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Labour is the party of national unification & European federalism. Conservatives, meanwhile are a class-nationalist party, that looks to the United States for inspiration and military protection.

discuss: current European constitutional issues and the ideological position of 2 main parties


The political ground in Britain can be broadly divided to two sides: left and right as can be politics in most countries. This is a very simplistic view, however its a good starting point. Conservatives have classically been to the right - they are traditionalists and oppose radical change. They are also political sceptical that believe the state is too complicated system to understand.

Labour on the other hand are not that precise in England. They started as a party in opposition demanding rights for workers, nowadays its more of a party rebelling against the waste capitalism brings and supports more co-operation within the sate and also with other states. They are however supporting change throw parliamentary institutions not by revolutions as do left-wing parties in many other countries.

The ideas of the British political parties are often vague, inconsistent and contradictory, there is no predetermined view of a party, different MP form different pressure groups.

Although Conservative Party is traditionally associated with nationalism, there is a strand of economic liberalism, that has created a number of complications for the party, particularly on the question of the defence of British economic interests.

the Labour policy supports moral objectives such as justice on more than a merely national, but the internationalist spirit has to coexist with the very conservative and nationalistic outlook of much of the membership, especially those in the trades unions - Tivey/Wright.

Both these pressure groups have significant power on influencing the overall policy, it is true that Britain has under conservative government supported a nuclear defence from USA, but there has been number of people opposing it ('gothic wing of the Conservative Party' (Hanning 1964: 1)) and Britain still joined the EU in 1972. In fact the 1957 Defence White Paper indicated that Britain's credible defence would in future depend on the development of an independent nuclear deterrent. This permitted Britain to claim an independent status from the United States.  In practice, this independence has been questioned by critics of British policy, especially since the 1962 Polaris agreement

Mainstream Conservative Party thinking is firmly based on what is essentially a 'power politics' view of the world.  This means supporting an active foreign policy in terms of embargoes etc.

Party is a patriotic party, commuted to a defence of national interests as the priority of foreign and defence policy. Since 1980, when the Labour Party adopted unilateralism as party policy, the Conservatives have been accused the Labour Party as untrustworthy in the defence of Britain's interests (The Times, 6 June 1987).

The party has also acquired an imperialist strand and is associated with protectionism. 

Thus strong and traditional attachments to the nation state as the focus of political loyalty reside within the Conservative Party.  The defence of national interests must, for the Conservative, lie primarily through national efforts, emphasis on independence. They are suspicion on international organisations which might seek to limit Britain's sovereignty and independence, and which set themselves vague and, to the Conservative, unrealistic goals.

Thus the EC, in conservative view, should mainly be a co-operation of independent states as opposed to a federal superstate - Harrop. Thus they support the European widening process to "dilute" the actual links between original member-nations.

It has been difficult for the Conservative to accept easily a reduced status in world politics, a position which the post-war declining economy has allocated to Britain - Tivey.

The neo-liberal strand of the party has introduced a number of apparently contrasting ideas into the conservative policy, they support free trade rather than imperial preference. While the party as a whole is a supporter of capitalism as the basis for economic and political activity, the neo-liberals have a greater devotion to the mechanisms of the free market yet have inherited a tradition of support for sterling as an indicator of British status, thus more state intervention in this area is supported.

Conservative party has had its nowadays policy dominated by renewed uncertainty about the future of the recovery due to the enormous trade and financial imbalances which had emerged in the world economy after the stock market crash in October 1987. Supply side politics are much used nowadays,

Conservatives rely heavily on international competitiveness, this showed clearly their attitudes - they wanted to be above the rest.

The attitude towards EC by conservatives was clearly shown by their unwillingness to use "the F-word" (federalism) in any part of Mastricht's Treaty.

Conservatives fought successfully in 1984 Fointenblau European council plan for 1.4% VAT ceiling to obtain a formula for reducing UK budgetary contributions. Although the European Commission suggested more common policies than just CAP, those that can be more beneficial to UK, but conservatives did not agree on that as it would have extended the powers of EC.

Already EC is quite powerful, although it is not a state on its own, as it has no land etc. it can impose laws that override the decisions made by the member state governments and has got the money to back up its policies.

