Party Structure Of United States And Great

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

in Britain.

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

opposition party.

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. ( 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

local authority.

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.


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