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Labour Party (UK)

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Title: Labour Party (UK)  
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Subject: Constituency election results in the United Kingdom general election, 1929, List of MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 2010, Liverpool Borough Council election, 1953, United Kingdom local elections, 2014, London County Council election, 1922
Collection: 1900 Establishments in the United Kingdom, Anti-Austerity Political Parties in the United Kingdom, Democratic Socialism, Edwardian Era, Labour Parties, Labour Party (Uk), Parties Represented in the European Parliament, Party of European Socialists Member Parties, Political Parties Established in 1900, Progressive Alliance, Second International, Social Democratic Parties, Social Democratic Parties in the United Kingdom, Socialist International, Socialist Parties in the United Kingdom
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Labour Party (UK)

Labour Party
Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP
Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP
General Secretary Iain McNicol
Founded 27 February 1900[1][2]
Headquarters One Brewer's Green, London
Student wing Labour Students
Youth wing Young Labour
Membership  (2015) 380,000 [3] [Note 1]
Ideology Social democracy
Democratic socialism
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Progressive Alliance,
Socialist International (observer)
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
European Parliament group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Colours      Red
House of Commons
231 / 650
House of Lords
212 / 819
European Parliament
20 / 73
Scottish Parliament
38 / 129
Welsh Assembly
30 / 60
London Assembly
12 / 25
Local government
6,885 / 20,565
Police & Crime Commissioners
13 / 41
Politics of the United Kingdom
Political parties

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom.[6][7][8][9][10] Initially growing out of the trade union movement and socialist political parties of the nineteenth century, the Labour Party has been described as a "broad church". Today the party encompasses a diversity of ideological trends, from strongly socialist to more moderately social democratic.

Founded on 27 February 1900, the Labour Party grew to overtake the Liberal Party as the primary challenger to the Conservative Party during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and then again from 1929 to 1931. Labour later served in the wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after which it formed its first majority government under Clement Attlee. Labour was also in government from 1964 to 1970 under Harold Wilson and from 1974 to 1979, first under Wilson and then James Callaghan.

The Labour Party was last in government from 1997 to 2010 under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, beginning with a landslide majority of 179, reduced to 167 in 2001 and 66 in 2005. Having won 232 seats in the 2015 general election, the party currently forms the Official Opposition in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Elsewhere, Labour runs a minority government in the Welsh Assembly under Carwyn Jones, is the largest opposition party in the Scottish Parliament and has 20 MEPs in the European Parliament, sitting in the Socialists and Democrats Group. The Labour Party is a full member of the Party of European Socialists and Progressive Alliance, and continues to hold observer status in the Socialist International. Since 12 September 2015, the Leader of the Labour Party has been Jeremy Corbyn MP.


  • History 1
    • Founding 1.1
    • Labour Representation Committee 1.2
    • Early years 1.3
    • First Labour government, 1924 1.4
    • Second Labour government, 1929–1931 1.5
    • 1930s split 1.6
    • Wartime coalition, 1940–1945 1.7
    • Attlee government, 1945–1951 1.8
    • Post-war consensus, 1951–1964 1.9
    • Wilson government, 1964–1970 1.10
    • Spell in opposition, 1970–1974 1.11
    • Majority to minority, 1974–1979 1.12
    • "The Wilderness Years", 1979–1997 1.13
    • "New Labour" government, 1997–2010 1.14
    • Opposition, 2010–present 1.15
  • Ideology 2
    • Symbols 2.1
  • Constitution and structure 3
    • Membership 3.1
    • Trade union link 3.2
    • European and international affiliation 3.3
  • Electoral performance 4
  • Leadership 5
    • Leaders of the Labour Party since 1906 5.1
    • Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party since 1922 5.2
    • Leaders in the House of Lords since 1924 5.3
    • Labour Prime Ministers 5.4
    • Current elected MPs 5.5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10



The Labour Party's origins lie in the late 19th century, around which time it became apparent that there was a need for a new political party to represent the interests and needs of the urban proletariat, a demographic which had increased in number and had recently been given Southwark by-election of 1870. In addition, several small socialist groups had formed around this time, with the intention of linking the movement to political policies. Among these were the Independent Labour Party, the intellectual and largely middle-class Fabian Society, the Marxist Social Democratic Federation[12] and the Scottish Labour Party.

In the [13]

Labour Representation Committee

Keir Hardie, one of the Labour Party's founders and its first leader

In 1899, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and labour groups, as well as the Labour Party itself, also proved to be an important turning point in the progression of LGBT issues in the UK.[35] At the 1985 Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, a resolution committing the party to support LGBT equality rights passed for the first time due to block voting support from the National Union of Mineworkers.[35]

Labour improved its performance in 1987, gaining 20 seats and so reducing the Conservative majority from 143 to 102. They were now firmly re-established as the second political party in Britain as the Alliance had once again failed to make a breakthrough with seats. A merger of the SDP and Liberals formed the Liberal Democrats. Following the 1987 election, the National Executive Committee resumed disciplinary action against members of Militant, who remained in the party, leading to further expulsions of their activists and the two MPs who supported the group.

In November 1990 following a contested leadership election, Margaret Thatcher resigned as leader of the Conservative Party and was succeeded as leader and Prime Minister by John Major. Most opinion polls had shown Labour comfortably ahead of the Tories for more than a year before Mrs Thatcher's resignation, with the fall in Tory support blamed largely on her introduction of the unpopular poll tax, combined with the fact that the economy was sliding into recession at the time.

Labour Party logo under Kinnock, Smith and Blair's leaderships

The change of leader in the Tory government saw a turnaround in support for the Tories, who regularly topped the opinion polls throughout 1991 although Labour regained the lead more than once.

The "yo yo" in the opinion polls continued into 1992, though after November 1990 any Labour lead in the polls was rarely sufficient for a majority. Major resisted Kinnock's calls for a general election throughout 1991. Kinnock campaigned on the theme "It's Time for a Change", urging voters to elect a new government after more than a decade of unbroken Conservative rule. However, the Conservatives themselves had undergone a dramatic change in the change of leader from Thatcher to Major, at least in terms of style if not substance. From the outset, it was clearly a well-received change, as Labour's 14-point lead in the November 1990 "Poll of Polls" was replaced by an 8% Tory lead a month later.

The 1992 general election was widely tipped to result in a hung parliament or a narrow Labour majority, but in the event the Conservatives were returned to power, though with a much reduced majority of 21.[36] Despite the increased number of seats and votes, it was still an incredibly disappointing result for supporters of the Labour party. For the first time in over 30 years there was serious doubt among the public and the media as to whether Labour could ever return to government.

Kinnock then resigned as leader and was replaced by John Smith. Smith's leadership once again saw the re-emergence of tension between those on the party's left and those identified as "modernisers", both of whom advocated radical revisions of the party's stance albeit in different ways. At the 1993 conference, Smith successfully changed the party rules and lessened the influence of the trade unions on the selection of candidates to stand for Parliament by introducing a one member, one vote system called "OMOV" — but only barely, after a barnstorming speech by John Prescott which required Smith to compromise on other individual negotiations.

