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AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Factionalism involves people forming a cohesive group within a political party.

Usually, they will form a faction that is contentious with the aims and values of the party’s current leadership. With parties being more catch-all election winning machines, tending to constitute a “big tent”, there are possiblymore ideological differences within the main political parties than between them.

We study political parties and their policies on the basis of what their leadership have decided to do in their manifesto and in public pronouncement. But within parties there are people who occupy a far greater spread of the political spectrum than justifies narrow classifications of where the party stands. The existence of Ken Clarke and Bill Cash in the Conservatives and Chuka Umunna and John Trickett in Labour are examples of that.

The Labour Party contains a wide variety of factions, with the main ones being the following: The ‘Old left’ venerate a traditionally socialist spirit. ‘Blue Labour’, emphasises conservative themes from a progressive perspective. ‘Purple Labour’ tries to update New Labour, stressing further modernisation of public services and the constitution. ‘Black Labour’ also developed to insist Labour would not be taken seriously until it developed it’s own plan of deficit reduction.

The main Conservative factions are the ‘Thatcherites’, who want to return to the economic liberalism, social authoritarianism and constitutional conservatism of Margaret Thatcher. There are also the ‘Pre-Thatcherites’ who support an older form of conservatism going back to Disraeli and ‘One-Nation’ and tend to be pro-Europe. There are ‘Red Tories’, who worry about how capitalism has contributed to a broken society, looking for local solutions but are anti-Europe. There are also Liberal Conservatives, combining economic and social liberalism in a way that Thatcherites don’t.

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