Voters, Parties, and Leaders: The Social Fabric of British Politics

By J. Blondel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Introductory

THIS book is concerned with the relationship between politics and society in contemporary Britain.But politics is taken here in a broad sense. We seem sometimes to think that politics is a very special game played in a peculiar way by small groups of politicians. It is true that politics is a job which has its rules and its code of conduct like any other job. But politics is also, in our societies, the concern of almost all members of the community. Millions of people vote. Even though many may say that, between elections, they are not interested at all in politics, they are, at least once every four or five years, important players in the political game. Millions are, moreover, members of organizations, such as trade unions, professional associations, or trade associations, which are, from time to time, involved in politics. Depending on their traditions, they may react vigorously against the government or they may prefer to use quieter methods and behind-the-scenes pressure to obtain better consideration of their claims by the ministers. But they all have to engage in politics to some extent.

There are thus at least three aspects of the relationship between politics and society which we have to examine in somewhat greater detail. First we have to look at the political divisions of the electorate and see how far they reflect the social structure of the nation. Then we have to consider the life of the parties, since parties are social groups as well as political groups. Finally we have to survey the activities of some other social groups, such as the unions or the business groups, in order to see what part they play in the political life.


Social structure and political divisions

Everyone knows that there is some connexion between the way people vote and the social groups to which people belong. Many even assume a closer connexion than the one which exists in

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