The Black Wednesday economic disaster in September 1992 left the Conservative government's reputation for monetary excellence in tatters, and by the end of that year Labour had a comfortable lead over the Tories in the opinion polls. Although the recession was declared over in April 1993 and a period of strong and sustained economic growth followed, coupled with a relatively swift fall in unemployment, the Labour lead in the opinion polls remained strong. However, Smith died from a heart attack in May 1994.[37]

"New Labour" government, 1997–2010

Tony Blair: Labour Prime Minister, 1997–2007
Gordon Brown: Labour Prime Minister, 2007–2010

Tony Blair continued to move the party further to the centre, abandoning the largely symbolic Clause Four at the 1995 mini-conference in a strategy to increase the party's appeal to "middle England". More than a simple re-branding, however, the project would draw upon the Third Way strategy, informed by the thoughts of the British sociologist Anthony Giddens.

"New Labour" was first termed as an alternative branding for the Labour Party, dating from a conference slogan first used by the Labour Party in 1994, which was later seen in a draft manifesto published by the party in 1996, called New Labour, New Life For Britain. It was a continuation of the trend that had begun under the leadership of Neil Kinnock. "New Labour" as a name has no official status, but remains in common use to distinguish modernisers from those holding to more traditional positions, normally referred to as "Old Labour".

New Labour is a party of ideas and ideals but not of outdated ideology. What counts is what works. The objectives are radical. The means will be modern.[38]

The Labour Party won the 1997 general election with a landslide majority of 179; it was the largest Labour majority ever, and the largest swing to a political party achieved since [43]

Among the early acts of Blair's government were the establishment of the national minimum wage, the devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, major changes to the regulation of the banking system, and the re-creation of a city-wide government body for London, the Greater London Authority, with its own elected-Mayor.

Combined with a Conservative opposition that had yet to organise effectively under William Hague, and the continuing popularity of Blair, Labour went on to win the 2001 election with a similar majority, dubbed the "quiet landslide" by the media.[44] In 2003 Labour introduced tax credits, government top-ups to the pay of low-wage workers.

A perceived turning point was when Blair controversially allied himself with US President Iraq War, which caused him to lose much of his political support.[45] The UN Secretary-General, among many, considered the war illegal.[46] The Iraq War was deeply unpopular in most western countries, with Western governments divided in their support[47] and under pressure from worldwide popular protests. The decisions that led up to the Iraq war and its subsequent conduct are currently the subject of Sir John Chilcot's Iraq Inquiry.

In the 2005 general election, Labour was re-elected for a third term, but with a reduced majority of 66.

Blair announced in September 2006 that he would quit as leader within the year, though he had been under pressure to quit earlier than May 2007 in order to get a new leader in place before the May elections which were expected to be disastrous for Labour.[48] In the event, the party did lose power in Scotland to a minority Scottish National Party government at the 2007 elections and, shortly after this, Blair resigned as Prime Minister and was replaced by his Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Although the party experienced a brief rise in the polls after this, its popularity soon slumped to its lowest level since the days of Michael Foot. During May 2008, Labour suffered heavy defeats in the London mayoral election, local elections and the loss in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, culminating in the party registering its worst ever opinion poll result since records began in 1943, of 23%, with many citing Brown's leadership as a key factor.[49] Membership of the party also reached a low ebb, falling to 156,205 by the end of 2009: over 40 per cent of the 405,000 peak reached in 1997 and thought to be the lowest total since the party was founded.[50][51][52]

Finance proved a major problem for the Labour Party during this period; a "[53]

In the 2010 general election on 6 May that year, Labour with 29.0% of the vote won the second largest number of seats (258). The Conservatives with 36.5% of the vote won the largest number of seats (307), but no party had an overall majority, meaning that Labour could still remain in power if they managed to form a coalition with at least one smaller party.[54] However, the Labour Party would have had to form a coalition with more than one other smaller party to gain an overall majority; anything less would result in a minority government.[55] On 10 May 2010, after talks to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats broke down, Brown announced his intention to stand down as Leader before the Labour Party Conference but a day later resigned as both Prime Minister and party leader.[56]

Opposition, 2010–present

Harriet Harman became the Leader of the Opposition and acting Leader of the Labour Party following the resignation of Gordon Brown on 11 May 2010, pending a leadership election[57] subsequently won by Ed Miliband. Miliband emphasised "responsible capitalism" and greater state intervention to change the balance of the UK economy away from financial services.[58] Tackling vested interests[59] and opening up closed circles in British society[60] were also themes he returned to a number of times. Miliband also argued for greater regulation on banks and the energy companies.[61]

The party's performance held up in local elections in 2012 with Labour consolidating its position in the North and Midlands, while also regaining some ground in Southern England. The party took overall control of several high profile English councils including Birmingham, Southampton, Plymouth, Norwich and Carlisle.[62] In Wales the party enjoyed good successes, regaining control of most Welsh Councils lost in 2008 including the cities of Cardiff and Swansea.[63] In Scotland, Labour's held overall control of Glasgow City Council despite some predictions to the contrary,[64] and also enjoyed a +3.26 swing across Scotland. In London, results were mixed for the party; Ken Livingstone lost the election for Mayor of London, but the party gained its highest ever representation in the Greater London Authority in the concurrent assembly election.[62]

On 1 March 2014, at a special conference the party reformed internal Labour election procedures, including replacing the electoral college system for selecting new leaders with a "one member, one vote" system following the recommendation of a review by former general-secretary Ray Collins. Mass membership would be encouraged by allowing "registered supporters" to join at a low cost, as well as full membership. Members from the trade unions would also have to explicitly "opt in" rather than "opt out" of paying a political levy to Labour.[65][66][67]

The party edged out the Conservatives in the May 2014 European parliamentary elections winning 20 seats versus the Conservatives 19. However the UK Independence Party won 24 seats.[68] Labour also won a majority of seats in the local council elections of 2014, gaining 324 more councillors than they had before the election.[69]

In September 2014, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls outlined his plans to cut the government's current account deficit, and the party carried these plans into the 2015 general election. Whereas Conservatives campaigned for a surplus on all government spending, including investment, by 2018/19, Labour stated it would balance the budget, excluding investment, by 2020.[70]

The 2015 General Election resulted in a net loss of 48 seats throughout Great Britain, with Labour representation falling to 232 seats in the House of Commons.[71] 40 of those losses were in Scotland where the party was reduced to a single seat in the face of massive swings to the Scottish National Party.[72] The scale of the decline in Labour's support was much greater than what had occurred at the 2011 elections for the Scottish parliament. Though Labour gained more than 20 seats in England and Wales, mostly from the Liberal Democrats but also from the Conservative Party,[73][74] it lost more seats to Conservative challengers, including that of Ed Balls, for net losses overall.[75]

The day after the 7 May 2015 election, Miliband resigned as party leader. Harriet Harman again took charge as interim leader.[75] On 12 September 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was announced as the new party leader as result of the 2015 Labour leadership election.[75]


Clause IV (1995)

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

Party Constitution, Labour Party Rule Book[76]

