British Left

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Timeline of parties in the broad socialist movement

The term British Left can refer to a range of political parties and movements in Great Britain. These can take the position of either centre-left, left-wing or far-left.

The largest political party associated with the British left is the centre-left Labour Party, which is also the biggest political party in the UK by membership levels, with over 500,000 members.[1] The Labour Party has 247 seats in the House of Commons, and has been the Official Opposition since May 2010. The current Leader of the Labour Party is Jeremy Corbyn, who was first elected on 13 September 2015.

The second largest party on the British left by membership, is the Green Party of England and Wales. As of August 2018, membership was 39,400.[2] The party has one Member of Parliament, Caroline Lucas, who was a Co-Leader of the Green Party of England & Wales; and was first elected as the MP for Brighton Pavilion at the 2010 general election.

The other two political parties on the left and with representation in parliament are the centre-left Scottish National Party (SNP) and the left-wing Plaid Cymru. The SNP are only active in Scotland and Plaid are only active in Wales. The SNP has 35 MPs and Plaid has 4 MPs. In total the British Left therefore have 286 out of 650 MPs.


Active in Britain[edit]

Labour Party[edit]

The biggest party on the left in the UK in terms of members and representation is the Labour Party, which was founded as the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in 1900. With the party's rebranding as "New Labour" in the 1990s under the leadership of Tony Blair, the party accepted a number of Thatcherite policy positions,[3] causing it to be identified as centrist rather than socialist, and was no longer considered as being a party of the Left;[4][5] Blair himself described New Labour's ideology as "Third Way", like Bill Clinton's Democratic Party in the United States. The Labour Party under Blair's leadership accepted many of the neoliberal economic policies enforced by the previous Conservative governments. When Ed Miliband was elected as Leader of the Labour Party in 2010, he announced the abandonment of the New Labour agenda, and promised to return to socialism,[6] clamp down on tax avoidance, introduce a wealth tax in the form of a Mansion Tax, raise income tax for high earners and break up the banks.[7] The party was subsequently criticised by some, including Tony Blair himself; as straying leftwards from the "centre ground" of British politics,[8] and that Miliband was a "traditional left-wing" politician.[9] However, others disputed this view, and put Labour's loss at the 2015 general election down to the party being too right-wing.[10][11]

The unexpected landslide victory of Jeremy Corbyn at the subsequent Labour Party leadership election in September 2015[12] represented a revival of the Labour left-wing and led to a huge increase in membership;[13] in the Cabinet reshuffle that followed, John McDonnell (chairman of the Labour Representation Committee) and Diane Abbott (member of the Socialist Campaign Group) were both appointed to the Shadow Cabinet.[14] The relative success of Labour at the 2017 general election[15][16] has been seen as a vindication of the left turn.[17][18]

Labour's status as a left-wing party has nevertheless been disputed by those who do not see the party as being part of the Left.[19][20][21]

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.[22] Several factors contributed, including the collapse of the Lib Dem vote, the influence of social media and greater awareness among younger people about the rise of other left-wing parties in Europe such as: Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, as well as a rise in anti-austerity movements across the UK and Europe.[23] Other factors included the Scottish independence referendum, which proved to be 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 Greens during and following their successes at the European elections; a petition against the media blackout of the Green Party reached 260,000 signatures.[24] The party also received a significant spike in membership during January 2015 following David Cameron's demand that the Greens be included in the leaders' debates for the 2015 general election. The Green Party has been included in a seven-way television debate.[25] The Greens' 2015 spring conference had a record 1,300 members attend; the party became the second-largest of the European Greens in this period, as well as increasing significantly in national polls from an average 1% to 7%. It beat the Liberal Democrats to fourth place at the 2014 European Elections with 8%, under a proportional voting system, having a third MEP elected.

However the Greens achieved only a 1.6% vote share at the 2017 general election,[26] following a rejection by Labour of an election pact[27] and an increase in vote share by the two major parties. The status of the Greens as a party of the Left has, along with Labour; been disputed.[28][29][30]

Internal groups[edit]

Other organisations[edit]

The now defunct Respect Party (formed in 2004), which at one point had the support of other Left groups (such as the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Resistance) and some electoral success, lost its last local councillors in 2014[31] and its sole MP George Galloway - who was also the party leader. Respect disbanded after twelve years, on 18 August 2016.[32]

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), founded in 2010, comprises the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party and RMT trade union. As of 2016, TUSC had a small number of affiliated local councillors. Following the 2015 election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, TUSC floated plans for a future electoral pact with any Labour councillors standing on an anti-austerity platform;[33] subsequently TUSC stood fewer candidates in the 2016 and 2017 local elections, based on a case by case reckoning of the political stance of local Labour candidates.[34] In May 2017, TUSC confirmed that it would stand no candidates at the forthcoming general election,[35] and give full support to Labour.[36] In 2018, TUSC suspended electoral activity until further notice.[37]

A new party, Left Unity, was formed in November 2013 and backed by a number of existing left-wing parties. Left Unity had an electoral pact with TUSC for the 2015 elections[38] but has since renounced independent electoral activity in favour of Labour.[39]

The Communist Party of Britain (CPB), is a split from (and effectively the political successor to) the historical Communist Party of Great Britain, once the largest British far-left organisation.[40] In 2017, the CPB announced that it would field no candidates at that year's general election, and give support to Labour instead.[41]

Some small left and far-left parties continue to contest elections independently, such as the Socialist Party of Great Britain (the oldest extant left-wing political party, having formed in 1904). Other parties and groups are electorally inactive, renounce participation in elections,[42][43][44] or work unofficially in support of, or advocate a vote for, the Labour Party.

