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Adversarial and consensus politics

 Adversarial Politics: This is where the governing party is faced by an opposition that provides contrasting (different) policies. The opposition tries to gain advantage from any government weakness.


•Traditionally, the ideologies underpinning the two main parties have been confrontational. Labour favoured socialism and worker’s rights. The Tories favoured Conservatism and employer’s rights.

•The Conservatives and Labour in the 1980s clashed over privatisation. The Conservatives favoured it. Labour did not. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader has again meant real differences are becoming evident.

•Parliamentary procedures tend to be confrontational.

•The government sits on one side of the House of Commons and the Opposition sits directly opposite.

•The UK is traditionally a two-party system.

•The First Past the Post system (the candidate with the most votes wins) means the government nearly always gains a large majority of seats in the House of Commons. 

•In the past 80 years, Labour and Conservative are the only parties to hold office on their own.

•Coalitions (parties working together) are rare.

•The opposition’s job is to oppose. They are supposed to hold the government to account.

•For example, Labour is opposed to Housing Benefit cuts.

Consensus Politics: A situation where the main parties broadly agree on principles and, instead of offering widely contrasting programmes, seek to show that they are more competent (efficient).


•After WW2, Labour and Conservative had similar policies on the welfare state (state provision of basic services such as pensions and healthcare).

•Recently, there has been broad agreement about the aims of government policy. 

•David Cameron has promised that the NHS is safe with the Tories.

•The Tories did not oppose Labour’s action on Northern Rock (taking the bank under government control).


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