The Labour Party is considered to be left of centre.[6][7][8][9][10][77] It was initially formed as a means for the trade union movement to establish political representation for itself at Westminster. It only gained a 'socialist' commitment with the original party constitution of 1918. That 'socialist' element, the original Clause IV, was seen by its strongest advocates as a straightforward commitment to the "common ownership", or nationalisation, of the "means of production, distribution and exchange". Although about a third of British industry was taken into public ownership after the Second World War, and remained so until the 1980s, the right of the party were questioning the validity of expanding on this objective by the late 1950s. Influenced by Anthony Crosland's book, The Future of Socialism (1956), the circle around party leader Hugh Gaitskell felt that the commitment was no longer necessary. While an attempt to remove Clause IV from the party constitution in 1959 failed, Tony Blair, and the 'modernisers' saw the issue as putting off potential voters,[78] and were successful thirty-five years later,[79] with only limited opposition from senior figures in the party.[80]

Party electoral manifestos have not contained the term socialism since 1992. The new version of Clause IV, though affirming a commitment to democratic socialism,[76][81] no longer mentions the public ownership of industry: in its place it advocates "the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition" with "high quality public services" not necessarily themselves in the public sector.[82]

Historically, influenced by Keynesian economics, the party favoured government intervention in the economy, and the redistribution of wealth. Taxation was seen as a means to achieve a "major redistribution of wealth and income" in the October 1974 election manifesto.[83] The party also desired increased rights for workers, and a welfare state including publicly funded healthcare.

From the late-1980s onwards, the party adopted free market policies,[84] leading many observers to describe the Labour Party as social democratic[85][86][87][88] or the Third Way, rather than democratic socialist.[86][87][89][90][91] Other commentators go further and argue that traditional social democratic parties across Europe, including the British Labour Party, have been so deeply transformed in recent years that it is no longer possible to describe them ideologically as 'social democratic',[92] and claim that this ideological shift has put new strains on the party's traditional relationship with the trade unions.[93][94][95][96]

Historically within the party, differentiation was made between the "[100]


The red flag, originally the official flag and symbol of the Labour party

Labour has long been identified with red, a political colour traditionally affiliated with socialism and the labour movement. The party conference in 1931 passed a motion "That this conference adopts Party Colours, which should be uniform throughout the country, colours to be red and gold".[101] Since the party's inception, the red flag has been Labour's official symbol; the flag has been associated with socialism and revolution ever since the 1789 French Revolution and the revolutions of 1848. The red rose, a symbol of social democracy, was adopted as the party symbol in 1986 as part of a rebranding exercise and is now incorporated into the party logo.[102]

The red flag became an inspiration which resulted in the composition of "The Red Flag", the official party anthem since its inception, being sung at the end of party conferences and on various occasions such as in parliament on February 2006 to mark the centenary of the Labour Party’s founding. During New Labour attempts were made to play down the role of the song,[103][104] however it still remains to be used.[105]

Constitution and structure

The Labour Party is a membership organisation consisting of Constituency Labour Parties, affiliated trade unions, socialist societies and the Co-operative Party, with which it has an electoral agreement. Members who are elected to parliamentary positions take part in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP).

The party's decision-making bodies on a national level formally include the National Executive Committee (NEC), Labour Party Conference and National Policy Forum (NPF)—although in practice the Parliamentary leadership has the final say on policy. The 2008 Labour Party Conference was the first at which affiliated trade unions and Constituency Labour Parties did not have the right to submit motions on contemporary issues that would previously have been debated.[106] Labour Party conferences now include more "keynote" addresses, guest speakers and question-and-answer sessions, while specific discussion of policy now takes place in the National Policy Forum.

The Labour Party is an

  • Labour History Group website
  • Guardian Unlimited Politics—Special Report: Labour Party
  • Tony Benn Speech Archive, former Labour Party Chairman, 1971–72
  • Labour History Archive and Study Centre holds archives of the National Labour Party
  • "Déroute historique des travaillistes". L'Humanité. 5 May 2008. 
  • Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform website
  • Labour
  • Scottish Labour
  • Welsh Labour
  • London Assembly Labour
  • Young Labour – Party youth wing
  • Labour Party in Northern Ireland
  • Labour Party in Westminster
Official party sites

External links

  • Davies, A.J, To Build A New Jerusalem (1996) ISBN
  • Better or Worse?: Has Labour Delivered? By Polly Toynbee and David Walker
  • Did Things Get Better? An Audit of Labour's Successes and Failures
  • Stephen Driver and Luke Martell, New Labour: Politics after Thatcherism, Polity Press, 1998 and 2006
  • Foote, Geoffrey. The Labour Party's Political Thought: A History, Macmillan, 1997 ed.
  • Francis, Martin. Ideas and Policies under Labour 1945–51, Manchester University Press, 1997. ISBN
  • Roy Hattersley, New Statesman, 10 May 2004, 'We should have made it clear that we too were modernisers'
  • Howell, David.British Social Democracy, Croom Helm, 1976
  • Howell, David. MacDonald's Party, Oxford University Press, 2002
  • Matthew, H. C. G., R. I. McKibbin, J. A. Kay. "The Franchise Factor in the Rise of the Labour Party," English Historical review Vol. 91, No. 361 (Oct. 1976), pp. 723–752 in JSTOR
  • Miliband, Ralph. Parliamentary Socialism, Merlin, 1960, 1972, ISBN
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. Labour in Power, 1945–51, OUP, 1984
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. Labour People: Leaders and Lieutenants, Hardie to Kinnock OUP, 1992, ISBN
  • Pelling, Henry, and Alastair J. Reid, A Short History of the Labour Party, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005 ed. ISBN
  • Ben Pimlott, Labour and the Left in the 1930s, Cambridge University Press, 1977.
  • Plant, Raymond, Matt Beech and Kevin Hickson (2004), The Struggle for Labour's Soul: understanding Labour's political thought since 1945, Routledge, ISBN
  • Clive Ponting, Breach of Promise, 1964–70, Penguin, 1990, ISBN
  • Pugh, Martin. Speak for Britain: A new history of the Labour Party (2011) excerpt and text search
  • Rosen, Greg. Dictionary of Labour Biography. Politicos Publishing, 2001, ISBN
  • Rosen, Greg. Old Labour to New, Politicos Publishing, 2005, ISBN
  • Shaw, Eric. The Labour Party since 1979: Crisis and Transformation, Routledge, 1994
  • Thorpe, Andrew. A History of the British Labour Party, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, ISBN
  • Whitehead, Phillip. The Writing on the Wall, Michael Joseph, 1985
  • Wintour, Patrick, and Colin Hughes, Labour Rebuilt, Fourth Estate, 1990
  • John Pilger, Freedom Next Time, Bantam Press, 2006, ISBN
  • Scholes-Fogg, Tom. What next for Labour?, Queensferry Publishing, 2011, ISBN 1-908570-00-8

Further reading

  • Kelliher, Diarmaid (2014). "Solidarity and Sexuality: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners 1984–5".  


