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    Political parties

    The British electoral system has lost the one virtue its admirers claimed for it's – the ability to provide a stable Parliamentary majority, albeit one supported by only a minority of the voters. Despite all the pressures to encapsulate political opinion around the two main parties, their combined total of the poll, 76 per cent, was lower than at any General Election since 1929. Nevertheless between them they captured 94 per cent of the seats. The turn away from the two big parties manifested itself in 1973 at by-elections and the elections for the new Country and District Councils, with the Liberals making gains, largely at Tory expense. At its 33rd Congress in November 1973, the Communist Party warned, «Loss of Tory support has not meant an automatic increase in Labour support. There is a certain disenchantment with both major parties and the rigid two-party system, with the Liberals gaining, at least temporarily, on the local councils and in Parliament.» The decline of support for the two big parties during the life-time of the Heath government was accompanied by the loss of confidence in the democratic institutions and in their ability to exercise effective control over the enormous power of the industrial and commercial giants operating against the general social interest. Meanwhile the British economy was plunging into its most serious crisis for many years. The trendy, get-rich-quick merchant bankers and businessmen who leapt straight from the City boardrooms to the Cabinet room in 1970 had revealed themselves to be remarkably inept in governing the country. Accustomed to their boardroom decisions being carried out immediately by a hierarchy of flunkies, they behaved as though the electorate were theirs to command. (The Book of Britain 1977, by Reuben Falber)

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