British Left

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Timeline of parties in the broad socialist movement

The biggest organisation associated with the British Left is the Labour Party with over 100,000 members. While the Labour Party shifted increasingly to the right under New Labour, as an opposition party under Ed Miliband it has moved back to occupying traditionally social democratic territory. Aside from Labour the biggest leftist parties are the Green Party, TUSC, Plaid Cymru, and Respect.

The Communist Party of Great Britain had a peak membership of 56,000 in 1945, whose successor is the Communist Party of Britain. Other groups include the Socialist Workers Party, Workers' Revolutionary Party, the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal.


Active in England[edit]

Labour Party[edit]

Main article: Labour Party (UK)

The biggest left-wing 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. The Labour Party grew out of the trade union movement and socialist political parties of the 19th century, and continues to describe itself as a party of democratic socialism. With the party's rebranding as New Labour under Tony Blair, however, the party adopted a number of Thatcherite policies. Many observers describe the Labour Party as social democratic or neo-liberal rather than democratic socialist. Blair himself has described New Labour's political position as a "Third Way". 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. The Compass organisation has also attracted a number of members disillusioned with the New Labour project. In the 2005 General Election Labour won 9,556,183 votes.

Internal groups[edit]

In contrast to Tribune and Chartist.

Other organisations[edit]

The next largest Party is the Green Party, followed by the Respect Party which has the support of: Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), the Socialist Unity Network, Socialist Resistance and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). Respect allows its members to hold membership of other political organisations, and people of no other political organisation. Respect's only Member of Parliament is George Galloway who is also the leader of Respect.[1]

Respect's first electoral test was the 2004 Greater London Authority elections, in which Lindsey German came fifth. In the 2005 general election, the Respect Coalition won 68,065 votes. By the time of the 2008 Greater London Authority elections, the Socialist Workers Party had left the coalition amid an acrimonious dispute with George Galloway and instead contested the elections as the Left List with Lindsey German as candidate (coming eighth). Since the split the two factions have become Respect Renewal (now simply Respect) and the Left Alternative.

Fewer than 500 votes[edit]

Including those who did not stand on principle or for practical reasons

Active only in Scotland[edit]

Active only in Wales[edit]

Active only in Northern Ireland[edit]

Active in both Northern Ireland and Republic of 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. Socialism in Britain
  • 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.
  • Taffe, Peter. A Socialist World is Possible
  • Parker, Martin, et al. The Dictionary of Alternatives Zed Books, 2007.[10]

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) [11]
  • 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)[12]
  • Worley, Matthew. Labour Inside the Gate: A History of the British Labour Party between the Wars (2009)[13]


  • Callaghan, John. Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1951–68 (Lawrence & Wishart, 2001) [14]
  • 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)[15]
  • 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]



External links[edit]