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  126. ^ Adetunji, Jo; Tran, Mark (7 May 2010). "General election 2010: first female Muslim MPs elected".  
  1. ^ In addition, the party has 147,134 affiliated supporters (members of trade unions and socialist societies who opted to affiliate) and 110,827 registered supporters, making a total of about 630,000 members and supporters.[4][5]


See also

Member of Parliament Constituency First elected Notes
Diane Abbott Hackney North and Stoke Newington 1987
Debbie Abrahams Oldham East and Saddleworth 2011
Heidi Alexander Lewisham East 2010
Rushanara Ali Bethnal Green and Bow 2010 First person of Bangladeshi origin to be elected to the House of Commons,[126] and one of first three Muslim women to be elected as an Member of Parliament.[127]
Graham Allen Nottingham North 1987
David Anderson Blaydon 2005
Jon Ashworth Leicester South 2011
Ian Austin Dudley North 2005
Adrian Bailey West Bromwich West 2000
Kevin Barron Rother Valley 1983
Margaret Beckett Derby South 1974 Member for Lincoln 1974–79, Derby South 1983–
Hilary Benn Leeds Central 1999
Luciana Berger Liverpool Wavertree 2010
Clive Betts Sheffield South East 1992 Member for Sheffield Attercliffe 1992–2010, Sheffield South East 2010–
Roberta Blackman-Woods City of Durham 2005
Tom Blenkinsop Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 2010
Paul Blomfield Sheffield Central 2010
Ben Bradshaw Exeter 1997
Kevin Brennan Cardiff West 2001
Lyn Brown West Ham 2005
Nick Brown Newcastle upon Tyne East 1983 Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East 1983–97, Newcastle upon Tyne East and Wallsend 1997–2010, Newcastle upon Tyne East 2010–
Chris Bryant Rhondda 2001
Karen Buck Westminster North 1997 Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington North 1997–2010, Westminster North 2010–
Richard Burden Birmingham Northfield 1992
Richard Burgon Leeds East 2015
Andy Burnham Leigh 2001
Dawn Butler Brent Central 2015
Liam Byrne Birmingham Hodge Hill 2004
Ruth Cadbury Brentford & Isleworth 2015
Alan Campbell Tynemouth 1997
Ronnie Campbell Blyth Valley 1987
Sarah Champion Rotherham 2012
Jenny Chapman Darlington 2010
Ann Clwyd Cynon Valley 1984
Vernon Coaker Gedling 1997
Ann Coffey Stockport 1987
Julie Cooper Burnley 2015
Rosie Cooper West Lancashire 2005
Yvette Cooper Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford 1997 Member for Pontefract and Castleford 1997–2010, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford 2010–
Jeremy Corbyn Islington North 1983
Jo Cox Batley and Spen 2015
Neil Coyle Bermondsey and Old Southwark 2015
David Crausby Bolton North East 1997
Mary Creagh Wakefield 2005
Stella Creasy Walthamstow 2010
Jon Cruddas Dagenham and Rainham 2001 Member for Dagenham 2001–2010, Dagenham and Rainham 2010–
John Cryer Leyton and Wanstead 1997 Member for Hornchurch 1997–2005, Leyton and Wanstead 2010–
Judith Cummins Bradford South 2015
Alex Cunningham Stockton North 2010
Jim Cunningham Coventry South 1992 Member for Coventry South East 1992–97, Coventry South 1997–
Nic Dakin Scunthorpe 2010
Simon Danczuk Rochdale 2010
Wayne David Caerphilly 2001
Geraint Davies Swansea West 1997 Member for Croydon Central 1997–2005, Swansea West 2010–
Thangam Debbonaire Bristol West 2015
Gloria De Piero Ashfield 2010
Stephen Doughty Cardiff South and Penarth 2012
Jim Dowd Lewisham West and Penge 1992 Member for Lewisham West 1992–2010, Lewisham West and Penge 2010–
Peter Dowd Bootle 2015
Jack Dromey Birmingham Erdington 2010
Michael Dugher Barnsley East 2010
Angela Eagle Wallasey 1992
Maria Eagle Garston and Halewood 1997 Member for Liverpool Garston 1997–2010, Garston and Halewood 2010–
Clive Efford Eltham 1997
Julie Elliott Sunderland Central 2010
Louise Ellman Liverpool Riverside 1997
Natascha Engel North East Derbyshire 2005
Bill Esterson Sefton Central 2010
Chris Evans Islwyn 2010
Paul Farrelly Newcastle-under-Lyme 2001
Frank Field Birkenhead 1979
Jim Fitzpatrick Poplar and Limehouse 1997 Member for Poplar and Canning Town 1997–2010, Poplar and Limehouse 2010–
Robert Flello Stoke-on-Trent South 2005
Colleen Fletcher Coventry North East 2015
Caroline Flint Don Valley 1997
Paul Flynn Newport West 1987
Yvonne Fovargue Makerfield 2010
Vicky Foxcroft Lewisham Deptford 2015
Mike Gapes Ilford South 1992
Barry Gardiner Brent North 1997
Pat Glass North West Durham 2010
Mary Glindon North Tyneside 2010
Roger Godsiff Birmingham Hall Green 1992 Member for Birmingham Small Heath 1992–97, Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath 1997–2010, Birmingham Hall Green 2010–
Helen Goodman Bishop Auckland 2005
Kate Green Stretford and Urmston 2010
Margaret Greenwood Wirral West 2015
Lilian Greenwood Nottingham South 2010
Nia Griffith Llanelli 2005
Andrew Gwynne Denton and Reddish 2005
Louise Haigh Sheffield Heeley 2015
Fabian Hamilton Leeds North East 1997
David Hanson Delyn 1992
Harriet Harman Camberwell and Peckham 1982 Member for Peckham 1982–97, Camberwell and Peckham 1997–
Harry Harpham Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough 2015
Carolyn Harris Swansea East 2015
Helen Hayes Dulwich and West Norwood 2015
Sue Hayman Workington 2015
John Healey Wentworth and Dearne 1997 Member for Wentworth 1997–2010, Wentworth and Dearne 2010–
Mark Hendrick Preston 2000
Stephen Hepburn Jarrow 1997
Meg Hillier Hackney South and Shoreditch 2005
Margaret Hodge Barking 1994
Sharon Hodgson Washington and Sunderland West 2005 Member for Gateshead East and Washington West 2005–2010, Washington and Sunderland West 2010–
