State of the Parties - 2019

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State of the Parties - 2019

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State of Parties – 13 April 2019

Conservative Party

The Conservative Party is Britain's centre-right party, often lauded as the "natural party of government" - though this moniker is up for debate in the 21st century, particularly in light of recent events. The past nine years of government were turbulent for the Conservative Party: David Cameron moved the Conservatives to the liberal conservative centre ground and then Theresa May moved them in a more working class direction. Of course, the entire direction of the party was muddled by Brexit, which made odd bedfellow of everyone involved and threatened to tear the party apart.

So where are the Conservatives now? They lost their majority in the 2017 election and are now holding on to power based on a confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionists. The party tore itself to pieces passing the recent Brexit deal. And the result, there's a lot of distrust. The Remainers in Bright Blue and the Tory Reform Group and the hardcore Brexiteers of the Conservative Democrats and Cornerstone Group can't stand each other and managed to tear bridges apart from each other. The Free Enterprise Group and the Working-Class Tories find themselves pursuing dramatically different agenda. In summary, the Conservatives, once thought of as “the natural party of government”, are a coalition of feuding groups.

Tribes of the Conservative Party

Bright Blue - Bright Blue are liberal conservatives who form one half of the Cameron project; they are also the home of the orange Tories, who might be Liberal Democrats in another world. Bright Blue are your social justice liberal conservatives who embrace strong public services, environmentalism, internationalism, and the EU. They see some role for markets in public services, but drive towards creating genuine equality of opportunity. Socially liberal, they are not necessarily paternalistic and probably have a genuine belief in lifting up those who are less well off. They likely represent the closest thing to European-style Christian democracy and drove that element of Cameronism.
  • Key Beliefs: Social justice, equality of opportunity; environmentalism; strong public services; pro-EU.
  • Key Desires: Ideally seek public services or environmental briefs, comfortable with some economic policy.
  • Think of: Justine Greening, Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen.
Tory Reform Group - The Tory Reform Group are the more traditional side of the Cameron project (eg, they lack the orange Tories of Bright Blue) and the Conservative Party as a whole - representing the "wets" the came after Thatcher. They are driven by the belief that growth comes first and everything else will follow with a healthy dose of noblesse oblige. What does this mean? Their priorities are the deficit (and not fully rejecting austerity), creating a competitive economy and tax structure (see the 2015 Conservative Manifesto and accept those tax cut plans), regional development/leveling up (city regions, the Northern Powerhouse, etc), and stable management of public services. They are liberal internationalists with a bit of an interventionist bent, they (generally) like(d) the EU, particularly as a marketplace.
  • Key Beliefs: Fiscal discipline, austerity; regional economic growth/leveling up; interventionism, pro-EU.
  • Key Desires: Generally wish to run the Conservative Party, primarily interested in economic and foreign briefs.
  • Think of: David Cameron, George Osborne, Nicky Morgan, Jeremy Hunt.
Red Tories - The Red Tories, or Working Class Tories if you want to call them that, stand in an odd position in the Conservative Party. Socially conservative and tough on crime, they're the ones most likely to support a little bit of interventionism in the economy (think living wage) and a stronger social safety net (IDS genuinely wanted the Universal Credit to be better for families than the legacy system). These Conservatives are more skeptical of the EU and globalism, generally, but like their Blue Labour counterpart, this does not necessarily make them in favour of leaving the EU (but on the balance they might have been more likely to back Leave).
  • Key Beliefs: Limited economic interventionism; social conservatism; paternalism with a safety net; eurosceptic.
  • Key Desires: Ideally seek some economic (particularly as it relates to social security) and crime briefs.
  • Think of: Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa May, Esther McVey.
Free Enterprise Group - The Free Enterprise Group are Maggie's heirs in the Conservative Party and was very popular amongst the 2010 intake. This was the group that gave us Britannia Unchained and had no problem calling the British people inherently lazy. They like the idea of freeing the economy (low taxes, getting rid of regulations, liberalising employment law) and injecting more market into public services - in fact, these are their reasons for existing. They accept a range of social positions and adopt the idea of tough on crime and immigration (remember, limiting immigration to skilled migrants is about competitiveness...). They have no problem with austerity right now because, well, less government is better government.
  • Key Beliefs: Free markets; market-based public services reform; light Thatcherism, small government; euro- and social-flexible.
  • Key Desires: Ideally seek economic and public services briefs.
  • Think of: Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Priti Patel.
Cornerstone Group - The Cornerstone Group represents the traditionalists of the Conservative Party - the faith, family, and flag group. They are the traditional social conservatives, backing things like reducing the 24 week cutoff for abortion, fox hunting, and promoting the family (while they don't necessarily actively talk about repealing gay marriage, the wouldn't oppose it), and the beating heart of the Tories tough on crime mentality. They embrace a strong central state, with no more pushing towards localism or supranationalism (that likely means leaving the EU and not looking back), and a strong military with a robust foreign policy "in the national interest". This group includes some of the more traditional members of the European Research Group.
  • Key Beliefs: Social conservatism, family values; strong national defence, eurosceptic; prevention of constitutional vandalism.
  • Key Desires: Generally wish to run the Conservative Party, most likely to pursue crime, foreign, and constitution briefs.
  • Think of: Jacob Rees-Mogg, Andrea Leadom, David Davis.
Conservative Democrats - The Conservative Democrats are the ideological heirs to the Monday Club, with a libertarian flair. Where the Cornerstone Group does not actively call for some social changes, the Conservative Democrats do (so that would be things like strict limits on abortion, ending gay marriage). Moreover, the embrace some more libertarian ideas (think of not being keen on vaccines or rallying against lockdowns, in the 2020 context). This tribe is a little bit isolationist, absolutely favouring getting out of the EU and rejecting the premise that America is the leader of the free world. This group includes the more radical members of the European Research Group.
  • Key Beliefs: Social conservatism, regression of reforms; personal libertarianism, freedom from state control; nationalist, actively anti-EU.
  • Key Desires: Interested in foreign, justice/social policy, and public services (to slim down state control) briefs.
  • Think of: Desmond Swayne, Steve Baker.
Labour Party

