Aren't all the parties the same?

It’s a common complaint that all the parties are the same and that there is no real choice when an election comes around.

There is some truth in this assessment of modern British politics. The main parties have all made a move towards the centre of politics in order to appeal to the majority of the population and to reflect the public’s shift in attitudes.

However, the parties draw on a long history and culture that has led to some distinct differences that remain today. Here are just a few:

Europe & Foreign Affairs

The European Union is a political and economic union with 28 member states. Within the EU people are able to move freely without visas. Goods and services also move freely creating strong economic ties. The question of Europe, as well as foreign affairs in general, is another area where the parties are divided.

The Conservative Party has been divided in the past over Europe. It was the Eurosceptics within the party that led to Britain opting out of the single European currency. Today the Conservatives seek to stay in the EU but negotiate a better deal for Britain within it. They have also promised a referendum for people to decide on whether to stay in or leave. They also seek to protect the foreign aid budget and replace Trident, Britain's current nuclear defence programme.

In the 60s and 70s, Labour was the party that opposed European membership for fear of what it might mean for working class Brits. However, more recently they have presented a united front in support of the European Union and see Britain as taking a leading role within it. To these ends, Labour proposes reforms in order to counteract the call for Britain's exit. Additionally, Labour wants to introduce a Strategic Defence & Security Review every 5 years which will assess military spending, personnel and development.

The Lib Dems have been most outspoken in their support of Europe. They believe that Britain should be a strong and committed member of the European Union and that more should be done to strengthen ties across the continent. They also campaign to reduce the number of Trident nuclear submarines.


How each party sees community, crime and social cohesion is another area in which they differ.

The Conservatives value tradition and so see traditional practices as being key to promoting strong communities. Families are particularly important to the Conservatives who see their protection and promotion as central to fixing society’s problems.

Labour believe communities need to be strong by promoting tolerance of and respect for all and by all. Everyone should enjoy their individual rights but they must also understand that they have responsibilities to those around them.

The Liberal Democrats see addressing the causes of crime as being more important than punishing crime. They take a more relaxed stance on prison sentences for drug and knife related crime and think more preventative effort earlier in a criminal’s life will be more effective. 

Tax & Spending

Another area that divides the main political parties is tax and spending. Each party sees differently how the government should collect and spend money.

The Conservatives are traditionally the party against taxation and so are addressing the current deficit by introudicing spending cuts rather than an increase in tax. Businesses should be encouraged to invest in Britain and so taxes that may put them off should be discouraged as they may go abroad where tax laws are more favourable, taking valuable jobs with them.

Labour believes that businesses should be taxed more. Along these lines they propose a tax on bankers' bonuses as well as an increase in tax for earnings of over £150,000 per year, This will encourage the recovery of Britain’s economy as a fairer society would create greater wealth among working people, injecting more money into Britain.

The Lib Dems are in favour of taxing the richest in society, demonstrated by their ‘mansion tax’ which will mean more tax for houses worth over £2 million. The Lib Dems also believe in raising the personal allowance - the point at which you start paying income tax - to £12,500 by 2020, thus seeking to create an economically fairer society.



Immigration is a 'hot topic' among the main political parties. Each of the parties have their own unique stance when it comes to tackling the issue.

The Conservatives seek to address the issue of immigration by preventing migrants from claiming benefits for at least four years after arrival. The Conservatives also hope to remove those who are unable to find work for 6 months as well as negotiate the EU's laws around the freedom of movement. The goal is that with these policies net migration will fall to 100,000 people a year.

Labour seeks to introduce "stronger" border controls to tackle illegal immigration. The party also beleives that by setting "smarter" targets the influx of migrants to fill 'low-skilled' roles will decrease while at the same time ensuring the UK does not lose university students and highly-skilled immigrants.

The Lib Dems propose exit checks to identify and monitor people who are overstaying their visa. Also, the party aims to reform Job Seekers Allowance to be dependent on English language assessments. Those with poor English will be required to attend classes in order to keep claiming JSA.



The NHS is an emotional topic for many people and as such is almost always central to a party's manifesto. How the NHS is funded and what its focus should be is a further area of difference. 

The Conservatives recently outlined that it aims to put an extra £2bn into frontline health service across the UK. On top of this they have committed to ensuring that patients will be able to see a GP seven-days a week by 2020 assisted by the recruitment of 5,000 more doctors.

The NHS is a key issue for Labour who pledge to spend £2.5bn a year on health services. This will be funded through the 'mansion tax' as well as increased taxation on tobacco companies. Furthermore Labour promises to resist what it beleives is 'creeping privatisation' set in motion by the Conservative Party. Finally, Labour seeks to make a commitment to mental health services and addressing mental health issues with a particular emphasis on children.

The Lib Dems seek to fund their commtiment to increased NHS spending through higher tax for higher earners. Half of the extra £1bn they propose for the NHS will go towards mental health with an increased awareness and commitment to helping those with depression or psychosis. They also propose a cross-party review of how the NHS is funded.

House of Lords

The House of Lords is known as the ‘second chamber’ in parliament. Like the House of Commons, the members of the House of Lords debate policy and laws. Unlike the House of Commons, those in the House of Lords are unelected and have been appointed or a small number have inherited the position. The parties are very divided over what the future of the House of Lords should be.

The Conservative Party believes strongly in tradition and that there is still much to be gained from the past. An unelected House of Lords is believed to be a good thing as it is tried and tested. Also, without the need to campaign and win votes, members of the House of Lords can act in what they perceive to be the best interest for all.

Since Labour’s beginnings the party has expressed a commitment to reforming the House of Lords, opposing those members who inherit positions. In 1997, Labour wanted to bring in a law that would make the House of Lords elected. However, Labour changed its position calling for a fully appointed chamber. Today Labour remains committed to removing the hereditary element of the House of Lords.

Liberal Democrats believe power should be in the hands of the people. As such they want a fully elected and smaller House of Lords so that the public have the power to elect who makes the decisions.

A quick guide to the Conservatives   A quick guide to Labour   A quick guide to the Liberal Democrats
A guide to the Scottish National Party  

A quick guide to UKIP


A quick guide to the Green Party

A quick guide to Plaid Cymru        

Why should Christians be involved in politics?

  Christian groups within the parties   Going deeper