Kate Hoey Vauxhall 1989
Kate Hollern Blackburn 2015
Kelvin Hopkins Luton North 1997
George Howarth Knowsley 1986 Member for Knowsley North 1986–97, Knowsley North and Sefton East 1997–2010, Knowsley 2010–
Lindsay Hoyle Chorley 1997
Tristram Hunt Stoke-on-Trent Central 2010
Rupa Huq Ealing Central & Acton 2015
Imran Hussain Bradford East 2015
Huw Irranca-Davies Ogmore 2002
Dan Jarvis Barnsley Central 2011
Alan Johnson Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 1997
Diana Johnson Kingston upon Hull North 2005 Member for Hull North 2005–2010, Kingston upon Hull North 2010–
Gerald Jones Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney 2015
Graham Jones Hyndburn 2010
Helen Jones Warrington North 1997
Kevan Jones North Durham 2001
Susan Elan Jones Clwyd South 2010
Mike Kane Wythenshawe and Sale East 2014
Gerald Kaufman Manchester Gorton 1970 Member for Ardwick 1970–83, Manchester Gorton 1983–
Barbara Keeley Worsley and Eccles South 2005 Member for Worsley 2005–2010, Worsley and Eccles South 2010–
Liz Kendall Leicester West 2010
Sadiq Khan Tooting 2005
Stephen Kinnock Aberavon 2015
Peter Kyle Hove 2015
David Lammy Tottenham 2000
Ian Lavery Wansbeck 2010
Christopher Leslie Nottingham East 1997 Member for Shipley 1997–2005, Nottingham East 2010–
Emma Lewell-Buck South Shields 2013
Clive Lewis Norwich South 2015
Ivan Lewis Bury South 1997
Rebecca Long-Bailey Salford and Eccles 2015
Ian Lucas Wrexham 2001
Holly Lynch Halifax 2015
Fiona Mactaggart Slough 1997
Justin Madders Ellesmere Port and Neston 2015
Khalid Mahmood Birmingham Perry Barr 2001
Shabana Mahmood Birmingham Ladywood 2010
Seema Malhotra Feltham and Heston 2011
John Mann Bassetlaw 2001
Rob Marris Wolverhampton South West 2001 Member 2001-2010, 2015-
Gordon Marsden Blackpool South 1997
Rachael Maskell York Central 2015
Chris Matheson City of Chester 2015
Steve McCabe Birmingham Selly Oak 2010 Member for Birmingham Hall Green 1997–2010, Birmingham Selly Oak 2010–
Kerry McCarthy Bristol East 2005
Siobhain McDonagh Mitcham and Morden 1997
Andy McDonald Middlesbrough 2012
John McDonnell Hayes and Harlington 1997
Pat McFadden Wolverhampton South East 2005
Conor McGinn St Helens North 2015
Alison McGovern Wirral South 2010
Liz McInnes Heywood and Middleton 2014
Catherine McKinnell Newcastle upon Tyne North 2010
Michael Meacher Oldham West and Royton 1970 Member for Oldham West 1970–97, Oldham West and Royton 1997–
Alan Meale Mansfield 1987
Ian Mearns Gateshead 2010
Ed Miliband Doncaster North 2005
Madeleine Moon Bridgend 2005
Jessica Morden Newport East 2005
Grahame Morris Easington 2010
Ian Murray Edinburgh South 2010
Lisa Nandy Wigan 2010
Melanie Onn Great Grimsby 2015
Chi Onwurah Newcastle upon Tyne Central 2010
Kate Osamor Edmonton 2015
Albert Owen Ynys Mon 2001
Teresa Pearce Erith and Thamesmead 2010
Matthew Pennycook Greewich and Woolwich 2015
Toby Perkins Chesterfield 2010
Jess Phillips Birmingham Yardley 2015
Bridget Phillipson Houghton and Sunderland South 2010
Stephen Pound Ealing North 1997
Lucy Powell Manchester Central 2012
Yasmin Qureshi Bolton South East 2010
Angela Rayner Ashton-under-Lyne 2015
Jamie Reed Copeland 2005
Steve Reed Croydon North 2012
Christina Rees Neath 2015
Rachel Reeves Leeds West 2010
Emma Reynolds Wolverhampton North East 2010
Jonathan Reynolds Stalybridge and Hyde 2010
Marie Rimmer St Helens South and Whiston 2015
Geoffrey Robinson Coventry North West 1976
Steve Rotherham Liverpool Walton 2010
Joan Ryan Enfield North 2015
Naseem Shah Bradford West 2015
Virendra Sharma Ealing Southall 2007
Barry Sheerman Huddersfield 1979 Member for Huddersfield East 1979–83, Huddersfield 1983–
Paula Sherriff Dewsbury 2015
Gavin Shuker Luton South 2010
Tulip Siddiq Hampstead and Kilburn 2015
Dennis Skinner Bolsover 1970
Andy Slaughter Hammersmith 2005 Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush 2005–2010, Hammersmith 2010–
Ruth Smeeth Stoke-on-Trent North 2015
Andrew Smith Oxford East 1987
Angela Smith Penistone and Stocksbridge 2005 Member for Sheffield Hillsborough 2005–2010, Penistone and Stocksbridge 2010–
Cat Smith Lancaster & Fleetwood 2015
Jeff Smith Manchester Withington 2015
Nick Smith Blaenau Gwent 2010
Owen Smith Pontypridd 2010
Karin Smyth Bristol South 2015
John Spellar Warley 1982 Member for Birmingham Northfield 1982–83, Warley West 1992–97, Warley 1997–
Sir Keir Starmer Holborn and St Pancras 2015
Jo Stevens Cardiff Central 2015
Wes Streeting Ilford North 2015
Graham Stringer Blackley and Broughton 1997 Member for Manchester Blackley, Blackley and Broughton 2010–
Gisela Stuart Birmingham Edgbaston 1997
Mark Tami Alyn and Deeside 2001
Gareth Thomas Harrow West 1997
Nick Thomas-Symonds Torfaen 2015
Emily Thornberry Islington South and Finsbury 2005
Stephen Timms East Ham 1994 Member for Newham North East 1994–97, East Ham 1997–
Jon Trickett Hemsworth 1996
Anna Turley Redcar 2015
Karl Turner Kingston upon Hull East 2010
Derek Twigg Halton 1997
Stephen Twigg Liverpool West Derby 1997 Member for Enfield Southgate 1997–2005, Liverpool West Derby 2010–
Chuka Umunna Streatham 2010
Keith Vaz Leicester East 1987
Valerie Vaz Walsall South 2010
Tom Watson West Bromwich East 2001
Catherine West Hornsey & Wood Green 2015
Alan Whitehead Southampton Test 1997
Phil Wilson Sedgefield 2007
David Winnick Walsall North 1966 Member for Croydon South 1966–70, Walsall North 1979–
Rosie Winterton Doncaster Central 1997
John Woodcock Barrow and Furness 2010
Iain Wright Hartlepool 2004
Daniel Zeichner Cambridge 2015

