Since 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn took
over as the leader of the Labour Party the party image has definitely has definitely
shifted further to the left of the political spectrum. At the same time however
it is still up to debate as to whether the whole party has actually moved to
its original ideological positions – some people would argue that actually
because most Labour voters and MP’s are much more moderate than Jeremy Corbyn
and because Corbyn cannot commit to a far left manifesto as it is unelectable,
the Labour Party as a whole is in fact much more moderate and still
ideologically close to New Labour and Blair.

 

As the source says, much of the 2017 Labour manifesto represents a shift away
from the ideology of New Labour and towards more traditional Labour views such
as the “state ownership of railways…..and utilities”. This is very much in
line with Labour’s original ideology which believed in the nationalisation of
key areas of the economy. If the state controlled these, they felt that it
would enable them to provide equality for all – something that was of course
key to the Labour Party. Whilst perhaps the railways do not represent the
commanding heights of the economy (the areas that Labour originally wished to
nationalise) it represents a shift in ideology. New Labour supporters would be
strongly against this as they sought to find a middle way between socialism and
the free market, in fact keeping many of the reforms to the economy that
Thatcher introduced. During his time as leader, Blair removed clause 4 from the
constitution of the Labour Party – the commitment to put the control of key
industries into state control. The idea of nationalising any part of the
economy is therefore a shift in ideology from New Labour towards Labour’s
previous beliefs. Corbyn would find it impossible to keep the Labour party
together and electable if he tried to include the nationalisation of anything
more important than this and so this is his compromise. Therefore this would
suggest that the Labour Party is moving back towards its original ideological
position even if it is not as radical as before.

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Other parts of Labour’s 2017 manifesto
support this judgement. Corbyn said that he would reintroduce a tax of 50p on
the pound for the highest bracket of earners (£123,000 and above) and also
increase income tax to 45p for those earning £80,000 and above. Once again this
is a strongly socialist policy – the idea of wealth distribution by the state
has always been an Old Labour policy. As to whether this represents a shift in
Labour’s ideology it definitely does. The top rate of tax under New Labour did
not go up significantly (apart from unearned wealth). Therefore in terms of a
comparison to previous Labour policy, Jeremy Corbyn has moved the Labour party
back towards its ideological roots.

 

At the same time however, some of the
manifesto suggests the opposite – that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are committed to
New Labour policies, especially when it comes down to their stance on defence.
Whilst Corbyn has previously been very vocal in his support of unilateral
nuclear disarmament, Labour’s manifesto is actually in favour of renewing trident.
Renewing trident is definitely not in line with its original ideology –
especially in terms of the far-left that Corbyn was a member of. Whilst some
people would argue that this is just there because of public opinion – Michael
Foot lost by a long way in the 1983 General Election running with this policy –
the fact that Corbyn is forced to support suggests that in the modern political
climate and with the strength of the moderate MP’s in the Labour Party, Labour
is incapable of returning to its original ideology, as it is unelectable and
supported by a minority of Labour MP’s. Once again the Labour party’s stance on
Brexit also suggests that the power of moderates and the electorate has forced
Corbyn to stick with many Blairite policies. Labour said in its manifesto that
it would put a strong emphasis on retaining the
benefits of the single market and customs union during Brexit negotiations.
Traditionally Labour was Eurosceptic and that only really changed under New
Labour. Jeremy Corbyn is definitely not a supporter of the European Union – he
did not actively campaign for the UK to stay in the EU, voted against the
Lisbon treaty in 2008 and in fact in the 1975 referendum on the European
Economic Community (the precursor of the EU) he voted to leave Europe –
highlighting his ideological position as a Eurosceptic. However to gain support
of the many Remain voters, Corbyn has suggested that the Labour Party would
keep the UK in the single market. This is against Labour’s original ideology
and therefore suggests that whatever the Corbyn wants, because of the current
political climate and the effect of the many moderate MP’s within the Labour
Party, he is forced to compromise meaning that he has not been able to take the
Labour Party back towards its original ideological position.

 

 

The source says that “the majority of
Labour MP’s and peers do not support Corbyn” instead supporting “more centrist
policies”. It is definitely true that most Labour MP’s would lean towards more
Blairite centre-left policies rather than Corbyn’s more radical ones. This
poses a major problem for Jeremy Corbyn and suggests that the Labour Party as a
whole has perhaps not returned to its original ideological roots. In 2015 when
there was a whipped vote on airstrikes on Syria in the House of Commons, 66
Labour MP’s rebelled against Corbyn and voted in favour of the motion,
contributing towards it being passed. This suggests that whilst Corbyn wants to
change Labour’s ideology, many MP’s still oppose him, something that stops him
from introducing anything too radical, thus stopping him from completely
returning the Labour Party to its original ideology. The opposition of his MP’s
is further highlighted by the 2016 Labour leadership election. During a no
confidence vote against Jeremy Corbyn, 172 MP’s opposed him and just 40
supported him, suggesting that in fact he does not have the overall support of
the Labour Parliamentary party. Whilst some of that may have changed after the
2017 General Election, where Corbyn increased the number of Labour MP’s in the
Commons, the fact remains that overall, most MP’s are not supportive of any
radical policies that he could introduce, therefore stopping him from returning
the Labour Party to its original ideology.

However this could change thanks to the
work of momentum who are almost certainly attempting to put up and get their
own candidates elected to the House of Commons, increasing support for Corbyn
and perhaps allowing him to introduce policies that would push the Labour party
closer to its original ideological position. Also whilst perhaps his views are
not held by most MP’s, he still retains the support of Unite – the country’s
biggest trade union as well as the majority of Labour members something that
suggests that the effect of moderate MP’s in Labour’s policy is less
significant.

 

Overall, the evidence suggests that
Jeremy Corbyn has not managed to return the Labour Party fully back towards its
original ideological position. Whilst much of his policy leans towards Labour’s
far left ideology, the political climate and effect of moderate MP’s has meant
that he is not been able to move the Labour that far to the left, and in the
process has been forced to drop some policies that he had supported for a long
time. So whilst he has begun to shift the Labour Party away from the centre
left position that it was at during the Blair and Brown days, he is still a
long way off returning it to its original position.

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