A Guide to the Labour party Watch

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Labour Party

Background:

The Labour Party is the current Official Opposition in Parliament and the main left wing party in UK politics. It was founded in the early 1900s out of 19th century trade union movements and grew to form the main opposition to the Conservative party. The parties biggest achievement was the majority government it formed under the leadership of Clement Attlee during the period 1945-1951, where it established the post-war consensus – a model that supported a mixed economy and a strong welfare state, including the foundation of the NHS, after the end of the second world war.

Policies:

The Labour Party has generally been described as a broad church party, covering a number of different ideologies within the more general “left-wing”, however the policies described here are from the position of its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn and taken from its manifesto at the 2017 general election:

Economics – the Labour Party generally supports higher tax rates on high earners, pledging a 50p rate (i.e. for every pound earned, 50p is taken in income tax) on earnings above £123,000 and a 45p rate on earnings above £80,000. This is partnered with an increase in corporation tax, cracking down on tax avoidance loopholes and reinstating a lower small-business corporation tax rate.

Industry – the Labour Party supports a renationalisation (i.e. bringing various sectors under public ownership) campaign for what it views as key industries; focusing on bringing the rail networks into public ownership as the current franchises expire, establishing a network of publicly-owned water companies in place of the current 9 private companies and reversing the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Workers’ rights – the Labour Party tends to position itself as one focused on improving working conditions for British people, focusing on reduction of precarious employment like zero hour contracts and “bogus self-employment” (i.e. employment where the employee is expected to hold fixed hours and work as if they were a permanent member of staff but is classified as an independent contractor), while promoting an increase in the minimum wage and greater trade union activity.

Education – Labours position on education could generally be understood as pro-student, pledging to abolish tuition fees and reintroduce maintenance grants for university students. As part of their proposed reforms, they looked to extend the current childcare system, entitling all two-year olds to 30 hours of free childcare per week, as well as introducing free school meals at the primary school level

Foreign Policy – Labour tend to be criticised for being weak on their foreign policy positions, particularly due to Corbyns long standing opposition to a number of wars the UK has involved itself in, and the Trident defence system. Despite this, in their most recent manifesto Labour supports the renewal of Trident (although pledges to work with the UN to achieve multilateral nuclear disarmament) as well as meeting the NATO 2% benchmark (suggesting all members should spend at least 2% of GDP on defence).

Brexit: Labours position on Brexit has generally been rather hazy, viewed by many as a ploy to win over remain voters without compromising a Euroskeptic base from some of the “Old Labour” voters. However, they do focus on rejecting No Deal as an option, seeking to maintain membership in a number of European schemes like Horizon 2020 and Euratom.
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