For most of the period since the Second World War it was reasonable to refer to British politics as a two-party system. Only the Conservative and Labour parties could reasonably claim to be parties of government.
Yesterday in his leader’s speech to the Lib Dem conference, Nick Clegg made the claim that the Lib Dems are now also a party of government. As far as his claim goes, it seems perfectly fair to me, and fully justified by events.
What Nick did not say though, was that since devolution in the late 1990s, there are also another seven parties which have provided ministers for the devolved administrations.
The most remarkable feature of the period since 1999 may well come to be seen as the fact that, instead of two, or even three, there are at least ten parties of government in Britain and all of them have proved competent in office.
The mantle of party of protest has now landed on Ukip, the Greens and Respect.
Nick Clegg was right, as far as he went, but in reality things have already moved even further than he claimed.