Labor Party

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Labor Party
Labor Party
Labor Party logo
Party chairman Keir Starmer
Party leader Sir Keir Starmer MP
vice-chairman Angela Rayner MP
founding February 27, 1900
Place of establishment London , UK
United KingdomUnited Kingdom 
Headquarters Labor Central, Kings Manor,
Newcastle upon Tyne , United Kingdom
United KingdomUnited Kingdom 
Youth organization Young Labor
Alignment Social democracy ,
democratic socialism ,
Colours) red
British House of Commons
British House of Lords
London Assembly
Number of members   485,000 (as of July 2019)
International connections Progressive Alliance ,
Socialist International (observer)
European party Party of European Socialists (PES)

The Labor Party [ ˈleɪbə ˈpɑːti ] ( English for "Labor Party" or "Party of Labor"; also just called Labor ) is a social democratic party in the United Kingdom . Soon after its formation in 1900, it became one of the three major political parties in the United Kingdom, alongside the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats , with the exception of Northern Ireland, where the party is not active. Instead, the Labor Party cooperates there with the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP). The cooperative co-operative party acts as a sister party of Labor and competes in elections under the name “Labor and Co-operative Party”.
The Labor Party has been in opposition since the general election on May 6, 2010 ; previously she had three elections in a row ( 1997 , 2001 and 2005 won) (see also Cabinet Blair , Brown Ministry ).


Labor Party logo under Kinnock and Blair.

From the foundation to the Second World War

The party was founded in 1900 as the Labor Representation Committee (LRC) and at that time consisted of trade unions , the socialist- oriented Independent Labor Party (founded in 1893), the Social Democratic Federation and the Fabian Society . It comes from what was later known as trade unionism . Individual members were only accepted following the party reform after the First World War .

The debates, especially in the founding phase, were shaped by fundamentally ideologically different views of the founding organizations. Above all, the discussion about an explicitly socialist orientation, as it was striven for by the ILP and later the SDF, met with fierce resistance from the ranks of the unions. Compared to the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the organized labor movement in the United Kingdom never had much theoretical anchoring, but was based on current political solutions. The Marxism , the programmatic bracket of the SPD, played in the Labor Party virtually no role.

After the general election in 1906 , which brought an increase of 25 seats to 29, the LRC was renamed the Labor Party . At that time, the United Kingdom was dominated by the Conservatives and the Liberals . However, the Liberal Party was closer to the LRC or the Labor Party than the Conservatives , so cooperation was an obvious choice. This was expressed, among other things, in agreements to avoid election campaigns between Labor / Liberal candidates (electoral entente). In the first few years this was a holdover from the so-called “Lib-Lab” cooperation, while representatives of the Trade Unions ran for the Liberals in elections. In contrast to Germany, for example, the British labor movement was anchored and recognized across milieu at an early stage and was largely spared from repressive attacks by the state.

Like the SPD in the German Empire , the Labor Party in England split over the war question in 1914 during the First World War . The pacifist wing around Ramsay MacDonald competed with the patriotic wing of Arthur Henderson . Nevertheless, there was no break, which can be attributed to the federal structure of the Labor Party: in the War Emergency Workers National Committee the various wings worked together despite their differences, although the war opponents slowly gained influence.

As a result of the loss of importance of the trade unions, in particular through failed strike attempts (" Triple Alliance " 1921), the leadership of the Labor Party around Henderson succeeded in gradually curbing the influence of the trade unions. The unions then organized their apron organizations and summarized z. For example, since 1891 (CCC = Clarion Cycling Clubs , the workers 'cyclists), workers ' sport , which has existed in individual clubs, has been brought together in a separate workers 'sports federation ( British Workers' Sports Federation ). The party became eligible for election to broader strata of the people and also took on the split-off left wing of the liberal party. At the latest with the election of 1924, after which the Labor Party could for the first time (by tolerating the Liberals) form the government with Ramsay MacDonald, the Labor Party can be regarded as established.

The Labor Party was again able to provide government under MacDonald from 1929 to 1931.

