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The Parties: 2017 Edition


Andy
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At this time we are allowed players to join the two major parties: the Conservatives and Labour. Here you will find a brief description of the two major parties and the factions that make them up.

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Labour Party: 316 seats

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 and grew in size in the recent election. Of course, 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 (Labour to Win), democratic socialism (Tribune Group), and socialism (Socialist Campaign Group). The exact location of Labour on the spectrum is up to you to decide.

Today, the Labour Party finds itself in an ideological conundrum. Core groups of the party disagree in regards to the direction that the party should take with regard to Brexit. Likewise, pundits and politicians can't agree on the cause of Labour's recent election win. Was it a triumph of socialism (the opinion of the left) or a rejection of Theresa May and her leadership style (the opinion of the right)? More importantly, with little experience governing, will the left wing of the party be able to bring forward an agenda that actually gets enacted?

Factions of the Labour Party

Labour to Win: The right of the Labour Party. In pretty much all of Labour's history, there's been a 'right' in some variety who have identified as socialist revisionists or shed the socialist label entirely, though they hit their peak during the New Labour period and controlled the party relentlessly from 1994-2015. The Corbyn years have been rough on Labour's right, but they're still around. They believe in equality of opportunity and not of outcome, using market economics to achieve social goods, being tough on crime and a pro-European and an Atlanticist foreign policy. In recent years, they've separated themselves into two groups:

  • Blairites: A relatively new and modernising force in Labour's history, Blairites were a product of the Thatcher revolution within the Labour Party and are the ideological descendants of Tony Blair. They believe in the power of neoliberal economics and globalisation as forces for social good, are keen supporters of the EU and are strong proponents of public sector reform. Good modern examples include Liz Kendall, Wes Streeting and Ian Murray. 
  • Brownites: Much more rooted in Labour's traditional Old Right, Brownites are the evolution of Labour's 'Old Right' in the post New Labour period and are the ideological descendants of Gordon Brown. They wouldn't have admitted to it in the 2000's, but they have a lot in common with Blairites. Notable divergences include Brownites being much more relaxed with Labour's Trade Union link, much more sceptical view towards Europe and much more cautious approach to public sector reforms. Good modern examples include Yvette Cooper, Tom Watson and Rachel Reeves. 

Tribune Group: Garden variety Labour. If you throw yourself into any period of Labour history, the Tribune group is, if not the dominant force within Labour politics, they're dominant force within Labour politics. They're broadly everything you would associate with being 'centre left' - believers of gradual reform to establish a strong public sector, strong welfare state and protections for workers and the most vulnerable. They're sceptical of conservative and market forces and tend to take more socially liberal positions. They can be divided into these subgroups:

  • Labourites: The garden variety of the garden variety. 'Mainstream Labour', so to speak. Labourites are basically what you would get if you produced a generic Labour MP. They're favourable to the public sector and investment and are often rooted in the Trade Union movement, but are staunch reformists and democrats who are as sceptical of Labour's more strongly left wing elements as they are its more pro-market wing. Good modern examples include Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan and Ed Miliband. 
  • Open Labour: A new name for a very old Labour tradition - Open Labour represents the 'soft left' of the Labour Party. They identify as being on Labour's left but disagreements in the 80's led them to separate themselves ideologically from Labour's 'hard left'. They support public ownership, Trade Unions and a high tax, high investment economy - but identify as having a more pluralistic, more pragmatic politics than their more left wing counterparts. Good modern examples include Louise Haigh, Angela Rayner and Anneliese Dodds. 
  • Blue Labour: You could also debatably put them in the hard left or the right of the Labour Party too: Blue Labour is the awkward uncle of the Labour Party, supporting a staunchly left wing, communitarian, anti-globalist economic approach but forging it with a uniquely conservative social approach: they're proper eurosceptics, unashamedly tough on crime, defence and immigration and are deeply patriotic. Good modern examples include David Lammy (if you ignore his Europhilia), Lisa Nandy (if you ignore her liberalism) and Jon Cruddas (the best Blue Labour torchbearer in the PLP).

