Repository logo

Labour, more or less? Policy reasoning in a fiscal register

Published version

Repository DOI

Change log



Michael Jacobs and Andrew Hindmoor’s analysis of ‘Labour, left and right’ is a salutary corrective to ‘electoral-ideological’ accounts of party strategy in Britain, and rightly urges scholars to pay more attention to substantive ‘policy reasoning’. Jacobs and Hindmoor’s account of Labour policy is only partly convincing, however, because it is based on a sharp distinction between left-wing ‘structural reform’ and moderate ‘redistributive’ strategies which is difficult to justify historically, and understates the importance of social policy commitments to Labour’s positioning. This article argues that Labour’s policy trajectory since the 1980s is better understood through a fiscal lens, which reflects the importance of costings debates in UK general election campaigns and of Shadow Chancellors in opposition policy-making. Shifts in Labour’s positioning can thus be explained by looking at the interplay between the party’s economic thought, the leadership’s perception of its electoral needs, and the changing budgetary context.


Peer reviewed: True


political history, manifestos, UK general elections, Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, fiscal policy

Journal Title

The British Journal of Politics and International Relations

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



SAGE Publications