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. 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[update], membership was 39,400. 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.
- 1 History
- 2 Active in Britain
- 2.1 Labour Party
- 2.2 Green Party of England and Wales
- 2.3 Other organisations
- 3 Active only in Scotland
- 4 Active only in Wales
- 5 Local parties
- 6 Media
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Active in Britain
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, causing it to be identified as centrist rather than socialist, and was no longer considered as being a party of the Left; 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, 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. The party was subsequently criticised by some, including Tony Blair himself; as straying leftwards from the "centre ground" of British politics, and that Miliband was a "traditional left-wing" politician. However, others disputed this view, and put Labour's loss at the 2015 general election down to the party being too right-wing.
The unexpected landslide victory of Jeremy Corbyn at the subsequent Labour Party leadership election in September 2015 represented a revival of the Labour left-wing and led to a huge increase in membership; 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. The relative success of Labour at the 2017 general election has been seen as a vindication of the left turn.
Green Party of England and Wales
In 2015, the membership of the Green Party quadrupled, and its support in national opinion polls sextupled. 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. 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. 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. 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, following a rejection by Labour of an election pact 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.
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 and its sole MP George Galloway - who was also the party leader. Respect disbanded after twelve years, on 18 August 2016.
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; 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. In May 2017, TUSC confirmed that it would stand no candidates at the forthcoming general election, and give full support to Labour. In 2018, TUSC suspended electoral activity until further notice.
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 but has since renounced independent electoral activity in favour of Labour.
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. In 2017, the CPB announced that it would field no candidates at that year's general election, and give support to Labour instead.
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, or work unofficially in support of, or advocate a vote for, the Labour Party.
Electorally active parties
- Alliance for Green Socialism
- Communist League
- Socialist Labour Party
- Socialist Party of Great Britain
- Workers' Revolutionary Party
Groups supporting the Labour Party
- Alliance for Workers' Liberty
- Communist Party of Britain
- Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee)
- Left Unity
- New Communist Party of Britain
- Socialist Party (England and Wales)
- Socialist Resistance
- Socialist Workers Party
- Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Entryist groups within Labour Party
Parties working within TUSC
- Socialist Party (England and Wales)
- Socialist Party Scotland
- Socialist Workers Party [in Scotland only]
- Anarchist Federation
- Communist Party of Britain (Marxist–Leninist)
- Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist–Leninist)
- Communist Workers Organisation
- International Socialist League
- Independent Working Class Association
- Revolutionary Communist Group
- Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist–Leninist)
- Socialist Equality Party
- Solidarity Federation
- Spartacist League
- Workers' Fight
Active only in Scotland
- Republican Communist Network
- RISE – Scotland's Left Alliance
- Scottish Green Party
- Scottish National Party
- Scottish Republican Socialist Movement
- Scottish Socialist Party
- Socialist Party Scotland
Active only in Wales
Publications affiliated to organisations
- Emancipation and Liberation (Republican Communist Network).
- News Line (WRP).
- The New Worker (NCP) .
- Scottish Socialist Voice (SSP).
- The Socialist (SP).
- Socialist Appeal monthly newspaper by a group of the same name.
- Socialist Resistance periodical by a group of the same name.
- Socialist Standard (SPGB).
- Socialist Studies quarterly journal by a group of the same name.
- Socialist Worker/Socialist Review (SWP).
- Solidarity (AWL).
- Weekly Worker (CPGB-PCC).
- World Socialist Web Site (SEP).
- Morning Star (Independent since 1945 but Britain's Road to Socialism, the programme of the CPB, underlies the paper's editorial stance)
- New Statesman (founded 1913)
- Red Pepper (founded 1995)
- New Labour
- New Left
- History of socialism in the United Kingdom
- Far-left politics in the United Kingdom
- List of left-wing publications in the United Kingdom
- List of political parties in the United Kingdom
- Anarchism in the United Kingdom
- Convention of the Left
- Socialist Alliance
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