Labour is the United Kingdom's centre-left to left wing party. More importantly, it is a party in transition. Once dominated by its right wing during its years in government (1997-2010), Labour found itself slowly moving leftward until 2015, when it stepped on the gas with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. While the left wing of the party, consisting of the Socialist Campaign Group and Momentum, isn't particularly large in the Parliamentary Labour party, it has a history of influence in the party writ large. Of course, the fact that the right wing continues to dominate the parliamentary party with some representation from the centre left has caused plenty of strife in recent years. Ideologically, Labour varies between social democracy (Progress and Tribune), democratic socialism (Open Labour and Blue Labour), and socialism (SCG and Momentum). The exact location of Labour on the spectrum is up to you to decide.

Today, the Labour Party finds itself in an ideological conundrum. The rapid rise of the Socialist Campaign Group to the leadership and the presence of the Blue Labour remnant gave Labour a decent eurosceptic group that helped push Theresa May's deal through. While that's created tension, the real tension in the party is between the left and right wings of the party. The real challenge for Labour is that many of Corbyn's policies are popular until people find out Labour proposed them or when they get caught up in the revolutionary messaging. Blending some left wing policies with centre-left or Labour right messaging might be a valid strategy for Labour. Of course, some of the purists don't believe that they need to change the argument or the policies. More concerning for Labour is that its membership more resembles a coalition of disparate groups forced to cooperate with each other than a cohesive party.

