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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PIED2139 The Labour Party Since 1945

20 creditsClass Size: 80

Module manager: Dr Timothy Heppell

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module seeks to explain how the Labour Party have defined and positioned themselves as a means to ensure electoral success (the politics of support) and then to demonstrate governing competence (the politics of power). The module will consider how the statecraft strategies adopted by the Labour Party have evolved since 1945 as mechanisms designed to ensure that they can present themselves as a party of government. The module will provide students with an overview of developments within post-war Labour Party politics through which the factors that contributed to the shift from 'Old' to 'New' Labour can be identified. Considerable emphasis will be placed on examining the ideological disputes that have disfigured Labour party politics since 1945, as the module will examine the debates on nationalisation, unilateralism and the common market, within the context of the conflict between the socialist left and the social democratic right. Moreover, it will emphasise how such policy based disagreements were tied into wider intra-party debates on electoral strategy and organisational reform, thus providing scope to students to understand the fratricidal struggles over the creation of the Electoral College for party leadership selection, and its contribution to the formation of the SDP. With regard to these debates on economic strategy, foreign and defence policy, and the European dilemma, the module will chart the dominance and degeneration of the socialist left; the fracturing of, and then the reassertion of the social democratic right, and the incremental policy reappraisal and strategic reorientation that occurred, culminating in New Labour. Towards the latter stages of the module students will engage with the debates on post-New Labour politics and the rise of the left under the leadership of Corbyn.


The aim of the module is to examine the development of the Labour Party in government and opposition since 1945.

The module will provide students with an appreciation of the main achievements, challenges and failings of all post war Labour governments. It will provide students with an understanding of how and why respective Labour governments lost office and how in opposition recovery and renewal was achieved. To aid students in this the module will exploit statecraft theory and its various component parts - i.e. effective party management; electoral strategy; political argument hegemony and governing competence.

Throughout the module students will reflect upon the ideological disputes that have characterised post-war Labour Party politics. Students will thereby gain an appreciation of disagreements over economic, foreign, European and defence policy that defined the conflict between the socialist left and the social democratic right. Students will also gain an appreciation of the case for ideological modernisation that culminated in New Labour and the critique made of New Labour from the left. The module will also provide students with an opportunity to explore the tensions that have emerged within the post-New Labour era.

This emphasis on ideological factionalism will enable to students to reflect on the complexities in terms of party management within the Labour Party, and how ideological factionalism can be linked to leadership selection within the party.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module students should be able to:

a) demonstrate a critical understanding of the historical development of the Labour Party in government and opposition since 1945;

b) demonstrate an in depth knowledge of the internal ideological disputes that have characterised Labour Party politics and their impact on party management and party leadership selection;

c) demonstrate a command of a range of literature on post war Labour Party politics;

d) appraise competing theories about the politics of the Labour Party;

e) use their ability to draw on a range of relevant information in order to present informed arguments in a logical and coherent written format.


The module will be delivered through a chronological structure. An indicative syllabus would read as follows (although this may be adapted slightly from one academic year to the next):
The High Point of Labour: The Attlee Governments 1945 to 1951
The Labour Party in Crisis: The Era of Opposition 1951 to 1964
The Natural Party of Government? Labour in Government 1964 to 1970
Electoral Decline and Governing Difficulties in the 1970s
Electoral Rejection and Ideological Division 1979 to 1994
The Making of New Labour 1994-1997
New Labour in Power 1997-2007
Decline and Fall: The End of New Labour 2007-2010
Transcending New Labour: Opposition 2010-2015
Repudiating New Labour: The Rise of the Left 2015-

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours179.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students are asked to read key articles and chapters listed in the module reading list in preparation for seminar discussions and their essays.

Students will be provided with lecture notes in the form of power point slides in advance of lectures, and will also be provided with seminar preparation questions to guide their reading.
Students will have the opportunity to receive feedback on an essay plan and discuss this with their seminar tutor in preparation for written assessments.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student attendance will be monitored on a weekly basis. Student contribution to class discussion will be monitored throughout the course, but not assessed. One 1,500 word non-assessed essay for progress monitoring to be submitted at mid- point of module.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,500 Word (End of Term)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

One 1,500 word mid term non assessed essay.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:51:18


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