6.2.6 Political Parties and Policies

Previous sections in this chapter have identified different ideologies and implementation approaches to government, described as four possible directions away from the status quo (6.2.1).  They correspond to different ideas about the political structures that enable people to live together peaceably.

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

  • Political 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 policy they will vote for (
  • Governments, and opposition parties, have to 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.
  • Politicians know that some people will have supported a different party at the last election. A government ought to try to persuade people with different views to accept the decisions it takes on each specific issue (, if it wants to be inclusive.  It can do this by examining the perspective of each of the possible directions of policy change before taking a decision, to adopt a centrist stance.
  • Politicians sometimes act irresponsibly – without regard to their declared platform, or prudence, or inclusiveness – to gain a tactical advantage from short-term popularity (



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