I live in Canada, though I think this will likely apply to other nations as well. It will at least work for the Americans and should mirror the British as well.
Recently I've been trying to figure out why political parties are still a benefit to anyone outside of the political system.
Political parties immediate set up lines of distinction, this is very visible in the Canadian system where breaks from party lines are rare, and in the States where politics is very set in an us v. them theme.
So if we were able to ditch political parties, here are some things I believe would happen as result:
Elected officials become accountable to their constituents instead of party leaders.
People are going to have to make decisions about the person running in their district/riding, not about the party.
Every vote will not be decided by whether the sponsor or legislation writer is part of the majority and there is no party whip to force votes in one particular direction against the wish of those that vote.
This idea could be refined more, but I think its at an interesting start.
Parties in themselves, aren't the problem. However, I do not see it being a fixable one in the near future. For example, you could take away the establishment, but then you'd be left with the school of thought held once by these 'parties'. Birds of the same feather will flock, that sort of thing.
On your point, in regards to folk being held accountable to their electors - and not the head of some party -. I would disagree with the premise, at least here in Britain. For example, the Liberal Democrats have some backbenchers who disagree and vote against the party's toe-line. Can Nick Clegg, the spineless ilk that is their leader remove them from their seat? Nope.
All in all, I'd say you'd remove one devil simply to have another take its place.
Senseless and pointless in the end, but alas.
That's politics for ya
It's good that in Britain you'll have backbenchers that disagree (though that's probably why they're backbenchers).
But in Canada, this is what our voting looks like (I chose the last three bills, you can go through the votes and I'd say 98% are like this:
The only interesting thing is who doesn't show up.
I kinda agree that parties give a sort of illusion of choice. In the UK ordinary people really don't have much of a say in what goes on we pick our parties of which there are really only two to decide upon and then it is mostly out of our hands. I think the current systems in place encourage political consensus rather than political diversity. More transparency would also give the public an idea of how much pressure is put on the individuals in politics to conform to the status quo.
In America, the two parties hold too much power to ever be dissolved. Unless the Supreme Court finds some sort of evidence to make political parties unconstitutional, no side would ever propose the idea of dissolution, seeing as it has benefited both sides tremendously. I don't know how many parties there are in Canadian or UK politics, but there are only two in America. And although you can have Republicans who are a bit more liberal than the norm for a Republican, or Democrats who are a bit more conservative than the norm for a Democrat, none of them are actually different enough to matter. If there were no parties, it'd be nice, but that would involve changing how our politics have worked for basically all of American history, which, knowing American history, happens very rarely.
There are actually many more than 2 parties, i.e. the libertarian, the greens, the communists, etc.
But 2 parties are favoured in a first passed the post system.
I know there are more parties, but the amount of votes they're able to gain are negligible during elections. There aren't any independent parties in Congress, and there haven't been any presidents who weren't Whig, Republican, Democratic, or Republican-Democratic. And first past the post is just awful.