Explaining…the Labour Party


  The Labour Party was founded as the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in 1900 out of the trade union movement and other socialist groups. It became officially the Labour Party in 1906 – before this point, it had been a loose affiliation of organisations.

  The party overtook the Liberal Party as the main opposition to the Conservatives in the 1920s, winning its first election in 1924 under Ramsay MacDonald. The Attlee governments of 1945-51 are often seen as the high point of Labour’s success; during this period, the NHS was founded, the welfare state hugely expanded and numerous education reforms implemented, beginning the ‘Post-War Consensus’ which would last until the 1970s.

The Party Today

  The modern Labour Party has 190,000 members and is led by Ed Miliband MP. Labour, as the largest non-government party, forms the Official Opposition. They won 29% of the popular vote in the 2010 General Election and currently hold 257 seats in the House of Commons (39.5%). They also have 20 seats in the European Parliament (27.4% of the UK total) and 34.8%% of Local Government positions.

Policy Record

  The modern Labour Party can be dated to 1994 and the ascension of Tony Blair to the party leadership. Blair sharply accelerated the party’s 10-year drift towards the right, abandoning many traditionally socialist positions such as the nationalisation of key industries and infrastructure and adopting the neoliberal economic policy of the Conservative Party, as well as their more authoritarian stance of law & order.

  New Labour’s period in office saw the creation of harsh anti-terror legislation in the wake of the September 11th attacks on the USA and a continued expansion of police powers. The party maintained the privatised and largely deregulated state of the economy, contributing to the huge negative impact of the global 2008 financial crash on the UK. The Labour Party expanded the welfare state, in the form largely of in-work benefits to top up low incomes, and engaged in closer co-operation with the European Union, signing the Lisbon Treaty and making (unrealised) preparations for EMU. The introduction of a national minimum wage and the passing of the Human Rights Act are two of the more traditionally left-wing results of the New Labour years, along with extensive devolution to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Greater London. The Blair government was also responsible for the UK’s participation in the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for beginning the decentralisation of the health and education systems through extensive PFI deals and the academies programme.

  In opposition, under the leadership of Ed Miliband and with Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor, Labour have largely maintained the New Labour line on most policy areas. They have not moved for renationalisation – nor for significant new regulation, the planned energy price fix and the separation of the banks’ retail and investment arms notwithstanding. They generally support government ‘austerity’ measures, querying only the precise targets – and success – of these cuts. Labour remains pro-EU but has been persuaded by the rise of UKIP to move to the right on immigration. They have also lessened their support for interventionism, opposing UK action in Syria in 2013 – though they have since supported the government in its air strikes against the Islamic State.

Policy Promises

  • Raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour
  • Reform zero-hours contracts, including preventing employers from mandating employees are always available
  • Reintroduce the lower 10% income tax rate for low earners
  • Reintroduce the 50% income tax rate for the highest earners
  • Create a Trade Investment Bank for small businesses
  • Impose a ‘mansion tax: £3,000 a year tax on properties worth between £2 and £3 million
  • Reduced corporation tax for small businesses
  Social Policy & The Constitution
  • Maintain the SMP system for General Elections
  • Build 200,000 houses a year by 2020
  • Give families 25 hours of free childcare a week for 3- and 4-year-olds
  • Scrap the ‘bedroom tax’
  • Restrict the rise in Child Support Allowance to 1% a year
  • Introduce the means testing of Winter Fuel Allowance
  Health, Welfare & Education
  • Spend £2.5 billion on recruitment: 20,000 nurses, 8,000 doctors, 5,000 care workers and 3,000 midwives
  • Guarantee that patients will be able to see their GP within 48 hours
  • Consolidate NHS, social care and mental health systems
  • Give all NHS staff training in mental health issues
  • Mandate qualified teachers
  • Undo the reorganisation of the NHS under the Health and Social Care Act
  Crime and Justice Policy
  Foreign Policy and Defence
  • Support TTIP (the EU-USA free trade agreement)
  Transport, Energy & Environment
  • Freeze energy prices until 2017
  • Create a million jobs in the ‘green sector’

Important Party Figures

  Shadow Ministers
  • Ed Miliband              Leader of the Opposition (and of the party)
  • Harriet Harman        Deputy Leader and Culture Secretary
  • Ed Balls                    Shadow Chancellor
  • Yvette Cooper          Shadow Home Secretary
  • Douglas Alexander  Shadow Foreign Secretary
  • Iain Duncan Smith   Work and Pensions Secretary
  • Sadiq Khan               Shadow Justice Secretary
  • Vernon Coaker         Shadow Defence Secretary
  • Andy Burnham         Shadow Health Secretary
  • Chuka Umunna        Shadow Business Secretary
  • Rachel Reeves         Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary
  • Hilary Benn               Shadow Local Government Secretary
  • Caroline Flint            Shadow Energy Secretary
  • Tristram Hunt           Shadow Education Secretary
  • Mary Creagh             Shadow Transport Secretary and Shadow International                                                    Development Secretary
  • Ivan Lewis                 Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary
  • Margaret Curran       Shadow Scotland Secretary
  • Owen Smith              Shadow Wales Secretary
  • Maria Eagle               Environment Secretary
  • Angela Eagle            Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
  • Rosie Winterton        Shadow Chief Whip

  • Carwyn Jones           First Minister of Wales

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