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Is the Labour Party Neo-Liberal or Social Democratic?


First of all, it should be stated that the Labor Party of the United Kingdom is attributed to a center-left wing of the political forces, and it is the current ruling party of the UK. Originally, it should be stated that the party is regarded to be a membership organization which entails the Constituency Labor Parties, which are the representatives of the trade unions of GB and the UK.

As for the origins of the party, it should be stated that it started its existence based on the trade union movements and activities, and socialist parties which were popular in the 19th century. The party goes on regarding itself as the democratic socialist party, thus, there are origins of both directions: Neo-Liberal and Social Democratic. Nevertheless, the party was more inclined to the social democratic origin. In its origin, the labor party is the political power that supports the low-paid working class, and, traditionally it consists of the representatives of the working class, who are regarded as the grassroots of the current members and voters.


To define the real origin of the Labor Party it is necessary to regard its ideology, which will be the basis for the estimation of the actions performed by leaders and representatives of the party. Taking into account the origins of the party, it should be stated the following: the party was in favor of the socialist-oriented policies. The most popular of these policies was the public ownership of the largest industrial objects, governmental regulation of the economic issues, total redistribution of wealth and financial reserves, increased attention towards the rights for workers and the participants of the trade unions.

Though, it is also necessary to emphasize that since the mid-1980s the party has changed its views. The traditional socialist positions were no longer required, and the leaders Neil Kinnock, John Smith, and Tony Blair adopted and implemented the “Third Way”, promoting the development of free-market policies. From this viewpoint, the researcher Andrew Britton (2005) emphasizes the following: “this change to the “Third Way” confused numerous observers, and they started describing the Labor Party as social democratic and sometimes even neo-liberal. The current Labor government has brought in policies such as introducing a minimum wage and increasing the spending on the NHS and education. It has been heavily criticized for making little ground on its traditional principle of reducing the gap between the rich and poor.”

This change of the political course was observable. One of the brightest instances of this modification was the 2008 Labor Party conference, which discovered closer attachment to the big business, and the party positioned itself at a distance of the working class. The words by Gordon Brown had only emphasized this gap: “we are, we always have been and we always will be a pro business government“.

This conference became the first in the history of the Labor Party when the constituency Labor Parties and the representatives of the trade unions did not have the right to vote and submit their motions on the issues which were discussed on the agenda of the conference. Currently, the Labor Party entails more keynote addresses, guest speakers, and question, and answer sessions rather than specific discussion of policy which now takes place in the National Policy Forum, as stated in Brownell (2007)

Current Policy

As it may be noted, the current policy principles and the origins of the party differ essentially. The party was regarded as social-democratic at the very beginning of its existence, the recent changes made it even less liberal than ever, consequently, it stayed purely social-democratic.

For the confirmation of this conclusion, it is necessary to give the words of the political researcher Callaghan (2003). He states the following: “What is clear is the common phenomenon across Europe of the crisis of representation. Actually nobody represents the interests of the working class in the nowadays Europe, and the United Kingdom is not an exception. Originally, this democratic deficit will inevitably lead to mass abstentions in the election. As social democracy across Europe and at home adopts a ‘social-liberal’ program of managing the neo-liberal offensive with a friendly face, a space is opening up which demands to be filled.

As for the international policy, it should be stated that the social-democratic views of the party are observed even in the international arena. Currently, neither the anti-war movement in Great Britain nor the global justice movement in Europe appeared to be capable to stop the overall neo-liberal offensive, this resistance has caused the essential changes in the worker’s movements and originated divisions within the trade unions.

As it is often emphasized, numerous leaders of the trade unions adapted the social liberal frameworks of the political activity, thus, the Labor Party decided to split up with the unions on this basis, as the ideas of liberalism doo not look attractive for the Laborites.

Gordon Brown emphasized in one of his speeches the necessity of changing the accents of the political interests of the party: “… we must not ever put the goal of full employment at risk by returning to the old days of inflationary pay rises and conflict, the old days of putting sectional interests ahead of the national interest, and we will and must continue to pursue what we promised in our manifesto: stability in economic management, stability in industry policy, stability in industrial relations, and stability in the public finances and in our demand for efficiency and value for money, a more personalized service, and accountability and real choices and the highest of standards in our public services.

Thus, there is no mentioning of the stability in the relations with the trade unions, as this stability has been already violated, and the likelihood of setting stable relations with them is minimal. Consequently, there is no single hint for neo-liberalism, as the relations with the working class and all the representatives of the trade unions become more and more pragmatic.


Finally, it is necessary to mention that there is no instance of neo-liberal inclination of the party. Originally, it was stated that the basis of the party is solely social democratic, and, even though some instances of liberalism could be traced in the principles of the party, currently it can not be regarded as liberal, as the leadership of the party selected to support the interests of business, but not the working class.


Bright, Martin. “The Climb-Back of His Life; Gordon Brown Is Still in Deep Trouble, and Dreams of Recovery. Will He Weather the Storm? There Are Historical Precedents That May Comfort Him.” New Statesman 2008: 10.

Britton, Andrew. “Labour Party Policies.” National Institute Economic Review (2007): 5.

Brownell, Josiah. “The Taint of Communism: The Movement for Colonial Freedom, the Labour Party, and the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1954-70.” Canadian Journal of History 42.2 (2007): 235.

Callaghan, John, Steven Fielding, and Steve Ludlam, eds. Interpreting the Labour Party: Approaches to Labour Politics and History. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2003.

“Labour Party.” Great Britain International Review 30.5 (2005): 2.


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