Labour Party. The Labour Party is Britain’s dominant centre-left political force.
Founded in 1900 out of the trade union movement, to which it has a formal link to this day.
The party is responsible for building much of the British welfare state and especially Britain’s universal healthcare system, the NHS.
The party has traditionally relied on a base of working class voters, but as this demographic has shrank and diversified the party has increased its base to include public sector workers, and ethnic minorities.
The party spent eighteen years in opposition between 1979 and 1997, an experience which severely scarred the party’s consciousness. The period saw the party move from fairly radical left positions to a more centrist slant, under the ‘New Labour’ banner of Tony Blair.
The party embraced the legacy of Thatcherism, but also increased spending on public services and sought to reform the British state. Most controversial, however, was Blair’s decision to take the UK into the Iraq War which devastated trust in the party leadership.
After thirteen years of power and suffering in the polls due to the financial crash the party has been in opposition once again since 2010, albeit in a hung parliament.
Labour now suffers from a similar set of questions to its social democratic cousins. Its base is fracturing. Does it pursue left-leaning voters who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 who now feel alienated from their former party. These voters may abstain or defect to the Greens.
On the other hand there are more socially conservative, anti-immigration voters who defected to the Tories in 2010, or may now move to UKIP. The desires of these groups are mutually contradictory and create an impression of a party that has somewhat lost its ideological compass.
Nonetheless Labour polls well, if only out of default. Polls suggest that the party lacks credibility on a large number of issues, especially the economy, and that the party’s leader, Ed Miliband, is unpopular. Still, it is possible that Labour could win the European elections.
Historically a Eurosceptic beast, Labour has come to be pro-European, especially under Blair. In recent years the party’s views on Europe have been predominantly notable in their absence. The party’s European election campaign has barely seen any mention of the EU.
The party is a member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, but has taken the odd step of refusing to endorse its Commission President candidate, Martin Schulz, saying that he is too federalist. The party is the fourth least loyal member of the group with 89.3% loyalty. The party may be the largest S&D member after the election, giving it a major leadership position.