Socialist Campaign Group: Labour's infamous "hard left." They've always had an enduring, dramatic place in Labour's history, but have tended to be on its fringes. Their most notable, if only, period of real power has been between 2015 to present, when Jeremy Corbyn shockingly took the leadership and seized the Labour party's machinery in the process. The Socialist Campaign Group are sceptical of imperialism and Atlanticism and support nationalisation to create a socialist command economy which promotes social justice. They can be divided into these subgroups:

  • Bennites: The classic hard left we know and love (or for many, hate). They split from the 'soft left' in the 80's and have had a more marginal place in the Labour Party ever since. They passionately support anticapitalism, a command economy, an anti-imperalist foreign policy and of course stronger Labour Party democracy to boot. Good modern examples include Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Ian Lavery. 
  • Momentum: A much newer tradition in the left that has come about as younger millennials and gen z'ers have found their place in left wing politics. Like Brownites and Blairites, the Old Left and the New Left share a lot in common. Unlike Brownites and Blairites, the Old Left and the New Left are not as aware or caring of those differences. In contrast with their more old school counterparts, the New Left are much more pro-EU, more interested in constitutional reform and are passionate about climate and identity politics.  Good modern examples include Diane Abbott, Clive Lewis and Dawn Butler.

Conservative Party: 268 seats

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? The good news is that the party has yet to tear itself apart over Brexit, having largely aligned itself behind Theresa May's Lancaster House speech setting out her red lines. The bad news is that the Tories are set to return to Opposition after the 2017 election, in which a series of unfortunate events saw them fall behind Labour in terms of seats. May's working class conservatism seems to have won the party some support in the North of England, whereas some of the younger set in the South of England have moved to other pastures. Where the Conservatives go from here is up for debate.

Factions of the Conservative Party

Cameroons: The Cameroons are the coalition put together by former Prime Minister David Cameron during his decade at the head of the Conservative Party and currently make up the largest single group in the Conservative Parliamentary Party. Depending on who you ask, this is the segment of the Conservative Party that is probably closest to the opinions of those who vote Conservative. The 2010 and 2015 manifestos offer a good representation of the views of this group. There are two wings that make up the Cameron coalition:

  • Bright Blue: Could also be described a "Liberal Democrats who wanted to be successful in politics", these are Conservatives that are predominantly socially liberal and believe in the importance of investment in public services and international development. They include environmentalists, largely opposed Brexit, and promote social justice. Prominent examples of Bright Blue MPs are Justine Greening, Sarah Wollaston, and Heidi Allen.
  • Tory Reform Group: Traditional, One-Nation Conservatives, these are the MPs who are socially moderate (maybe slightly centre-right) and believe in fiscal responsibility ("austerity was a necessary choice") and growth as a precursor to everything else (strong growth as the foundation for strong public services, as an example). The TRG like reliable services, but don't necessarily believe they need to be entirely public (competition in the NHS or academies being prominent examples). Some examples of TRG MPs include George Osborne, Nicky Morgan, and Jeremy Hunt.

Maybots: The smallest group in the Conservative Party, the Maybots (alternatively, Red Tories) had potential to grow had Theresa held on longer. As a result of being small, it doesn't really have any subgroups. The Maybots represent a a working-class conservatism openly critical of the "cult of individualism" and globalization. What does this mean? While socially conservative, tough on crime, opposed to uncontrolled migration, and Euroskeptic, this wing of the party is more likely to support economic intervention (like a living wage), oppose individual tax cuts (and the bootstraps theory) as a means of stimulating growth, and prioritise social justice to a degree (or, in May's own words, work to confront the "burning injustices" in society). The Maybots may represent the views closest to the general population and is best summarised by the 2017 manifesto. Some examples of Maybots include Theresa May (obviously), Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey, and Damian Green.

No Turning Back: The No Turning Back Group represents that traditional, Thatcherite right of the Conservative Party. No Turning Back probably represents the faction in the Conservative Party that is closest to the opinions of Conservative Party members. While it hasn't been in charge of the Conservative Party since the 1997-2005 era, the basic tenants of this faction can be derived from the publications of the Cornerstone Group, the Centre for Policy Studies, and the Institute for Economic Affairs. One can think of the No Turning Back Group has having three distinct subgroups that, for our purposes, make it up:

  • Faith, Flag, and Family: The traditional social conservatives of the Conservative Party, they back socially conservative reforms and are unapologetically tough on crime (and immigration). They support a strong central state (just say no to devolution, keep power in Westminster), a strong national defence, and a robust foreign policy. Prominent MPs associated with this group include Christopher Chope and, to some extent, Nadine Dorries and Priti Patel.
  • Free Market Forum: For the free market right, the priority for these MPs are low taxes, more deregulation, less government, and promoting free market principles. Privatising public services is welcome here, as is reducing the size of government and "government handouts". These MPs are closely affiliated with the Institute for Economic Affairs - famously a think tank that drove Thatcher's economic policy. The Free Marketers in the Conservative Party include Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng, and John Redwood.
  • European Research Group: The Euroskeptic right that played a key role in the referendum and Cameron's demise, the priority for the European Research Group is a clean break from the European Union - a hard Brexit as it were. Prominent ERG members include Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker.
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