The agriculture minister and his Labour opposite number

Is that a mistake?

  • 3
    Its in capital L because it is the name of a party and names are proper nouns which start with a capital letter in the English language.
    – Rolen Koh
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 9:33
  • In addition to nnnnnn's answer (which is completely correct for this particular situation,) you may also see 'Labor' capitalized in reference to a "Department of Labor" in many governments. For example, if you see the term "Labor Secretary" or "Labor Minister," that's usually referring to person who is the head of a Department of Labor of some government.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 18:30
  • The gratuitous insertion of a silent U between O and R is a pretty solid clue that this is something British being discussed. The example is clearly about political offices of some sort. Searching Google for "british politics Labour" gives, as its first result, the Wikipedia page for Labour Party (UK). Yay for context! Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 18:54
  • 1
    The Australian Labor Party (ALP) spells "labor" without a "u" in their name, even though the standard Australian spelling of the word is "labour", and even though ALP literature often spells it "labour" in contexts not related to the party name. (Why do they do this? The humorous answer is "Because they don't care about you".)
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 1:02

2 Answers 2


It is not a mistake. Many countries have a political party called the Labour Party. (Or Labor Party, in some countries.) So it has a capital L because it is a name.

The agriculture minister is a member of parliament belonging to the political party that holds the majority and is in government - from context that is not the Labour Party: most likely the Labour Party is the opposition.

So "his Labour opposite number" is the member of parliament belonging to the Labour Party who deals with agricultural issues, who most likely would become the agricultural minister if the Labour Party were to win the next election.

  • Getting into politics more than English here, but often the 'opposite' chairs an important committee that would be very relevant. Not always, since if one party controls the chamber they probably are choosing the committee members (and the chair) but a lot of times it isn't worth spending the political capital to oust a chair just because control of the chamber changed.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 16:53
  • 1
    The "opposite" may specifically refer to a shadow minister in some countries.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 5:58

It is incorrect to say that a 'u' has been inserted as 'Labour' is the correct spelling throughout the english speaking world - except in North America where the 'u' was gratuitously removed around 1840. Oddly the only exception to this is in Australia where 'Labor' is used to refer to a political party despite using the form 'labour' otherwise.

  • 4
    Interesting, but not an answer to the question.
    – Adeptus
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 0:58
  • OK - at least I seem to have provided those who do have a reputation with some material :-) Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 1:51
  • 1
    If you had attempted to answer the question in addition to stirring the pot over the spelling of labour, this might have been received better. We shouldn't derail the OP's question just because Americans settled on Webster's dictionary instead of Johnson's.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 2:26

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