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The identification of factions in the British Parliamentary Labour Party, 1945-1970 Woods, Pamela Bernardine

Abstract

Many studies of the British Labour Party have emphasised disputes within the Parliamentary Labour Party and attempted to explain them. There has, however, been no attempt to apply the concept of factionalism, with criteria detailing how a faction might be identified, to a study of the Parliamentary Labour Party over a period of time. It is the aim of this paper to succinctly define the term faction; to establish criteria for the purpose of identifying factions, and to determine to what extent parties to Parliamentary Labour Party disputes could be identified as factions. Prom the definition of a faction employed, six criteria were established, against which to assess a group as a faction. Employing histories of the Labour Party, biographies and autobiographies of contemporary Labour politicians and contemporary newspapers and journals, major disputes during the years 1945-1970 were isolated and examined. It was found that there were four periods of intense Parliamentary Labour Party dispute. Application of the six criteria to groups involved in each dispute showed that four factions could be clearly identified. The policies expounded by three of these factions were identified as left-wing. One faction was identified as of the right-wing of the Labour Party. A number of implications of factionalism in the Parliamentary Labour Party were drawn.

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