In the post-war era, Britain has benefitted hugely from Socialist-leaning policies, policies which have influenced the creation of the NHS and the foundation of the welfare state. This way of thinking has been hugely linked to the Labour Party, which has sought to benefit common workers by trying to improve living and working conditions for the many. However, Socialist policies have seemingly died out since the 1980s, with free market neo-liberalism being highly influential in regards to government policy since. With living and working standards being affected by austerity measures however, are current circumstances providing a platform for the re-emergence of Socialism in Britain?
The political right in Britain have tried to demonise the ideology of Socialism in the past three decades, leading to the demise of trade union influence, and an increased importance given to private enterprise in order to further the economy. This has made it awkward for the Labour Party to position itself on the political spectrum in the run up to the next general election. Ed Miliband’s developing political position is still an interesting one as he tries to regain political power from the Conservatives; however, he is faced with a difficult balancing act between public and private enterprises after the collapse of neo-liberalism in Britain. Prior to the Labour Party conference in 2013, many right-wing commentators were arguing that Ed Miliband was trying to revive Socialism in Britain, with newspapers such as the Daily Mail branding him once again as ‘Red Ed’. However, despite the inane ramblings of Britain’s tabloid press, to all intents and purposes it seems an ideal time to see a resurgence of left-wing policies in Britain.
As living and working conditions worsen and the ‘big squeeze’ hits the working population the hardest, the future is very uncertain for the general population of Britain. This is because rising costs have manifested with cut backs to the welfare state, seeing more people struggle with the demands of life. This has led to some left-wing commentators, such as Owen Jones, to argue that 2014 is the year that left-wing populism has to emerge in order to regain control from the Tories at the next general election. What led to the Conservatives gaining power, (with the Liberal Democrats) in 2010 were right-wing ideas of low government spending gaining credence after the economic collapse. This allowed for the Conservatives to implement austerity measures which captivated people who were just fed up. However, with these austerity measures failing to provide an economic recovery for the majority of families, and with Britain’s deficit slowly meandering towards break-even point, people are becoming more receptive towards alterative viewpoints.
Unfortunately, the Socialist ideology- to many- has been tried and failed, like the neo-liberalist ideology in recent times. However, what Ed can do is revive Socialist-leaning ideas and create a new brand of social democratic populism which gives the power of the economy to the many, whilst curbing the influence of big business and corrupt vested interests. With the public becoming more frustrated with the conditions they find themselves in, it seems like an ideal time to see the emergence of a new form of Socialism in Britain.
By Beccie Ions