The Labor Party in the second half of the 20th century

The reform policy of Clement Attlee , who was the next Labor Prime Minister in the post-war period from 1945 to 1952, had long-term significance for the United Kingdom. Attlee nationalized important branches of industry, the modern welfare state was formed. Attlee's Minister of Health, Nye Bevan established the National Health Service . Harold Wilson was in power from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976 . Wilson's attempts to put the household in order and enforce new labor laws sometimes brought him into strong opposition to the unions. The United Kingdom's admission to the European Economic Community fell during his term of office. From 1976 to 1979, James Callaghan followed as another Prime Minister of the Labor Party. In 1979 Labor was defeated by the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher , followed by lengthy wars for direction within the Labor Party. The party's reform wing was led by party leader Neil Kinnock , who resigned after the 1992 election defeat by Prime Minister John Major . John Smith , the party leader's successor, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1994.

New Labor

Since the early 1990s, the party changed its orientation , especially under Tony Blair , who was party chairman from 1994 onwards.

Instead of class struggle with the long-term goal of socialism or nationalization of key industries and closeness to unions , New Labor stood for pragmatic politics (also referred to by Blair as the Third Way ) and the advocacy of the market economy , which tried to achieve prosperity and social security through economic growth. To symbolize this, the Clause Four of the party charter from 1918, which called for the collectivization of the means of production , was changed in 1995 at Blair's suggestion. The substantive break with Marxist- socialist ideas was also expressed in the abolition of traditions such as the singing of the International at party congresses. The party also moved away from some of the ideas of traditional social democracy ; only a few of the liberal economic reforms and privatizations of the 1980s were reversed by the Labor governments that followed. Critics accused New Labor of having betrayed leftist ideals and of pursuing policies that hardly differ from those of the conservative Margaret Thatcher .

The Labor Party won the 1997 general election, chaired by Tony Blair . Blair then became British Prime Minister on May 2, 1997, ending an eighteen-year Conservative term. Under Blair, the Labor Party won the general election in 2001 and 2005 . An important feature of the New Labor years was the social opening and modernization of the country, which earned it an international reputation as " Cool Britannia ". Immigration , social diversity, the visibility of non-white Britons in public office and a multicultural model of society were targeted promoted. After 2001, the fight against terrorism became the focus of domestic and foreign policy. In particular, the support for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 aroused great resentment among the party base; prominent internal party critics of the Blair course were Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone . On June 24, 2007, Tony Blair handed over leadership of the Labor Party to Gordon Brown at a special party conference in Manchester . From June 27, 2007 to May 11, 2010, Brown also ran government as Prime Minister. After the Labor Party's defeat in the 2010 general election , Gordon Brown resigned from the party leadership.

Development since 2010

On September 25, 2010, Ed Miliband was elected as the new leader of the Labor Party. In the last round of the election, which was carried out as an instant run-off voting , he received 51 percent of the vote, while his older brother David Miliband , who was also running, got 49 percent. This had led in the previous rounds. Three million voters, including MPs and members of the Labor Party and the trade unions, voted for the chairman. As chairman of the largest party in the opposition, Miliband also became an opposition leader when he was elected. Under his chairmanship, Miliband programmatically shifted the party to the left. He distanced himself from the liberal market content of New Labor and called for the welfare state to be strengthened. This was also reflected in the 2015 election manifesto. After the surprisingly clear defeat in the general election in 2015 , Miliband resigned as chairman of the Labor Party on May 8, 2015. Harriet Harman was acting party chairman until a new chairman was elected.

On September 12, 2015, Jeremy Corbyn became the new chairman. Corbyn had previously appeared as a representative of the party's left wing and a long-time MP in the lower house as a staunch opponent of New Labor. Although he initially entered the race for the presidency as an outsider, polls soon showed broad support for Corbyn, while parts of the party establishment resolutely opposed his campaign . The Labor Party again forms the official opposition in the House of Commons and provides the opposition leader . In a primary election, in which registered supporters were also allowed to vote, Corbyn was confirmed as party chairman on September 24, 2016. Corbyn led Labor in a severe election defeat in the 2019 British general election; the party lost the general election with the worst result for the party since 1935 in terms of the distribution of seats. Labor lost a total of 59 seats in the lower house and only managed to win 203 constituencies; In addition, many constituencies in the so-called red wall, a collection of constituencies in the north of England and the Midlands that had elected Labor MPs for many decades, were lost to the victorious Conservative Party under Prime Minister Boris Johnson . Corbyn then resigned and Keir Starmer prevailed in the follow-up election with 56.2% of the vote.