232 Labour MPs were elected at the 2015 election. The MPs as of June 2015 are:

Current elected MPs

Name Portrait Country of birth Periods in office
Ramsay MacDonald Scotland 1924; 19291931
(First and Second MacDonald Ministry)
Clement Attlee England 19451950; 19501951
(Attlee Ministry)
Harold Wilson England 19641966; 19661970; 1974; 19741976
(First and Second Wilson Ministry)
James Callaghan England 19761979
(Callaghan Ministry)
Tony Blair Scotland 19972001; 20012005; 20052007
(Blair Ministry)
Gordon Brown Scotland 20072010
(Brown Ministry)

Labour Prime Ministers

Leaders in the House of Lords since 1924

Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party since 1922

Leaders of the Labour Party since 1906


#Franchise extended to all 18 to 20 year-olds under the Representation of the People Act 1969

The first election under universal suffrage in which all women aged over 21 could vote

The first election held under the Representation of the People Act 1918 in which all men over 21, and most women over the age of 30 could vote, and therefore a much larger electorate

Election Number of votes for Labour Share of votes Seats Outcome of election
1900 62,698 1.8%
2 / 670
Conservative victory
1906 321,663 5.7%
29 / 670
Liberal victory
1910 (Jan.) 505,657 7.6%
40 / 670
Hung parliament (Lib. minority government)
1910 (Dec.) 371,802 7.1%
42 / 670
Hung parliament (Lib. minority government)
1918 2,245,777 21.5%
57 / 707
Coalition victory
1922 4,076,665 29.7%
142 / 615
Conservative victory
1923 4,267,831 30.7%
191 / 625
Hung parliament (Lab. minority government)
1924 5,281,626 33.3%
151 / 615
Conservative victory
1929 8,048,968 37.1%
287 / 615
Hung parliament (Lab. minority government)
1931 6,339,306 30.8%
52 / 615
National Government victory
1935 7,984,988 38.0%
154 / 615
National Government victory
1945 11,967,746 49.7%
393 / 640
Labour victory
1950 13,266,176 46.1%
315 / 625
Labour victory
1951 13,948,883 48.8%
295 / 625
Conservative victory
1955 12,405,254 46.4%
277 / 630
Conservative victory
1959 12,216,172 43.8%
258 / 630
Conservative victory
1964 12,205,808 44.1%
317 / 630
Labour victory
1966 13,096,629 48.0%
364 / 630
Labour victory
1970# 12,208,758 43.1%
288 / 630
Conservative victory
1974 (Feb.) 11,645,616 37.2%
301 / 635
Hung parliament (Lab. minority government)
1974 (Oct.) 11,457,079 39.2%
319 / 635
Labour victory
1979 11,532,218 36.9%
269 / 635
Conservative victory
1983 8,456,934 27.6%
209 / 650
Conservative victory
1987 10,029,807 30.8%
229 / 650
Conservative victory
1992 11,560,484 34.4%
271 / 651
Conservative victory
1997 13,518,167 43.2%
419 / 659
Labour victory
2001 10,724,953 40.7%
413 / 659
Labour victory
2005 9,562,122 35.3%
356 / 646
Labour victory
2010 8,601,441 29.1%
258 / 650
Hung parliament (Con./Lib Dem coalition)
2015 9,339,818 30.5%
232 / 650
Conservative victory

Electoral performance

The party was a member of the [123][124]

The Labour Party is a founder member of the Party of European Socialists (PES). The European Parliamentary Labour Party's 20 MEPs are part of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second largest group in the European Parliament. The Labour Party is represented by Emma Reynolds MP in the PES Presidency.[118]

European and international affiliation

As it was founded by the unions to represent the interests of working-class people, Labour's link with the unions has always been a defining characteristic of the party. In recent years this link has come under increasing strain, with the RMT being expelled from the party in 2004 for allowing its branches in Scotland to affiliate to the left-wing Scottish Socialist Party.[113] Other unions have also faced calls from members to reduce financial support for the Party[114] and seek more effective political representation for their views on privatisation, public spending cuts and the anti-trade union laws.[115] Unison and GMB have both threatened to withdraw funding from constituency MPs and Dave Prentis of UNISON has warned that the union will write "no more blank cheques" and is dissatisfied with "feeding the hand that bites us".[116] Union funding was redesigned in 2013 after the Falkirk candidate-selection controversy.[117]


Unite the Union showing their support for the Labour party on their Leeds offices during the 2015 general election.

Trade union link

For many years Labour held to a policy of not allowing residents of [109] instead supporting the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) which informally takes the Labour whip in the House of Commons.[110] The 2003 Labour Party Conference accepted legal advice that the party could not continue to prohibit residents of the province joining,[111] and whilst the National Executive has established a regional constituency party it has not yet agreed to contest elections there.

In August 2015, prior to the 2015 leadership election, the Labour Party reported 292,505 full members, 147,134 affiliated supporters (mostly from affiliated trade unions), and 110,827 registered supporters; a total of about 550,000 members and supporters.[4][5]

A graph showing Labour Party individual membership, excluding affiliated members and supporters, 1928 to August 2015


[108] represents the party on behalf of the other members of the Labour Party in any legal matters or actions.General Secretary The [107] The alliances which campaigns such as

Foot resigned and was replaced as leader by Neil Kinnock, with Roy Hattersley as his deputy. The new leadership progressively dropped unpopular policies. The miners strike of 1984–85 over coal mine closures, for which miners' leader Arthur Scargill was blamed, and the Wapping dispute led to clashes with the left of the party, and negative coverage in most of the press. Tabloid vilification of the so-called loony left continued to taint the parliamentary party by association from the activities of 'extra-parliamentary' militants in local government.

Neil Kinnock, leader of the party in opposition, 1983–92.

The Labour Party was defeated heavily in the 1983 general election, winning only 27.6% of the vote, its lowest share since 1918, and receiving only half a million votes more than the SDP-Liberal Alliance who leader Michael Foot condemned for "siphoning" Labour support and enabling the Conservatives to greatly increase their majority of parliamentary seats.[34]

After its defeat in the 1979 election the Labour Party underwent a period of internal rivalry between the left-wing, represented by Tony Benn, and the right-wing represented by Denis Healey. The election of Michael Foot as leader in 1980, and the left policies they opposed, led in 1981 to four former cabinet ministers from the right of the Labour Party (Shirley Williams, William Rodgers, Roy Jenkins and David Owen) forming the Social Democratic Party. Benn was only narrowly defeated by Healey in a subsequent deputy leadership election after the introduction of an electoral college intended to widen the voting franchise to elect the leader and their deputy. By 1982, the National Executive Committee had concluded that the entryist Militant tendency group were in contravention of the party's constitution. The Militant newspaper's five member editorial board were expelled on 22 February 1983.

"The Wilderness Years", 1979–1997

In the 1979 general election Labour was heavily defeated by the Conservatives now led by Margaret Thatcher. The number of people voting Labour hardly changed between February 1974 and 1979 but the Conservative Party achieved big increases in support in the Midlands and South of England, benefiting from both a surge in turnout and votes lost by the ailing Liberals.

Callaghan had been widely expected to call a general election in the autumn of 1978 when most opinion polls showed Labour to have a narrow lead.[17] However he decided to extend his wage restraint policy for another year hoping that the economy would be in a better shape for a 1979 election. But during the winter of 1978–79 there were widespread strikes among lorry drivers, railway workers, car workers and local government and hospital workers in favour of higher pay-rises that caused significant disruption to everyday life. These events came to be dubbed the "Winter of Discontent".

The nationalist parties, in turn, demanded devolution to their respective constituent countries in return for their supporting the government. When referendums for Scottish and Welsh devolution were held in March 1979 Welsh devolution was rejected outright while the Scottish referendum returned a narrow majority in favour without reaching the required threshold of 40% support. When the Labour government duly refused to push ahead with setting up the proposed Scottish Assembly, the SNP withdrew its support for the government: this finally brought the government down as it triggered a vote of confidence in Callaghan's government that was lost by a single vote on 28 March 1979, necessitating a general election.

