Under Tony Blair, the Labour Party became a formidable electoral machine, winning large majorities in three successive general elections from 1997. While the leadership of Gordon Brown was much less surefooted, until its defeat in the 2010 election Labour had been in power for thirteen years, a record for the party. Until 1997 however, Labour had to struggle to become successful against the dominant Conservative Party, with the tension between electability and adhering to the party’s principles being fought out internally on a number of occasions. Struggles over the totemic Clause IV of the party’s constitution, committing Labour to public ownership, under Hugh Gaitskell and Tony Blair are examples of this, while the 1974 and 1983 manifestos were considerably left-wing documents, by comparison with the party’s 1987 and 1997 programmes. Discussion of developments in the Labour Party revolves around four sections. The first sets out key elements of Labour Party ideology and policy. The second part assesses the party’s recent leadership, from the Wilson/Callaghan period onwards, while also outlining the party’s procedures for selecting a party leader. The issue of Labour’s representativeness and role of its candidate selection procedures has been a high-profile topic. The third part therefore outlines the party’s candidate selection processes and, through an assessment of the representativeness of the party’s MPs, asks whether or not initiatives to make the party more representative, such as women-only shortlists, have been successful.
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