The Labour Party

AQA A2 Government and Politics - Socialism - roots of the labour party :)

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Roots of the Labour Party

The Labour party was a formation of the Trade Unions and socialist groups

The party formed in 1900 and by 1906 had adopted the name the Labour party and became the second biggest political party in Britain due to the first world war and the Liberal split

It was associated with the working class and aimed to improve right and working conditions for men. 

1918 = the first time Labour can be seen as adopting socialist ideas and they got a new constitution known as clause 4 which set out the aims of the labour party and its socialist links such as common ownership = "the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange"

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1920's Governments

Labour first came into government in the 1920s under Ramsey McDonald

  • 1924 - the government lasted a few months
  • 1929 - lasted until 1931

Ramsey Mcdonald was the leader for both and both of the governments were minority governments. During the 1924 government, Labour weren't even the biggest party in the House of Commons

1929 = economic crisis of wall street crash and government cut unemployment benefits to save money

The Labour governments of the 1920s didn't really achieve anything but this is mainly due to the fact that they were not able to. Through minority governments, they were very restricted to what they could do

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1940's/1950's Governments

After the war, Labour won the 1945 election with a landslide majority

The prime minister was Clement Attlee and they introduced many socialist reforms:

  • Created the NHS in 1948
  • Intoduced a welfare state
  • Nationalised 20% of the economy (iron and steel)
  • Housing
  • Keynesianism approach (manage unemployment)

However, it could be argued that the industried that were nationalised needed to be and was not done through wanting to achieve socialist aims and so Attlee did minimum

The post-war Labour government was the first (and some say the last) with both the majority and the power to enact socialist reforms

Herbert Morrison = "socialism is what a labour government does" - this is suggesting that the Labour government make it up as they go along and claim that it is socialist

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1960's/1970's Governments

Harold Wilson was prime minister for the 2 governmnts

  • 1964-1970 = There was a currency crisis in 1967
  • 1974-1976 = Wilson resigned during his time in government was had a very small majority 

Fundamental change was a less prominant feature in these governments but they did introduce equal pay, pensions and further housing schemes

1980s Labour: Although they were in opposition the manifesto of 1983 under Michael Foot was seen as 'new hope for Britain'

They can be seen as having a socialist manifesto as they wanted to introduce minimum wage, 5 year economic plans, improve workers rights and increase public enterprise

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Third Way/New Labour

Blair changed clause 4, which essentially removed the socialist aspect of the constitution about common ownership, instead of it seeming like the government was going to acheieve it for you, Blair adapted it to you needing to do it yourself (rather than community)

New Labour had new problems to deal with:-

  • Globalisation (more international trade/immigrants)
  • Environmental problems
  • Changing economy and society
  • Politics was less class based

Blair did the following:-

New democratic state = less state reliance, devolution, constitutional reform

Economy = competitive private sector (not free market), public-private partnerships

Welfare = individual responsibility, positive welfare "a hand up, not a hand out"

National = co-operation with EU, UN and Nato

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Post-New Labour

Gordon Brown re-emphasised the need to target welfare benefits and tried to eradicate child poverty in Britain, Labour became more pragmatic and less attatched to 'new labour' principles, Brown nationalised some banks (northern rock) and some railways (east coast), he also introduced a higher rate of tax for incomes over 150,000 and on bank bonuses which can be seen as quite socialist and distanced from Blair

On Ed Millibands election as party leader, he declared that new labour was 'dead'. However the direction of the party was still undecided and there are several suggestions about his direction with the party

  • Red Labour = abandonment of 'new labour', he acknowledged new-labours mistakes and was critical about Iraq and the failure to address income differences. However he is not really in tune with red labour as he doesnt want to return to traditional objectives
  • Blue Labour = modification of new labour, central to its reclaiming the support of working class voters but this faded away
  • Purple labour = continuity of new labour

But Miliband is finding it difficult to associate himself with a post-new labour agenda

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