UK has its totally own party in EU council which is now associated with PEP, due to conservative euroscepticism. However this scepticism has diminished remarkably over time and conservatives now as compared to 10 years ago are much more euro-friendly. This can partly be associated with growing public favour towards EU, however conservatives are not famous for caring too much about public opinion, e.g. opinions in 1972 showed the majority was against joining EC, and not very long time ago Britain opted out of the Social Chapter, 2/3 of the people would have supported the Chapter.

The Labour Party's ideas on foreign and defence Policy have a number of origins, including the basic Christian, socialist, and radical traditions which influenced the party in its early days and which still find expression within it. 

The party has endorsed the socialist view that social tensions within states are the source of international frictions (Northedge 1960:642). This distinguishes the Labour Party from the Conservatives.  Whereas the latter see the potential for conflict lying with intrinsic human fallibility, the Labour Party has a more optimistic view, seeing instead conflict caused by the underlying extrinsic relationships between human beings and the structures and institutions which support those relationships. - Tivey. The Labour Party has identified the goals of a socialist foreign policy as the creation of a world free from poverty, inequality, and war, and one liberated from political and economic oppression (Labour Party 1982:238). Labour has however largely dropped this original view of welfare states and has thus moved more to the centre.

However, to those on the left of the party, this process, evident in the post-1945 period when Labour governments have had working majorities, has been considered a betrayal of socialism and been used as a weapon in internal party struggles. 

Michael Gordon (1969) has identified four broad themes for today's labour: anticapitalism, international working-class solidarity, internationalism, and pacifism.

The anti-capitalism of the party has also generated an anti-Americanism, which regards the United States as the citadel of world capitalism and, therefore, a state of which British socialist governments should be wary.

The Soviet revolution was seen as a potential model for socialism and one which should be supported on the basis of international working-class solidarity.  The excesses of Stalinism eroded this attachment to the Soviet Union, but the heroic exertions of the Soviet people during the Second World War restored the Labour Party's perception of the Soviet state. - Tivey.

The anti-capitalism of the left has also nourished an anti-colonialism which has been shared generally by the whole party, this however conflicts with the liberal attachment of Labour that supports self-determination as the basic principle of nationalism.

The League of Nations and the United Nations occupy a central place in the foreign policy of the Labour Party. However, the internationalism of the party has been strained by the hostility of some of the left towards the EEC and NATO, and their promotion of neutrality as a basis for British foreign and defence policy.  The left considers both the EEC and NATO to be neither democratic nor representative of true internationalism, while those on the centre and right tend to moderate their criticism of the EEC to specific Community policies and are firm supporters of NATO.

A strong pacifist commitment has remained to this day.  Thus the use of force was regarded as morally wrong. The experiences of the Great War reinforced the view that war and conflict were the product of imperialist rivalries.

In the post-Second World War period the pacifist strand of the party has been manifested through an uneasy stance in relation to British and American nuclear weapons and the promotion of British unilateral nuclear disarmament by those on the left of the party.  Opposition has also been directed to conventional arms and spending on conventional weapons; specifically towards the retention of peace-time conscription and the Korean rearmament programme, both instituted by the Attlee government.- Tivey.

The 'Keep Left' group in Labour of Crossman, Foot, Mikardo, and others was concerned that British policy reflected a 'dangerous dependence on the USA' (ibid.:395) and called instead for Britain to become the standard bearer of a 'third force' in international Politics, distanced from the superpowers and the developing tensions of the Cold War.  Hence some on the left, in the internationalist tradition, initially supported a British involvement in European co-operation, cough this attitude was to change when, in 1948, the Council of Europe was seen to be dominated by Christian Democratic, rather than Socialist, forces. Still UK joined NATO during Labour power and decided secretly to start developing Britain's own nuclear weapon. It was a contradiction which was to return to the party in the 1980s.

Labour party is strong in UK relative to other European countries, because of the exceptional uniformity of the UK working class (no ethnic minorities etc.)

Federalists placed primary emphasis on the superseding of the nation state with a larger democratic structure. Nationalists, although they did not display nationalism in its negative sense, did not see any reason to participate in a new political order - Artis/Lee. Nationalists views were strong in Britain largely because it had escaped the invasion during the Second World War.

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