Is Labour returning to its Socialist roots?
Old Labour links closely to Socialism and believes in:
- Equality: The rich should be taxed the most, the poor the least: Labour introduced the minimum wage. Labour supports reintroducing the 50p top rate of tax for those earning above £100,000 per year.
- An active role for state: Key industries should be controlled by the government and the workers should benefit from the money these industries make: Massive increases in spending on state education and on health under the last Labour government: spending per pupil more than doubled from £2,000 in 1997 to £5,000 in 2007. The Brown government nationalised (took over) failing banks including Northern Rock and part of RBS. Miliband promised to break up the energy companies if they continued to charge high prices under a future Labour government.
- Internationalism: Brown championed (promoted) the cause of eradicating poverty in the developing world. He recently visited the US and campaigned for more money to fight malaria. He also supported the Make Poverty History movement and placed great emphasis on the G20 group of countries to lead the way in tackling the world’s problems. Miliband urged his party to vote against military action in Syria in 2013, and called for greater UN engagement. Corbyn similarly voted against action in Syria and believes in unilateral disarmament
New Labour policy (and how it was different from Old Labour / socialism):
- There is nothing wrong with getting rich, so long as there is equality of opportunity: The gap between the poorest and the wealthiest grew under Blair and Brown. Brown had to fight rebellions in his own party over abolishing the 10p rate of tax, which resulted in low-income workers paying more tax.
- A mixed economy: Labour did not reverse Thatcher’s privatisation scheme when in government and also privatised the Tote.
- Humanitarian intervention is sometimes necessary, with or without international support: Diplomacy does not always work: Favoured war in Iraq despite objections of international community. Miliband supported tough action against ISIS. Hillary Benn, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, voted in favour of action in Syria in 2015, demonstrating that a large part of the Parliamentary Labour Party remains some distance away from “Old Labour”.
- Private involvement in service provision: New Labour has also supported private involvement in the provision of services. Academy schools are run with private backing. Cleaning services in the NHS have also been “contracted out” to private companies. Miliband considered loosening central government oversight of some services and “decentralising” the running of public services to professionals running those services. He praised hospitals that were built using primate money and leased back to the public sector (PPP).
To get full marks, you need to understand the journey or direction that the Labour Party is taking
Miliband’s Labour Party
- Ed Miliband at first supported the ideas of “Blue Labour”, a group in the Labour Party that said working classes became angry with Blair and Brown because of their failure to tackle immigration.
- Purple Labour is a group of Labour leaders who believe Labour will only be trusted on the economy if it accepted the need for spending cuts. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls announced in 2013 that Labour would not reverse the coalition cuts.
- Both Purple Labour and Blue Labour accept that Blair and Brown placed too much faith on “the market” and the finance industry to make the country rich, and left them to regulate themselves. Miliband called for tough measures forcing energy companies to lower prices.
- It was difficult to say for certain whether the term “Red Ed” was correct. He was in some ways “Old Labour” and therefore socialist, and in some ways “New Labour”. He took policies from across the political spectrum, yet was also rather vague about policy.
Corbyn’s Labour Party
- There is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is attempting the steer the Labour Party back to a more left wing position.
- He is against many of the austerity measures imposed by the Tories, specifically cuts to tax credits.
- He was against action in Syria
- He favours unilateral disarmament
- He accepts the need to “borrow to invest” in long-term projects.
- Many of the “grassroots” activists support his policies, hence why thousands re-joined the party when he was elected as leader.
- However, the party is keen to show that it will not spend more than it gets in on tax revenue in order to fund “short term” budget needs.
- Even Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellow, the fiercely left wing John McDonnell, has spoken of controlling public spending through a “fiscal credibility lock”.
- Many of the Parliamentary Labour Party (MPs) such as Chukka Umunna and Liz Kendall have little in common with their leader, or indeed with their membership. They continue to call for moderation of policy.
- Corbyn has moved the party to the left, but only some in the party have headed the call.