The Labour Party was founded in 1900 as the Labour Representation Committee. The LRC was formed by trade unions along with the Fabian Society, the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), and the older Independent Labour Party (ILP). The SDF left the party after a short time, while the ILP also withdrew some years later. Most trade unions and the Fabians remain affiliated to the party to this idea. In 1906 it took its present name, and since 1918 (when it adopted a socialist constitution) the party has allowed individual membership (rather than simply membership through affiliation). The party has moved leftwards and rightwards as different times. Essentially social democratic, but containing some leftwing socialists too, the party has been led from a near-centrist position since the Blair takeover of the mid-1990s.
The party largely supported the First World War, with some misgivings and some individual exceptions. A notable opponent of the war was Ramsey MacDonald, although he later became notorious and was expelled from the party when, as prime minister, he formed a national (coalition) government that included Tories (conservatives) and Liberals. Labour (which had governed briefly in the '20s) was left in opposition in the '30s, under the leadership first of the pacifist leftwinger George Lansbury and then of Clement Attlee. Attlee became a highly successful prime minister in 1945. The 50s were, however, another period of Tory rule. In 1964, the general election was narrowly won by Labour, led by Harold Wilson, who had originally been a leftwinger but was now more centre-left. Though his governments disappointed many socialists, he is remembered for a number of achivements, among them the creation of the Open University and, of course, keeping Britain out of the Vietnam War, which the UK was under American pressure to get involved in. In 1970, Labour had a shock defeat and the Tories ruled for four years, but following the Conservatives' poor handling of a miners' strike, Labour took power again in 1974. Some good policies followed, but the recession caused a crisis and amid a wave of strikes and rising unemployment, Labour lost office in 1979 and a resurgent rightwing Tory Party gained power, led by the notorious rightwing cunt Margaret Thatcher. She proceeded to fuck up the country for the next eleven years, crushing the trade unions with police power and authoritarian new laws and privatising vital public services. During this period Labour was deeply divided, and in the early 80s some rightwing members of the party left to form the centrist Social Democratic Party, which later merged with the Liberals. The party stood on a leftwing manifesto in 1983, but following its heavy defeat it has moved steadily rightwards ever since. In 1990 Thatcher was succeeded by John Major, a weaker leader who was supposed to be more moderate, but who nevertheless privatised the railways. John Smith, a respected centre-left Labour leader, lost the 1992 election, to widespread dismay. He died of a heart attack a couple of years later and his replacement was the young, charismatic but somewhat right-leaning Tony Blair, who led the party back into government in 1997. Under Blair's leadership, no attempt was made to reverse the privatisations of the '80s, nor was there any success in narrowing the gap between rich and poor, although the government brought in numerous measures to help the low-paid and also improved gay rights immeasurably. Notoriously, Blair sided with George Bush over Iraq. After his eventual exit, he was replaced by Gordon Brown as prime minister.
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