In our representative democracy, parties are essential. They bring diverse voices together to forge a cohesive vision and effect policy change. They support citizens to make sense of complicated issues during an election.
The Samara Centre interviewed 54 former MPs who served in the 41st Parliament from 2011 to 2015. These MPs reported that parties had unquestionably the greatest influence on their time in office, greater than the influence of Parliament or their constituencies. They also reported that their parties were a source of community and support but also enormous frustration.
While Parliament has always been and should remain a partisan space, there are institutional and cultural problems with party politics that have real consequences for the health of our democracy. Fixing them requires further deep examination of the party as a whole, from the grassroots to the leadership.
This report is the third in a series of three that makes a case for MPs who are independent, empowered, thoughtful, and engaged in three environments: Parliament, the constituency, and the party.