British Left

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Timeline of parties in the broad socialist movement

The British Left refers to left-wing movements, parties and activists in Great Britain. The biggest political party associated with the British Left is the Labour Party with over 150,000 members. According to some, the Labour Party shifted increasingly to the Right under New Labour, which may explain why they lost all but 1 seat to the SNP in the UK General Election of 2015. As an opposition party under the leadership of Ed Miliband from 2010 to 2015, the Labour Party has, in some cases, shifted policy back to more traditional social democratic territory when it comes to taxation, regulation and inequality.

Aside from Labour the biggest Left-wing party in the UK are the Green Party who have benefited from the collapse of support for the Left-leaning Liberal Democrats and dissatisfaction of some Labour supporters.[citation needed] Green membership quadrupled from 13,000 members to 56,000 members from the beginning of 2014 to the start of 2015. Scottish Green membership increased after the Scottish Independence Referendum to around 9,500, giving a combined membership for the Green parties of the UK of around 66,000. The Green Party of England and Wales is now the second largest party of the European Greens, a confederation of 45 different member parties from 38 countries, and has increased significantly in the national polls from an average 1% to 7%. They beat the Liberal Democrats to fourth place in the 2014 European Elections with 8%, under a proportional voting system, electing a third MEP.

The Labour Party currently have 232 seats in the House of Commons. The Green Party has one MP in the House of Commons. Other left-of centre parties with parliamentary representation are Plaid Cymru with three MPs (in addition to seats in the National Assembly for Wales and European Parliament) and formerly Respect who lost their only MP in the 2015 general election.

The Communist Party of Great Britain was the largest left-of-Labour organisation in the UK from its formation in 1920 until dissolution, with a peak membership of 56,000 in 1945. Its main successor is the Communist Party of Britain, which contests elections and is associated with the nominally-independent Morning Star, the only daily Left newspaper.

A number of smaller Left parties enter elections as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). A new party Left Unity was formed in November 2013 and backed by a number of existing Left parties after an appeal by director Ken Loach seeking to create a united Left party in light of the unity and success seen by Syriza in Greece. The fracturing of the Left of Labour into many smaller groups over decades within Britain is seen as a problem that must be addressed by the party. Left Unity has an electoral pact with TUSC.


Active in England[edit]

Labour Party[edit]

The biggest centre-left party in the UK in terms of members and representation is the Labour Party. The party had 201,374 members on 31 December 2004 according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission. With the party's rebranding as New Labour under Tony Blair, however, the party adopted a number of Thatcherite policies. Many now describe Labour as neoliberal or social democratic, and no longer democratic socialist. Blair himself described New Labour's political position as a "Third Way" which many believed was his way of Thatcherising the party.

Since Ed Miliband became leader of the Labour Party in 2010, however, he has, on a number of occasions, described the Labour Party as a democratic socialist party [1] For example, he has pledged to clamp down on tax avoidance, introduce a wealth tax in the form of a Mansion Tax, raise income tax on the highest earners in Britain and break up the banks.[2]

The Socialist Campaign Group is a left-wing grouping of Labour Party members of parliament in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1981 by Tony Benn's supporters, as a split from the Tribune Group.[3]

In the 2010[4] and 2015 UK general elections[5] the Political Compass Organisation labelled the Labour party as right-wing (neoliberal) and authoritarian.[3]

Internal groups[edit]

Magazine support[edit]

Green Party of England and Wales[edit]

In 2015, the membership of the Green Party quadrupled, and its support in national opinion polls sextupled.[6] Several factors have contributed, including the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, the influence of social media and greater awareness among younger people about the rise of other leftist parties in Europe such as Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, as well as a rise in anti-austerity movements across Europe and Britain.[7] Other factors include the Scottish referendum, which has proved an inspiration for a new kind of politics. Other key factors had been the contrast in conferences of the Green Party and Labour in September 2014, and the media exclusion of the Green Party during and following their successes in the European elections. A petition against the media blackout of the Green Party reached 260,000 signatures.[8] The party also received a significant spike in membership during January, 2015 following David Cameron's demand that the Green Party be included in the leaders' debates for the 2015 General Election. The Green Party have been included in a seven-way television debate.[9] The Green Party of England and Wales' spring conference had 1,300 members attend, a record for the party.

Internal groups[edit]

Respect Party[edit]

The Respect Party, which at one point had the support of other Left groups (such as the CPGB(PCC), the Socialist Unity Network, Socialist Resistance and the RCPBML), and was the second largest left-wing party in the UK after Labour,[3] lost its final two councillors in the 2014 local elections,[10] and its one MP, George Galloway - who is also the party leader[11] - in 2015.

