In politics you often hear the term “left-wing” and “right-wing” thrown around. For example; left-wing political ideas are usually big on community and believe that government should be involved in society. Taxes are collected (richer people should pay more) and redistributed to support those who cannot look after themselves.
Political parties usually stick to the same side (left or right) but how close they get to the centre ground depends on who leads them. If the party disagrees with where the leader is taking them it can lead to a break up.
The Labour Party is at a crossroads. The original Labour party was born out of trade unions; created to represent the working class and workers in government. It was a “left-wing” party.
Then Tony Blair changed things, re-branding the party as “New Labour” and moving the party more to the centre ground of politics. Having lost two elections in a row the Labour party needs to choose; left or right. Unfortunately they can’t decide, and it may lead to the party breaking up.
When Blair became leader of the party in 1994 he created the concept of “New Labour”. First, he weakened the links to trade unions. He re-wrote Clause 4 of the party’s official constitution which wanted “common ownership of the means of production.” This allowed big business more influence in politics and weakened the power of worker’s unions. New Labour allowed some privatisation of public services, (something the old Labour party was against) believing this would make public services better and was something the public wanted.
Though the term “New Labour” was dropped in 2010, the party has pretty much stuck to this new set of ideals. As this position sat more in the centre ground of politics many have accused New Labour of becoming like the right-wing Conservative Party.
Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn believes the Labour party has been pulled too far to the right-wing of the political spectrum.
He wants to bring it back to the left and to regain some of the party’s traditional values. E.g. fighting for the workers, higher taxes for top earners (think; those earning about £150K). Jezza also wants to renationalise public services like the NHS and national railways.
This week Tony Blair made a speech about the future of the Labour party. Several comments could be interpreted as digs at Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was seen as wildcard when he put himself forwards, but is now reported to be ahead of his rivals.
In fairness to Blair, he didn’t officially endorse any candidate and said the contest shouldn’t be about an individual, but about a political platform which works for the country. What Blair thinks about Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing platform is anyone’s guess, though he gave plenty of clues. “When people say ‘well my heart says I should really be with that politics’…well, get a transplant.” Oh Tony, you joker.
If Corbyn wins the Labour leadership could this lead to a split – with half the political party returning to more left-wing politics, and the rest heading in the opposite direction? The party does have a history of break-ups. In 1981 a group of four Labour MPs decided their political party had become two left-wing and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The whole point of breaking from your party is to get away from the things you didn’t like about them. So many parties try to go it alone. However our electoral system, which is called First Past the Post gives better results for the larger parties. Its design means one party winning overall is more likely.
Take a look at this list of all political parties currently active in the UK, and compare it to this list of the number of parties actually in government. The list of parties in government is a lot shorter. So for a better chance of getting some power, some parties decide to team up.
No point sitting around moping; get back out there and hook up with someone new. After all there is strength in numbers, and you’ll never get anything done in parliament unless you have support.
After the Social Democratic Party was formed by Labour runaways they flirted with the Liberal Party. They eventually hooked up in 1988 to become the party we know today as the Liberal Democrats.
In the 2015 general election the Liberal Democrats lost a tonne of seats. They now only have eight seats left, and their ex-coalition partners the Conservatives have gone solo to take power. Break ups are brutal; one party always ends up better off.
Maybe the Liberal Democrats should team up with another political party – Tinder, anyone?
Ok, not really. That would just be… weird. But apart from jokes about the Lib Dems getting into bed with anyone (sorry Nick Clegg) this also has a historical basis.
In 1973 Scottish National Party (SNP) members broke away to form the Labour Party of Scotland (not to be confused with Scottish Labour). They fought a By-Election in Dundee and lost; only gaining 3% of the vote.
Politically, this could be seen as the equivalent of suddenly being single, going out for the night and ending up being carried home. But they did stop the SNP from winning the seat.
Lots of members of the party returned to the SNP soon afterwards. If you can’t beat them, join them… again.
In 2014, two Conservative back-benchers decided it was time to leave. Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless weren’t forming a new party but were defecting to the UK Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.
They then both fought, and won by-elections to regain their old parliamentary seats. A future UKIP surge seemed likely.
However, fast forward to the 2015 general election and only Douglas Carswell was voted back in as an MP. Mark Reckless lost his seat, which was taken back by the Conservatives.
There’s not much chance of Reckless being welcomed back by the Tories. This tweet was posted by Conservative candidate Claire Perry;
Not only that, the Tories are also suing Reckless for money spent on campaign materials printed for him before he left for UKIP. All is fair in love and war.
For Douglas Carswell, the next five years in Parliament as the only UKIP MP may be pretty lonely. UKIP want Britain to split up with the European Union. So at least they’ll get the EU referendum they wanted.
Don’t even get us started on the sort of break up that would be.