POLITICAL PARTIES IN GREAT BRITAIN
Experience and reason combine to suggest that, whenever large numbers of people are given a voice in the affairs of government, the people will tend to fall into, or to form themselves into, political parties. In this respect, England is by no means exceptional. Indeed, much of the most important experience on which an intelligent understanding of political parties can be based consists of English experience. In this, as in so many other things, the relatively unbroken course of English political history and the relatively small part played in that history by conscious planning give the impression that a student who directs his careful attention to English experience is likely to be at grips with the working of natural forces.
Since political parties and a democratic governmental system in England have grown up together, each presupposes the other. Indeed, two governmental systems may be said to exist side by side, neither being comprehensible except in relation to the other. One is the theoretical lawbook group of institutions, which could not of themselves work in practice. The second is a practical system of political parties, which impart vigour and motion to what would otherwise be inert machinery.
Political parties were defined by Edmund Burke in a famous definition that has suffered little, if any, from much quoting. "Party," runs his definition, "is a body of men united for promoting, by their joint endeavours, the national interest, upon some particular principle, in which they are agreed." Analysis of these words will show that they clearly suggest two important aspects of political parties. In the first place, they point definitely to a theoretical side of parties, to the fact that principle is involved. On the other hand, the definition clearly implies the existence in practice of organization. As a matter of fact,