Fear of advances by the nationalist parties, particularly in Scotland, led to the suppression of a Scottish National Party and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru, prolonging the life of the government.

James Callaghan: Labour Prime Minister, 1976–79

Harold Wilson's personal popularity remained reasonably high but he unexpectedly resigned as Prime Minister in 1976 citing health reasons, and was replaced by James Callaghan. The Wilson and Callaghan governments of the 1970s tried to control inflation (which reached 23.7% in 1975[32]) by a policy of wage restraint. This was fairly successful, reducing inflation to 7.4% by 1978.[17][32] However it led to increasingly strained relations between the government and the trade unions.

For much of its time in office the Labour government struggled with serious economic problems and a precarious majority in the Commons, while the party's internal dissent over Britain's membership of the European Economic Community (EEC), which Britain had entered under Edward Heath in 1972, led in 1975 to a national referendum on the issue in which two thirds of the public supported continued membership.

Majority to minority, 1974–1979

After losing the 1970 general election, Labour returned to opposition, but retained Harold Wilson as Leader. Heath's government soon ran into trouble over Northern Ireland and a dispute with miners in 1973 which led to the "three-day week". The 1970s proved a difficult time to be in government for both the Conservatives and Labour due to the 1973 oil crisis which caused high inflation and a global recession. The Labour Party was returned to power again under Wilson a few weeks after the February 1974 general election, forming a minority government with the support of the Ulster Unionists. The Conservatives were unable to form a government alone as they had fewer seats despite receiving more votes numerically. It was the first general election since 1924 in which both main parties had received less than 40% of the popular vote and the first of six successive general elections in which Labour failed to reach 40% of the popular vote. In a bid to gain a majority, a second election was soon called for October 1974 in which Labour, still with Harold Wilson as leader, won a majority of three, gaining just 18 seats taking its total to 319.

Spell in opposition, 1970–1974

Wilson's government was responsible for a number of sweeping social and educational reforms under the leadership of Home Secretary Roy Jenkins such as the abolishment of the death penalty in 1964, the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality (initially only for men aged 21 or over, and only in England and Wales) in 1967 and the abolition of theatre censorship in 1968. Comprehensive education was expanded and the Open University created. However Wilson's government had inherited a large trade deficit that led to a currency crisis and ultimately a doomed attempt to stave off devaluation of the pound. Labour went on to lose the 1970 general election to the Conservatives under Edward Heath.

Harold Wilson: Labour Prime Minister, 1964–70 and 1974–76

A downturn in the economy and a series of scandals in the early 1960s (the most notorious being the Profumo affair) had engulfed the Conservative government by 1963. The Labour Party returned to government with a 4-seat majority under Wilson in the 1964 general election but increased its majority to 96 in the 1966 general election.

Wilson government, 1964–1970

His replacement, Hugh Gaitskell, associated with the right wing of the party, struggled in dealing with internal party divisions (particularly over Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution, which was viewed as Labour's commitment to nationalisation and Gaitskell wanted scrapped[31]) in the late 1950s and early 1960s and Labour lost the 1959 general election. In 1963, Gaitskell's sudden death from a heart attack made way for Harold Wilson to lead the party.

Following the defeat of 1951 the party spent 13 years in opposition. The party suffered an ideological split, while the postwar economic recovery and the social effects of Attlee's reforms made the public broadly content with the Conservative governments of the time. Attlee remained as leader until his retirement in 1955.

Post-war consensus, 1951–1964

In the 1951 general election, Labour narrowly lost to Churchill's Conservatives, despite receiving the larger share of the popular vote - its highest ever vote numerically. Most of the changes introduced by the 1945–51 Labour government were accepted by the Conservatives and became part of the "post-war consensus" that lasted until the late 1970s. Food and clothing rationing, however, still in place since the war, were swiftly relaxed, then abandoned from about 1953.

Labour went on to win the [30] straining public finances and forcing savings elsewhere. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hugh Gaitskell, introduced charges for NHS dentures and spectacles, causing Bevan, along with Harold Wilson (then President of the Board of Trade), to resign over the dilution of the principle of free treatment on which the NHS had been established.

Clement Attlee's proved one of the most radical British governments of the 20th century, enacting Keynesian economic policies, presiding over a policy of nationalising major industries and utilities including the Bank of England, coal mining, the steel industry, electricity, gas, and inland transport (including railways, road haulage and canals). It developed and implemented the "cradle to grave" welfare state conceived by the economist William Beveridge. To this day, the party considers the 1948 creation of Britain's publicly funded National Health Service (NHS) under health minister Aneurin Bevan its proudest achievement.[29] Attlee's government also began the process of dismantling the British Empire when it granted independence to India and Pakistan in 1947, followed by Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) the following year. At a secret meeting in January 1947, Attlee and six cabinet ministers, including Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, decided to proceed with the development of Britain's nuclear weapons programme,[26] in opposition to the pacifist and anti-nuclear stances of a large element inside the Labour Party.

At the end of the war in Europe, in May 1945, Labour resolved not to repeat the Liberals' error of 1918, and promptly withdrew from government, on trade union insistence, to contest the 1945 general election in opposition to Churchill's Conservatives. Surprising many observers,[27] Labour won a formidable victory, winning just under 50% of the vote with a majority of 159 seats.[28]

Aneurin Bevan speaking in October 1952
Clement Attlee: Labour Prime Minister, 1945–51

Attlee government, 1945–1951

A number of other senior Labour figures also took up senior positions: the trade union leader Ernest Bevin, as Minister of Labour, directed Britain's wartime economy and allocation of manpower, the veteran Labour statesman Herbert Morrison became Home Secretary, Hugh Dalton was Minister of Economic Warfare and later President of the Board of Trade, while A. V. Alexander resumed the role he had held in the previous Labour Government as First Lord of the Admiralty.

The party returned to government in 1940 as part of the wartime coalition. When Neville Chamberlain resigned in the spring of 1940, incoming Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to bring the other main parties into a coalition similar to that of the First World War. Clement Attlee was appointed Lord Privy Seal and a member of the war cabinet, eventually becoming the United Kingdom's first Deputy Prime Minister.

Wartime coalition, 1940–1945

As the threat from Nazi Germany increased, in the late 1930s the Labour Party gradually abandoned its pacifist stance and supported re-armament, largely due to the efforts of Ernest Bevin and Hugh Dalton who by 1937 had also persuaded the party to oppose Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement.[26]

Lansbury resigned as leader in 1935 after public disagreements over foreign policy. He was promptly replaced as leader by his deputy, Clement Attlee, who would lead the party for two decades. The party experienced a revival in the 1935 general election, winning 154 seats and 38% of the popular vote, the highest that Labour had achieved.

The party experienced another split in 1932 when the Independent Labour Party, which for some years had been increasingly at odds with the Labour leadership, opted to disaffiliate from the Labour Party and embarked on a long, drawn-out decline.

George Lansbury, accordingly became party leader.

