The names of the biggest British political parties are well known throughout the country but the origins and meaning behind them, less so.
The Conservative and Unionist Party
The party was formed in 1835 in the wake of the Great Reform Act of 1832 which widened the British voting franchise. Later, the Whigs and Tories lost their hold on the political establishment.
Why are they called the Tories?
Many of the members of the new Conservative party were former Tories, which is why the nickname Tory is still affiliated with the modern-day Conservative Party. The new Conservative Party was led by Robert Peel who served as Prime Minister twice, in two separate terms. During the Edwardian period and up until the late 1920s, the party was widely referred to as the Unionist Party, not the Conservatives. This was due to the party’s ultimate unsuccessful objection to Irish home rule.
Many constituencies continued to list the party as the Unionist Party until the aftermath of the Second World War. In 2016 in England, Wales and Scotland, the name of the party was registered as the Conservative Party by the Electoral Commission.
In Northern Ireland, the party was registered by the Electoral Commission as the Conservative and Unionist Party. The Prime Minister at the time David Cameron, applied to register the party as the Conservative and Unionist Party across Britain. It was approved by the Electoral Commission as the Primary name for the party, and Conservative candidates appear on ballot papers as members of the Conservative and Unionist Party.
The Labour Party
The emergence of more working-class voters and successful Trade Unions, were important in the formation of Labour. The party was founded by the Trade Union Congress in 1900 as the Labour Representation Committee. Keir Hardie was one of the founders of the Labour Party and served as their first parliamentary leader. The Committee was formed in the hope of getting working class candidates into Parliament as MPs. In 1903, the Committee formed an agreement with the Liberals, to field only either a Liberal or Labour candidate in each seat; to have a better chance to beat Conservative candidates. The Committee won 29 seats in the 1906 General Election and became the Labour Party. Labour enjoyed an ascent post-war as the Liberals began to decline and eventually became one of the two major parties.
The Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Party was formed on the 6th of June 1859 and brought together different British political factions. It was formed by Whigs, Peelites and Radicals. The formation of a new political party can be traced to the Great Reform Act of 1832, which widened the British voting franchise. The act was passed in the wake of the American and French Revolutions. This led to more political groups emerging, as Parliament became more representative.
The Liberal Party came to power under William Gladstone in 1868. Gladstone would serve for 12 years as Prime Minister over four spread out terms. In the 20th Century, the Liberals were in power again and governed Britain from 1906-1915; the administration led by Asquith, Churchill and Lloyd George.
The advent of the First World War led to major divisions within the Liberal Party over the course of the war. The emergence of the Labour Party led to the Liberals losing and Labour gaining many new working-class and female voters as the voting franchise had been expanded post-war. The decline of the party continued, and it went from being one of the two major parties, to being the third.
During the late 1970s, the Labour Party grew more left wing leading moderate Labour members to form the Social Democratic Party in 1981. An alliance was then formed between the SDP and the Liberals and both parties agreed to fight elections with joint candidates. In 1988, the alliance agreed to form a new party, the Social and Liberal Democrats. Paddy Ashdown was elected as the first leader of the new merged party. There had been infighting over the new name of the party, and so the Social and Liberal Democrats became the current, Liberal Democrats.
The Green Party
The PEOPLE party was founded in November 1972 as a challenge to the political establishment. The party was founded by Leslie and Tony Whittaker, Freda Sanders and Michael Benfield. The party viewed political issues from an ecological standpoint. In 1975 at the party conference, it was decided that the party would be renamed the Ecology Party.
The name changed again in 1985 to become the Green Party. In 1989, the Scottish branch of the party split to form the independent Scottish Green Party. Shortly after, the Green Party in Northern Ireland formed, whilst the English and Welsh branches joined to form one party. The Green Party of England and Wales are registered as the Green Party.