congress which generally is
recognized as the sovereign authority of the party , at least in formal terms.
Third, parties possess a local or constituency level of organization;
the unit to which members are recruited . This is normally a geographic unit,
such as town or a suburb. Te local party may be linked to the national party
through intermediate levels of state parties in the USA, and area organizations
Patterns of organization at the level of the legislature are different
in these countries . The congressional parties in the United States have strong
legislative structures , consisting of elected leaders of each party in both House
of Congress, whips to organize and coordinate party activity , and party meetings
related to the very influential legislative and procedural committees of Congress.
US government has a presidential and federal form.
The structure of the American party is that of a loose federation of
national and state agency. The strength and the primary legal control of the
sysem lie in the fifty states , each possessing its own party government and its
own electorate. Campaigns must be waged and won in enough individual state
to capture the presidency by a majority vote of electoral college. In order to
ensure controll of Congress, a sufficient number of votes mut be obtained
within each state to elect a majority of the House of Representitives and the
The parliamentary parties of the Great Britain, which are different
from the presidential and federal parties in US, are led by the Prime
Minister (the party in power) and the leader of the opposition for the chief
The structure of British parties is relatively simple in comparison
with that of parties in the US. British parties are not called upon to cope with
fifty states parties or to compete periodically in a vast nationwide election to
select an executive like parties in the US. There are only three elective offices
in the UK. The national office filled by popular vote is that of member of
parliament; in local government, county and borough councilors are elected.
There are fewer elections. The small size and pactness of the territory minimize
functional and sectional political differences. Dicipline, relating both to issues
and to the behavior of the party representitives, is more specially defined and
enforced than it is in the US.
The leader of the House of Commons act as business manager
for the for the governing party, aided by the Chief Whip and assistant whips;
the opposition parties also have their whips for coordination purposes . The
Conservative back bench MPs have a party committee: the “1922 committee”,
to discuss policy and to act as a channel of collective communication to the
government. The labor party meets as the ‘parliamentary party’ which, in
opposition, elects a committee from which the Leader of the party chooses
his policy spokesmen. The smaller parties make do with the leaders and whips,
not requiring more complex arrangemnts, though the Liberals and Social
Democrats allocate responsibilities relating to specific policy sectors to their
MPs . Similar, though much looser , party structures operate in the House of
Lords. (qtd.in Rose)
In the US, at the head of the Democratic party stands the Democratic
National Committee , composed of representitives of fifty state committees
and each of territories , leaders of the Democratic Governor’s conference,
party leaders in the United States Senate and house of Representitives, and
appointees representing Democratic voters on a national scale.
The Republican party uses a formula calling for one man and one
women from each state and territory , plus the state chairmen from each state
which the party has won a majority of the state delegation to each house
of congress, a gubernatorial victory, or the last presidential election. Thus the
membership of the Republican National Committee may vary. Although
nominally elected by the national party convention, which meets every four
years to nominate presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the members
of the national committee are selected in several different ways; by state party
primaries, state conventions, or appointment by the national chairperson.
Since a national cmmittee is unwiedly in size, its work is accomplished
through an executive committee and a national chairperson chosen by the
party’s nominee for president. The president is the titular head of his party until
a sucessor is nominated. The defeated party often lacks an official spokesmen
although the national chairperson continues to run the party organization
through the national committee.
The national committee meets to discuss sragety, policies, and issues in
congressional electional years. It is also instrumental in organizing the convention
during predential election years. Individual members maintain constant political
contact with the state organizations. The selection of national chairperson is
ratified by the national committee ; he or she appoints the executive committee,
establishes a party headquarters, and manages the presidential campaign.
Both national parties maintain senatorial and congressional campaign
committees, whose principle function is to assist members of congress or
aspirants to campaign in their respective districts.
In British party in a parliamentary system, it is unique that
MPs is independent from the official party organization. Members of the
parliament designate their own party leader. If the party in power forms the
government, the organization, with its own party chairman, has no control
over the “parliamentary party”.
Each party does hold an annual conference made up of delegates
elected by the constituency organizations. The conference listens to speeches
of leaders in and out of parliament, passes resolutions on party policy, and elects
a National Executive Committee. It acts briefly as a sounding board of testing
partisan positions on public policy and as a showcase for exhibiting party talent,
and it presents an opportunity to rally party support. (qtd. in Rodee)
Organization of parties outside the legislature also varies with the type
of political system . In federal systems of USA, the provincial (Land or State)party
is very influential compared to the national party organization The strong seperation
of powers , geographical diversity, and absence of ideological parties in the USA
have also influenced the cotinuity and cohesion of national parties; in effect, only
every four years of the presidential nominating conversation can parties be
percieved as demonstrating any national headquaters (and perhaps regional
offices as well) to coordinat and manage the party; national executive commitees,
perhaps also together with some smaller form of praesidium, to take responsibilities
for party decision making; and a party congress to act as a ‘parliament’ for the
party and, usually, to serve as the soverign authority of the party.
The third , constituency or local , level of party structure exhibits the
most similarity across countries and among different parties. The local level of
the organization is concerned with membership recruitment, raising money for
party funs, selecting candidates, and organizing for election campaigning. In
general, constituency orfanizations play a more active political role in left-wing
parties than in right-wing parties, and parties, and in US political system, where
there are larger opportunities for electing or nominating party representitives to
public bodies, than in UK where candidate selection is confined to parliamentary
Finally, the important aspect of party organization concerns the raising
of the funds for party actiivities. Here again there are some important contrasts.
In the USA, recent legislation has introduced a degree of public subsidy
for parties and their candidates in presidential campaigns, by which grants from
the public purse are related to amounts raised by donations. Restrictions have
been placed upon the amounts of money that can be donated to candidates.
British parties, on the other side, depend upon membership suscription
and donation ; the Conservatives rely on the generousity of certain business
companies, Labour on its large affiliated trade-union membership and extra
donations from member-unions . Changes in trade-union legislation will make
it less simple for unions to decide to affiliate to political parties , and hence may
diminish the financial support which labour recieves from trade unions. (qtd. in
The presidential regime of the US and the parliamentary regime of the
UK takes different form in their party states as the above analyses. The
function differ, and they operate different constitutional position.
Comparing parties would be a dominant element when we compare the political
systems of the countries. And understanding the superpowers’ political
system is crutial when a country makes a decision on foreign policy.