Other organisations[edit]

The next largest Left organisation is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, comprising the Socialist Party (England and Wales), Socialist Workers Party, Independent Socialist Network, and others. TUSC contested the 2014 United Kingdom local elections with 554 candidates, winning 68,031 total votes, composed of 64,098 votes for the council candidates and 3,933 votes for the three mayoral candidates. The average vote for TUSC candidates was 3.4%, with one candidate winning 43% of the vote, and 8 others gaining more than 10%.[12] TUSC stood 100 candidates in the 2015 General Election - gaining 36,327 votes - and 1,000 council candidates in the local elections. TUSC has a small number of local councillors.

Electoral groups[edit]

Groups working within TUSC[edit]
Groups working within Left Unity[edit]
Further information: Left Unity (UK)
Electorally-inactive groups[edit]

Entryist groups within Labour Party[edit]

Further information: Entryism

Non-electoral groups[edit]

Further information: Anti-revisionism

Active only in Scotland[edit]

Active only in Wales[edit]

Active in Northern Ireland[edit]


Publications affiliated to parties[edit]



Further reading[edit]

  • Barrow, Logic and Bullock, Ian. Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement (Cambridge University Press, 1996)
  • Beilharz, Peter. Labour's Utopias: Bolshevism, Fabianism and Social Democracy (Routledge 1992)
  • Biagini, E.F. and Reid, A.J., eds. Currents of Radicalism: Popular Radicalism, Organized Labour and Party Politics in Britain 1850–1914, (Cambridge University Press, 1991)
  • Black, L. The Political Culture of the Left in Affluent Britain, 1951–64: old Labour, new Britain? (Basingstoke, 2003)
  • Bryant, C. Possible Dreams: a personal history of British Christian Socialists (London, 1996)
  • Buchanan, Tom. "Britain's Popular Front?: Aid Spain and the British Labour Movement," History Workshop Journal, 31, 1991
  • Callaghan, John. British Trotskyism: Theory and Practice (Blackwell 1984)
  • Callaghan, John. Socialism in Britain since 1884 (Blackwell, 1990)
  • Callaghan, John. The Far Left in British Politics (1987)
  • Chun, L. The British New Left (1993)
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. Ages of Reform: Dawns and Downfalls of the British Left (I.B. Tauris, distributed by Palgrave Macmillan; 2011) 314 pages; the history of the British left since the Great Reform Act of 1832.
  • Shipley, Peter. Revolutionaries in Modern Britain (1976)
  • Parker, Martin, et al. The Dictionary of Alternatives Zed Books, 2007.[24]

Labour Party[edit]

  • Cole, G. D. H. A history of the Labour Party from 1914 (1969)
  • Pelling, Henry. A short history of the Labour Party (12th ed. 2005)
  • Pugh, Martin. Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party (2011) [25]
  • Taylor, Robert. The Parliamentary Labour Party: A History 1906–2006 (2007)
  • Thorpe, Andrew and Jeremy Black. A History of the British Labour Party (3rd. ed. 2008)[26]
  • Worley, Matthew. Labour Inside the Gate: A History of the British Labour Party between the Wars (2009)[27]

Communist Party[edit]

  • Callaghan, John. Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1951–68 (Lawrence & Wishart, 2001) [28]
  • CPB. Britain's Road to Socialism
  • Croft, Andy, (ed.) A Weapon in the Struggle: The Cultural History of the Communist Party in Britain (Pluto Press, London, 1998)
  • Pearce, Brian, and Michael Woodhouse. A History of Communism in Britain


  • Bruley, Sue. Leninism, Stalinism and the Women's Movement in Britain, 1920–1939 (Garland, London and New York, 1986)
  • Graves, Pamela M. Labour Women: Women in British Working-Class Politics 1918–1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1994)
  • Jackson, Angela. British Women and the Spanish Civil War (Routledge 2002)[29]
  • Mitchell, Juliet, and Ann Oakley, (eds). The Rights and Wrongs of Women (Penguin, London, 1976)
  • Rowbotham, Sheila. Hidden from History: 300 Years of Women's Oppression and the Fight Against It (Pluto Press, London, 1973)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ed Miliband: I'm bringing socialism back to Britain", The Telegraph, September 2013.
  2. ^ "Labour will restore 50p top rate of income tax, says Ed Balls", The Guardian, January 2014
  3. ^ a b c d e "BRITISH LEFT". World Heritage Encyclopedia™. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "UK Parties - 2010 General Election". The Political Compass™. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "UK Parties - 2015 General Election". The Political Compass™. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Ramsay, Adam (6 March 2015). "Today, Natalie Bennett must deliver the speech of her life". New Statesman. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  7. ^ See: list of political parties in the United Kingdom opposed to austerity.
  8. ^ ""Invite the Greens" petition handed in to the BBC". Green Party of England and Wales. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Election 2015: Seven-party TV debate plan announced". BBC News. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  10. ^ Helen Pidd "Labour gains control of Bradford as Respect fail" (The Northerner Blog), 23 May 2014
  11. ^ Helen Pidd "Who is the leader of the Respect party these days?" (The Northerner Blog), 28 October 2013
  12. ^ [1], 30 May 2014
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  29. ^ [9]