1930s split

As the economic situation worsened MacDonald agreed to form a "Arthur Henderson) and a few Liberals went into opposition. The ensuing 1931 general election resulted in overwhelming victory for the National Government and disaster for the Labour Party which won only 52 seats, 225 fewer than in 1929.

The government, however, soon found itself engulfed in crisis: the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and eventual Great Depression occurred soon after the government came to power, and the crisis hit Britain hard. By the end of 1930 unemployment had doubled to over two and a half million.[26] The government had no effective answers to the crisis. By the summer of 1931 a dispute over whether or not to reduce public spending had split the government.

In the 1929 general election, the Labour Party became the largest in the House of Commons for the first time, with 287 seats and 37.1% of the popular vote. However MacDonald was still reliant on Liberal support to form a minority government. MacDonald went on to appoint Britain's first female cabinet minister, Margaret Bondfield, who was appointed Minister of Labour.

The original "Liberty" logo, in use until 1983

Second Labour government, 1929–1931

In opposition MacDonald continued his policy of presenting the Labour Party as a moderate force. During the General Strike of 1926 the party opposed the general strike, arguing that the best way to achieve social reforms was through the ballot box. The leaders were also fearful of Communist influence orchestrated from Moscow.[25]

The government collapsed after only nine months when the Liberals voted for a Select Committee inquiry into the Campbell Case, a vote which MacDonald had declared to be a vote of confidence. The ensuing 1924 general election saw the publication, four days before polling day, of the Zinoviev letter, in which Moscow talked about a Communist revolution in Britain. The letter had little impact on the Labour vote—which held up. It was the collapse of the Liberal party that led to the Conservative landslide. The Conservatives were returned to power although Labour increased its vote from 30.7% to a third of the popular vote, most Conservative gains being at the expense of the Liberals. However many Labourites for years blamed their defeat on foul play (the Zinoviev Letter), thereby according to A. J. P. Taylor misunderstanding the political forces at work and delaying needed reforms in the party.[23][24]

While there were no major labour strikes during his term, MacDonald acted swiftly to end those that did erupt. When the Labour Party executive criticized the government, he replied that, "public doles, Poplarism [local defiance of the national government], strikes for increased wages, limitation of output, not only are not Socialism, but may mislead the spirit and policy of the Socialist movement."[22]

Because the government had to rely on the support of the Liberals it was unable to get any socialist legislation passed by the House of Commons. The only significant measure was the Wheatley Housing Act, which began a building programme of 500,000 homes for rental to working-class families. Legislation on education, unemployment and social insurance were also passed.

The 1923 general election was fought on the Conservatives' protectionist proposals but, although they got the most votes and remained the largest party, they lost their majority in parliament, necessitating the formation of a government supporting free trade. Thus, with the acquiescence of Asquith's Liberals, Ramsay MacDonald became the first ever Labour Prime Minister in January 1924, forming the first Labour government, despite Labour only having 191 MPs (less than a third of the House of Commons).

Ramsay MacDonald: First Labour Prime Minister, 1924 and 1929–31

First Labour government, 1924

The Communist Party of Great Britain was refused affiliation to the Labour Party between 1921 and 1923.[21] Meanwhile, the Liberal Party declined rapidly, and the party also suffered a catastrophic split which allowed the Labour Party to gain much of the Liberals' support. With the Liberals thus in disarray, Labour won 142 seats in 1922, making it the second largest political group in the House of Commons and the official opposition to the Conservative government. After the election the now-rehabilitated Ramsay MacDonald was voted the first official leader of the Labour Party.

With the Representation of the People Act 1918, almost all adult men (excepting only peers, criminals and lunatics) and most women over the age of thirty were given the right to vote, almost tripling the British electorate at a stroke, from 7.7 million in 1912 to 21.4 million in 1918. This set the scene for a surge in Labour representation in parliament.[20]

co-operative movement now providing its own resources to the Co-operative Party after the armistice. The Co-operative Party later reached an electoral agreement with the Labour Party.

Despite mainstream Labour Party's support for the coalition the Non-Conscription Fellowship while a Labour Party affiliate, the British Socialist Party, organised a number of unofficial strikes.

During the First World War the Labour Party split between supporters and opponents of the conflict but opposition to the war grew within the party as time went on. Ramsay MacDonald, a notable anti-war campaigner, resigned as leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party and Arthur Henderson became the main figure of authority within the party. He was soon accepted into Prime Minister Asquith's war cabinet, becoming the first Labour Party member to serve in government.

The 1910 election saw 42 Labour MPs elected to the House of Commons, a significant victory since, a year before the election, the House of Lords had passed the Osborne judgment ruling that Trades Unions in the United Kingdom could no longer donate money to fund the election campaigns and wages of Labour MPs. The governing Liberals were unwilling to repeal this judicial decision with primary legislation. The height of Liberal compromise was to introduce a wage for Members of Parliament to remove the need to involve the Trade Unions. By 1913, faced with the opposition of the largest Trades Unions, the Liberal government passed the Trade Disputes Act to allow Trade Unions to fund Labour MPs once more.

Early years

The [19]

In their first meeting after the election the group's Members of Parliament decided to adopt the name "The Labour Party" formally (15 February 1906). Keir Hardie, who had taken a leading role in getting the party established, was elected as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (in effect, the Leader), although only by one vote over David Shackleton after several ballots. In the party's early years the Independent Labour Party (ILP) provided much of its activist base as the party did not have individual membership until 1918 but operated as a conglomerate of affiliated bodies. The Fabian Society provided much of the intellectual stimulus for the party. One of the first acts of the new Liberal Government was to reverse the Taff Vale judgement.[17]

In the 1906 election, the LRC won 29 seats—helped by a secret 1903 pact between Ramsay MacDonald and Liberal Chief Whip Herbert Gladstone that aimed to avoid splitting the opposition vote between Labour and Liberal candidates in the interest of removing the Conservatives from office.[17]

Labour Party Plaque from Caroone House, 14 Farringdon Street

Support for the LRC was boosted by the 1901 Taff Vale Case, a dispute between strikers and a railway company that ended with the union being ordered to pay £23,000 damages for a strike. The judgement effectively made strikes illegal since employers could recoup the cost of lost business from the unions. The apparent acquiescence of the Conservative Government of Arthur Balfour to industrial and business interests (traditionally the allies of the Liberal Party in opposition to the Conservative's landed interests) intensified support for the LRC against a government that appeared to have little concern for the industrial proletariat and its problems.[17]

After a debate, the 129 delegates passed Hardie's motion to establish "a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips, and agree upon their policy, which must embrace a readiness to cooperate with any party which for the time being may be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour."[15] This created an association called the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), meant to coordinate attempts to support MPs sponsored by trade unions and represent the working-class population.[2] It had no single leader, and in the absence of one, the Independent Labour Party nominee Ramsay MacDonald was elected as Secretary. He had the difficult task of keeping the various strands of opinions in the LRC united. The October 1900 "Khaki election" came too soon for the new party to campaign effectively; total expenses for the election only came to £33.[16] Only 15 candidatures were sponsored, but two were successful; Keir Hardie in Merthyr Tydfil and Richard Bell in Derby.[17]


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