fringe groups

   In the postwar era of consensus politics it was difficult to locate distinctive and coherent major party fringe groups. Clearer ideological differences of opinion within the two dominant political parties emerged from the late 1960s, and factions developed despite leadership opposition. The Tribune Group is the oldest surviving Labour faction. Founded in 1966, Tribune has traditionally been on the Left of the party, supporting trade unions, unilateral nuclear disarmament, high public spending and nationalization. Tribune was influential in the election of one of its members, Neil Kinnock, as Labour leader following the 1983 general election and moved towards the right with him. It has since been dubbed the ‘soft left’. The ‘hard left’, or Campaign Group, split with Tribune following the acrimonious deputy leadership election of 1981 when the prominent left-winger Tony Benn failed to get elected.
   The New Right tendency has been influential in the Conservative Party since Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. It is closely associated with right-wing think-tanks and supports free market economics, choice and competition, a reduced role for the state and freedom for the individual. The New Right advocated conviction politics and the need for a moral code of conduct. The traditional Tory right is represented by the Monday Club, which emphasizes authority, discipline, law and order and national sovereignty. It supports removal of trade union immunities and strict immigration policies. The No Turning Back Group was founded in 1983 to support Mrs Thatcher’s policies and to urge for continued privatization, dismantling of the welfare state bureaucracy, and cuts in public expenditure. The left of the party has had little influence since 1979. Thatcher labelled progressive Conservatives ‘wets’, and purged them from her Cabinets. They are represented by the Tory Reform Group, who support neo-corporatist measures to safeguard social welfare and criticize the ‘hanging and flogging’ element of the party.
   In the 1990s, divisions in the Conservative Party over Europe were magnified by factional infighting. Conservative Eurosceptics were even refused the party whip after criticizing Major’s policies concerning the Maastricht treaty. The Bruges Group, founded in 1988 after a Thatcher speech against European integration, is the principal Eurosceptic faction. Counter to this are pro-European factions such as the Positive European Group (1993) and the Action Centre for Europe (1994).
   Further reading
    Garner, R. and Kelly, R. (1993) British Political Parties Today, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
   COLIN WILLIAMS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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