6.2.6 Political Parties and Policies

Politicians in a democracy work together to form political parties, whose policies need to adapt to circumstances and public opinion

Previous sections in this chapter have identified different ideologies and implementation approaches to government, categorised as four possible directions away from the status quo (6.2.1).  They correspond to different ideas about the policies that enable people to live together peaceably, but there is considerable scope for agreement on many issues. 

Politicians may try to differentiate themselves by expressing strong views, during an election for example, but they might need to be more cautious in government.  They can try to shift public opinion towards their own convictions, as illustrated, but they risk alienating large numbers of people if they adopt extreme policies upon which it is not possible to reach a broad consensus.

Political parties are formed around shared ideas in representative democracies.  The following sub-sections examine how party policy is formed, both at the time of an election and subsequently as circumstances change:

●  Parties must make tactical decisions about which groups of voters they need to attract, before setting out overarching policies before each election: published in the form of a manifesto or party platform document.  Individual voters can then choose which party they will vote for (

●  Governments, and opposition parties, must react as situations develop: they must adjust their direction if necessary, as if they were piloting an aeroplane (  The population can influence such adaptive policy-making in some political systems: having a hand on the ‘joystick’, as it were.

●  A government knows that some people will have supported a different party at the last election.  It ought to try to persuade people with different views to accept the way it handles political issues (  It can do this by examining each possible policy perspective before taking a decision.  It is desirable that it adopts a centrist stance, to maximise its acceptability.



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