The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

After the elections: Where next for the Labour Party?

Against all odds and predictions, the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell secured a much better result in the general elections on 8 June 2017 than expected. Considering the resulting hung parliament and the Conservative minority government of Theresa May having to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as well as Conservative party internal tensions over Brexit negotiations, many observers point to the likelihood of renewed elections in the near future. What does this mean for the Labour Party? In this blog post, I will reflect on the potential labour strategy for the next months and year.

Policies: the impact of the Labour Party Manifesto.

I was present at the launch of the election campaign in the constituency of Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire. When it came to signing up for different tasks of volunteering, while I felt confident to distribute leaflets, canvassing, approaching voters on the doorstep, was completely out of question. What should one as a party activist actually talk about? Some policies such as the £10 per hour minimum wage had been mentioned by individuals within the Labour Party leadership, but there seemed to be hardly any agreed policies by the Party as a whole. Even committed Corbyn supporters had become restless and frustrated about the lack of policy contents in the early months of 2017.

Photo by Karen Blakeman

The leaking and eventual official publication of the Manifesto changed all this (see The Labour Party Manifesto 2017). The abolition of tuition fees in Higher Education, £10 per hour as the minimum wage by 2020, an end to zero-hour contracts, proper public funding of the NHS through an additional £30 billion, the building of over one million more homes, with at least half for social rent, the introduction of free school meals for all primary school children, etc. and all to be paid for by taxing high earners more, completely transformed the electoral landscape.

Importantly, these policies are still with us as are the problems, for which they are the cure. As I see it, regardless of when the next elections are, pushing for these policies of social justice, pushing against austerity is absolutely essential at this point in time.


It was fascinating to see during the Broxtowe election campaign how more and more volunteers stepped forward and offered their time. Emboldened by the progressive policies of the Manifesto, people felt confident to engage in canvassing. Even on the last Sunday prior to the elections, several new people, who had never been canvassing before, joined the canvassing in the local community of Stapleford.

Photo by Simon James

It would be a pity simply to regard these activists as part of the ‘Labour Party electoral war machine’, who can be switched on and off depending on the electoral cycle. Austerity is still with us and completely regardless of when the next elections are, the Party needs to campaign now around issues of social housing, low pay, mental health. The policies of the Manifesto and the activists for the election campaign offer an excellent opportunity of organising active campaigns.

The question of political power

When analysing the outcome of the elections, the results are not only many more Labour MPs than initially envisaged, there has also already been a significant impact on concrete policies. A number of pledges from the Conservative Manifesto have already been dropped by the new government. ‘Plans to scrap free school meals, ration winter fuel payments for pensioners, repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, and introduce what became widely known as the “dementia tax” for funding social care have been swept away by the election result(The Guardian, 21 June 2017). Moreover, considering the success with voters of various policy pledges from the Labour Party Manifesto, some internal rifts within the Conservative Party have emerged over key government policies. This includes the public sector pay cap of 1 per cent, which has been increasingly questioned by Conservative MPs and ministers (The Guardian, 2 July 2017), as well as University tuition fees, which too have resulted in Conservative voices opposing them (The Guardian, 1 July 2017).

Photo by Rob Watling

Nevertheless, the Conservatives are still in government. They are still continuing with further austerity. Hence, the focus has to be on putting the Labour Party back into government. At the same time, it would be a dangerous illusion to think that by simply securing a Labour government, we would then also automatically have all the progressive policies of the Manifesto. Even if Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister tomorrow with John McDonald as Chancellor, supported by a majority of MPs in parliament, the struggle would be enormous.

Large corporations, investment houses linked to the City, the employers’ associations supported by their friends in the right-wing media would mobilise against the new government and its policies. The bureaucratic apparatus of government too could not simply be relied upon to implement policies. Finally, there may also be quite a bit of resistance from within the Parliamentary Labour Party itself.

Hence, as I see it, support for the progressive policies of the Manifesto needs to be built from the ground up to ensure that there is widespread mobilisation, when a Labour government is eventually in place. There is no point in worrying about if and when there are new elections. The focus has to be on campaigns around progressive policies now. This will provide the best chances for concrete change as well as a Labour victory, when the next elections finally come. 

Andreas Bieler

Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website:

31 August 2017

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