Accusation of anti-Semitism

In an October 2016 investigation into anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee concluded that party leader Jeremy Corbyn had not done enough to address the anti-Semitism that was evident in parts of the Labor Party. In March 2018, leading representatives of Jewish communities criticized in an open letter in particular party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who "repeatedly" took sides for anti-Semitic positions, because he was "ideologically so fixated on his far-left worldview" "that he defends the Jewish communities instinctively hostile to the center ”. Based on a dossier of internal party documents, the Metropolitan Police Service (Scotland Yard) launched an investigation into the perpetrators in early November 2018 on suspicion of "anti-Semitic hate crimes".

On February 18, 2019, seven MPs left the party and announced that they would operate in parliament as The Independent Group . As a reason, they cited anti-Semitic tendencies in the Labor Party and the unsatisfactory policy of the party leadership with regard to the UK's exit from the EU. Another party member, former Labor Vice-Chairman Michael Dugher, also considered leaving the party, citing Labor Party's institutional anti-Semitism. On February 19, 2019, the leader of the Israel group in the Labor Party, Joan Ryan, also resigned from the party because of the culture of anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel.

Following the election of Keir Starmer as chairman, he made it clear that fighting anti-Semitism and reconciliation with the Jewish community in Britain was one of his top priorities. In June 2020, Starmer therefore released Rebecca Long-Bailey from his shadow cabinet after she had spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the Internet and refused to delete these tweets. Starmer's decision was welcomed by moderates in the party as well as by various Jewish organizations in Great Britain, but deplored by the extreme left wing of the party around Corbyn.

Membership and membership numbers

Development of the membership of the British Labor Party since 1928

In the course of its party history, the Labor Party went through several phases in which its membership changed sharply within a short period of time. After the Second World War, the Labor Party won under Clement Attlee , the general election in 1945 and then put on a large-scale social program that was very popular. The number of members rose from the pre-war value of 200,000 to over a million in 1952. In the following three decades it fell continuously to just under 700,000. The party experienced a massive wave of withdrawals after the winter of discontent ("winter of discontent") 1978/79, in which multiple strike actions by Labor-affiliated unions paralyzed the country and the Labor government under James Callaghan seemed unable to get the economy back on track bring to. In 1979, the Conservatives won under Margaret Thatcher , the general election and was followed by 18 years of conservative governments. With the advent of New Labor in the 1990s, membership increased from about 260,000 in 1991 to about 405,000 in 1997. During the Labor governments from 1997 under Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown (from 2007) it fell again and reached a low of 156,000 at the end of 2009. A wave of entry occurred after Jeremy Corbyn was elected on September 12, 2015 as the new party leader was. After peaking at 640,000 in September 2016, membership fell back to 517,000 by March 2017. In connection with the good performance in the 2017 general election, it was rumored on social media that 150,000 new members had joined the party. However, this account was rejected as incorrect by Jeremy Corbyn's office. Afterwards, up to 150,000 members (calculated since 2016) left the party, partly due to the party's unclear position on the Brexit issue, partly due to the ongoing allegations of anti-Semitism.

Labor in Northern Ireland

For many years, residents of Northern Ireland could not become Labor Party members. Instead, the Labor Party worked with the Northern Irish Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP). The elected SDLP MPs supported Labor policy in Westminster. Since 2003, residents of Northern Ireland have been allowed to become Labor members, but the party has not yet run its own candidacy in elections. Since 2015 at the latest, however, there has been an intense discussion among Labor members and supporters in Northern Ireland as to whether their own candidates should be put up.

Party leaders

Clement Attlee (1956/57), post-war premier and party leader for 20 years.
Tony Blair (2007), initiator of New Labor .

Party anthem

The party's unofficial anthem (and the official one of the Northern Ireland Social Democratic and Labor Party and the Irish Labor Party ) is The Red Flag . Some of the 16 stanzas of the song are usually sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum at the end of party conventions or at other major party events .



