Chris Jones on Political Parties

Chris Jones (University of Edinburgh), co-convenor of the Constitutional Law Discussion Group, will be presenting his work in progress The Legal Personality of Political Parties.

Date: Tuesday 30 January, 3pm

Venue: Neil MacCormick Room, David Hume Tower


This paper forms part of a PhD research project that is examining the constitutional role of political parties by focussing on the evolving legal relationships between political parties and individuals.

Political parties are an intrinsic part of British democracy, yet operate in the shadows of the constitution, only recently acquiring constitutional and legal recognition. Without a legal personality and with no consistent statutory definition, their de jure existence does not match their de facto constitutional role, which is still developing. This surprising notion runs counter to popular understanding, and indeed public experience, of political parties’ contribution to the democratic process.

In this paper I examine the development of political parties within the United Kingdom and the devolved Scottish Parliament. I further examine their legal personality, what constitutionally distinguishes them from other political actors (both institutional and individual) and the constitutional dependence on the functions of political parties. I therefore consider individual rights with respect to political parties, which leads to examining the publicness of parties as institutions and whether a solely private law based understanding remains adequate.