Tribes of the Labour Party

Progress - Progress are the Blairite, New Labour remains of the Labour Party - being known at various points as "right wingers", "moderates", and "Tories". While still the largest individual tribe in the Labour Party, they are by no means the majority that they were. New Labour are traditionally globalist, believe in limited opening of public services to the market and maintaining a market-oriented economy, socially liberal, and embrace a tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime mentality.
  • Key Beliefs: Free, but regulated, markets; globalism and interventionism; pro-EU; socially liberal; public services reform.
  • Key Desires: Generally wish to run the Labour Party, content in all briefs (perhaps excluding local, regional, or environmentally-focused).
  • Think of: Tony Blair, Liz Kendall, Rachel Reeves.
Tribune - Tribune are, arguably, the Brownites that carry on the legacy of Labour First. A significant presence in the Parliamentary Labour Party, they have greater ties to the unions and a belief that markets should serve a social justice purpose, while still being, generally, free but regulated; for public services, this means embracing the role of the state and the potential of markets where it augments the state. They inherited Brown's belief in the liberal internationalism (but not necessarily neoliberalism or globalism) and a penchant for promoting development and soft power.
  • Key Beliefs: Markets mixed with social justice; liberal internationalism; pro-EU; socially moderate to liberal; state-centered services.
  • Key Desires: Ideally wish to be situated in public services and economic briefs, maybe foreign.
  • Think of: Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper.
Open Labour - Open Labour are stepping to the left of Tribune, though the two were once more closely associated - the gap between them essentially being the difference between social democracy and democratic socialism. Open Labour is where we start to see an investment approach and rejection of markets approach to public services (in many cases). Socially progressive, they embrace environmentalism, social justice, and solidarity with sister parties in Europe.
  • Key Beliefs: Democratic socialism; public services investment; actively combating inequality; environmentalism; pro-EU, solidarity.
  • Key Desires: Ideally want to be situated in public services, social justice-related, or environmental briefs.
  • Think of: Ed Miliband, Annaliese Dodds, Angela Rayner.
Blue Labour - Blue Labour were touted as the future of the Labour Party and, right now, they just might be - having seen their membership rise at the election. Blue Labour is more skeptical of markets than the aforementioned factions and embraces worker empowerment (remutualisation, limited nationalisation, cooperatives) and local delivery of services and governance. Socially more conservative, they are tough on crime and immigration, as well as somewhat skeptical of the EU project (note: skeptical does not equate to wanting to leave, necessarily) and internationalism as whole.
  • Key Beliefs: Tough on crime, reduced immigration; guild socialism, economic interventionism; euroskeptic, light populism.
  • Key Desires: Ideally want to be situated in crime/justice or economic briefs.
  • Think of: Jon Cruddas, Lisa Nandy, Kate Hoey.
Socialist Campaign Group - The Socialist Campaign Group represent the old left of the Labour Party, traditionally in favour of nationalisations, worker ownership, and state control of services delivery. Decidedly egalitarian, they absolutely reject market-driven reforms to public services. Internationally, the SCG are likely the most skeptical of the EU and most likely to back leaving it; they bear the burden of the international socialist cause, are critical of the global financial system and America, in particular. They are socially flexible, but tend to reject parts of the "tough on crime" agenda that has been used against socialists in the past.
  • Key Beliefs: Traditional socialism; eurosceptic, if not anti-EU, noninterventionist; less punitive in the tough on crime agenda.
  • Key Desires: Generally wish to run the Labour Party, likely to seek economic briefs (though things like health and foreign are welcome).
  • Think of: Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell.
Momentum - Momentum are the younger cousin of the Socialist Campaign Group, decidedly younger in fact. The youngest voters of Labour, they are decidedly progressive, socialist, environmentalist, and internationalist pacifists (though they don't like the international financial system, they do like development and human rights causes). They break with SCG with their embrace of ideas regarding constitutional reform (beyond House of Lords reform) and their pro-EU stance. The smallest part of the Labour Parliamentary Party right now, they certainly have room to grow.
  • Key Beliefs: Socialism, progressivism; Green Industrial Revolution/New Deal; pro-EU; constitutional reformers.
  • Key Desires: Ideally want to be in a position to restructure the economy or tackle pressing issues (climate change).
  • Think of: Clive Owen, Dawn Butler, Richard Burgon.
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Re: State of the Parties - 2019

Post by Blakesley »

Where the tribes sit - an economic, social, and relative size perspective:

An important note: the size of the tribes and the relative centres of gravity for the parties are based on the parliamentary parties, not the overall membership of the parties.
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