  • Henry Pelling: The Origins of the Labor Party. 2nd edition . Oxford 1965.
  • Alastair Reid / Henry Pelling: A short History of the Labor Party. 12th edition . Basingstoke 2005 ISBN 1-4039-9313-0 .
  • Hilary Wainwright: Labor: a Tale of two parties . London 1987 ISBN 0-7012-0778-7 .
  • Stefan Berger: Unequal sisters? The British Labor Party and German Social Democracy in comparison 1900–1931 . Bonn 1997.
  • Christian Krell: Social Democracy and Europe. The European policy of the SPD, Labor Party and Parti Socialiste . VS, Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-531-16498-4 ; therein Chapter B.2: The Integration Policy of the British Labor Party , pp. 210–290.
  • David Watt: The Left in Britain . In: Hans Rühle , Hans-Joachim Veen (Ed.): Socialist and Communist Parties in Western Europe. Publication of the social science research institute of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung . Volume 2: Nordländer (= Uni-Taschenbücher . Vol. 762). Leske + Budrich (UTB), Opladen 1979, ISBN 3-8100-0241-0 . Pp. 35-77.

Web links

Commons : Labor Party (UK)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. ^ Membership of UK political parties , House of Commons Library, August 9, 2019
  3. ^ Lexicon of History , Orbis Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-572-01285-6
  4. See André Keil: Between Cooperation and Opposition - The British Labor Movement and the "War Emergency Workers National Committee" during the First World War, in: Yearbook for Research on the History of the Labor Movement , Volume III / 2014.
  5. Stephen Jones: The British Workers' Sports Federation: 1923-1935. Arnd Krüger & James Riordan : The story of worker sport. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Ill. 1996, pp. 97-116; ISBN 0-87322-874-X
  6. ^ The transformation of the Labor Party from: Great Britain - a model for success? Modernization under Thatcher and New Labor (1999).
  7. ^ Labor Party: Paying tribute ( Memento of May 9, 2015 in the Internet Archive ). On: Labor Party website, May 8, 2015. (Accessed May 9, 2015)
  8. ^ Labor leadership: Jeremy Corbyn defeats Owen Smith , The Guardian, Sept. 24, 2016
  9. Jeremy Corbyn's response to anti-Semitism in Labor criticized by MPs. BBC News, October 16, 2016, accessed February 18, 2019 .
  10. Antisemitism inquiry , opinion and download links
  11. James Kirchick: The Labor Party's Jewish Problem . Guest post at, June 6, 2017
  12. ^ Suspected anti-Semitism: Scotland Yard investigates Labor members . In: FAZ.NET . November 2, 2018, ISSN  0174-4909 ( [accessed November 5, 2018]).
  13. British police are investigating Labor Party for anti-Semitism . Spiegel Online, November 2, 2018.
  14. Suspected anti-Semitic hate crimes by Labor . Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 2, 2018.
  15. Irish Examiner: Seven Labor MPs resign from party to form independent group. February 18, 2019, accessed February 18, 2019 .
  16. Seven MPs leave Labor Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership , BBC, February 18, 2019
  17. Chairman of the Israel Group resigns from Labor. In: Israelnetz .de. February 20, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019 .
  18. ^ Labor's Rebecca Long-Bailey sacked in anti-Semitism row. Retrieved June 25, 2020 .
  19. Sir Keir Starmer goes to war with hard-Left over anti-Semitism as he sacks Rebecca Long-Bailey. Accessed June 26, 2020 .
  20. Rebecca Long-Bailey sacking reignites Labor turmoil over antisemitism. Retrieved June 25, 2020 .
  21. ^ A b Richard Keen: Membership of UK political parties. (PDF) House of Commons, January 30, 2015, accessed March 13, 2016 .
  23. False claim that Labor membership surged by 150,000 , Sam Bright, BBC Blog, June 12, 2017
  24. Oliver Wright, Kate Devlin Harry Shukman: Brexit: Exodus from Labor as Jeremy Corbyn dithers on second referendum . In: The Times . January 26, 2019, ISSN  0140-0460 ( [accessed February 18, 2019]).
  25. Labor loses 125 members a day over Brexit and antisemitism complaints . Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  26. ^ Labor NI ban overturned. BBC News, October 1, 2003, accessed March 13, 2016 .
  27. Chris Page: Labor peer calls for party to run in Northern Ireland elections. BBC News, March 3, 2016, accessed March 13, 2016 .
  28. Kathryn Johnston: Why it's time to stand Labor candidates in Northern Ireland., December 14, 2015, accessed March 13, 2016 .
  29. David Young: Labor Party could field candidates in the next Northern Ireland Assembly election. The Belfast Telegraph, December 9, 2015, accessed March 13, 2016 .
  30. ^ The Red Flag ends Labor rally , BBC News, October 1, 1999, accessed September 30, 2015.