Electorally active parties[edit]

Non-electoral groups[edit]

Groups supporting the Labour Party[edit]
Entryist groups within Labour Party[edit]
Parties working within TUSC[edit]

Active only in Scotland[edit]

Active only in Wales[edit]

Local parties[edit]


Publications affiliated to organisations[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ John Kampfner (17 April 2008). "Margaret Thatcher, inspiration to New Labour". Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Labour, Neoliberalism and the Future". 6 July 2013.
  5. ^ Peter Hain. "A smaller state? It's what got us into trouble to begin with". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Ed Miliband: I'm bringing socialism back to Britain", The Telegraph, September 2013.
  7. ^ "Labour will restore 50p top rate of income tax, says Ed Balls", The Guardian, January 2014
  8. ^ "Tony Blair says Labour 'left-wing' warning 'misinterpreted'". BBC News. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Blair claims 'left-wing' comments about Miliband were 'misinterpreted'". ITV News. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  10. ^ Stanley, Tim (15 May 2015). "Labour didn't lose because it was too Left-wing. But it will lose again if it becomes too Right-wing". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  11. ^ Wintour, Patrick (13 May 2015). "Labour did not lose election because it was too leftwing, says Unite chief". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  12. ^ ToHelm. "Corbyn hails huge mandate as he sets out leftwing agenda". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  13. ^ "Labour claim membership surge after Corbyn election". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Jeremy Corbyn unveils 'unifying' shadow cabinet team". BBC News. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Jeremy Corbyn increased Labour's vote share more than any leader since 1945".
  16. ^ Pickard, Jim (8 June 2017). "Jeremy Corbyn confounds critics with 'gobsmacking' gain". Financial Times.
  17. ^ Younge, Gary (10 June 2017). "Despite all the smears and distortions, this was a victory for hope - Gary Younge". the Guardian.
  18. ^ Weigel, David. "American left sees hope in Britain's socialist surge". Washington Post.
  19. ^ Singh, Amit (8 May 2015). "The most embarrassing part of the election? Seeing people mistake Labour for a left-wing party". The Independent. London.
  20. ^ "Socialist Party :: Labour conference - no socialist policies". Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  21. ^ "The Labour Party and socialism". Socialist Worker (Britain). Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  22. ^ Ramsay, Adam (6 March 2015). "Today, Natalie Bennett must deliver the speech of her life". New Statesman. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  23. ^ See: list of political parties in the United Kingdom opposed to austerity.
  24. ^ ""Invite the Greens" petition handed in to the BBC". Green Party of England and Wales. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  25. ^ "Election 2015: Seven-party TV debate plan announced". BBC News. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  26. ^ "Results of the 2017 General Election". BBC News.
  27. ^ Walker, Peter; Elgot, Jessica (19 April 2017). "Labour and Lib Dems reject Greens' call for electoral pact against Tories". the Guardian.
  28. ^ "Just how left wing is the Green Party?". Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  29. ^ Suzanne Moore. "Forget the Greens – if the UK wants a truly leftwing party, it might have to grow its own". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  30. ^ ToMiller (14 April 2015). "The Greens are not a real party of the left – here's why". The Conversation. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  31. ^ Helen Pidd "Labour gains control of Bradford as Respect fail" (The Northerner Blog), 23 May 2014
  32. ^ Helen Pidd "Who is the leader of the Respect party these days?" (The Northerner Blog), 28 October 2013
  33. ^ Ian Silvera. "Far-left TUSC seeks anti-austerity electoral pact with Jeremy Corbyn's Labour". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Info" (PDF).
  37. ^ a b
  38. ^ Hill, Dave. "On relations between Left Unity and TUSC". Left Unity. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  39. ^ "General election: Left Unity calls for a Labour victory - Left Unity".
  40. ^ Wheeler, Brian (13 June 2012). "What happened to the Communist Party of Great Britain's millions?" – via
  41. ^ Smith, Mikey (24 April 2017). "Communist Party backs Corbyn and won't stand any candidates in the election".
  42. ^ FRFI. "General election: Don't vote – fight for socialism!".
  43. ^ "The General Election – More Ruling Class Mystification". Leftcom. 13 May 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  44. ^ "Data" (PDF). 2017.
  45. ^ "Manifesto" (PDF). 2017.
  46. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  47. ^ "Socialist Labour Party - Election Campaigns 2014".
  48. ^ "2019 European elections: How many new MEPs might you get?". BBC News Online. 16 May 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  49. ^ Party, Workers Revolutionary. "Workers Revolutionary Party - WRP GENERAL ELECTION MANIFESTO vote WRP in the five constituencies where we are standing vote Labour in the rest".
  50. ^ Kelly, John Contemporary Trotskyism: Parties, Sects and Social Movements in Britain, Routledge, 2018, p234.
  51. ^ a b Barberis, P. et al. Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century. A&C Black, 2000, p161
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  54. ^ "Info" (PDF).
  55. ^
  56. ^ "Tories split - strike now! - The Socialist 23 March 2016". Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  57. ^ "Socialist Appeal - The International Marxist Tendency". Socialist Appeal. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  58. ^ "Socialist Resistance". Socialist Resistance. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  59. ^ "Socialist Standard". Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  60. ^ "Socialist Studies".
  61. ^ "Socialist Worker (Britain)". Socialist Worker (Britain). Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  62. ^ "Workers' Liberty". Workers' Liberty. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  63. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  64. ^ "World Socialist Web Site". Retrieved 24 March 2016.