Modern day politics is complex and in general the labels used are unhelpful or old-fashioned

I think that the conventional way of describing voters and political positions as “Left” or “Right” is an anachronism, and a lazy one at that. Most of us who bother about politics try and think through important issues on their merits and come to a conclusion rather than follow a “party” line.

Brexit was not primarily a Party divide issue, Europe never had been. And as the Brexit badge you wear also seems to determine your position on other things it’s time political analysts started to look at this rather than reach for the Left/Right stamp.

A straight line with Hard Left at one end and Hard Right at the other really doesn’t work any more. Is Euroscepticism Left or Right, likewise opposition to Lockdown ? There is no logic to true believers in Brexit also being the most vociferous opponents of lockdown. To call these people “Hard Right” is an oversimplification.

I joined CND in the 1960s and remain a supporter. But I also strongly believe in a mixed economy, support some contracting out in the Health Service and worked for forty years in an oil company – I’m a neoliberal Lefty perhaps?

In the USA “Socialist” was used recently as a term of abuse by some who one suspects had no idea what it means. If we follow a Tony Crosland, Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey or even Tony Blair approach (I do) then it’s quite legitimate to call it Democratic Socialism. Try explaining that to a Trump supporter – or Trump himself for that matter.

The term “Woke” as an insult is used as a catch-all condemnation of us liberals, often by self-described “libertarians”. But I believe in “freedom” just as much as they say they do. But a different kind of freedom – one restrained by logic and the law. The term “Centrist” is abusive from the Corbynite Left as if it is in some way impure. The truth is that it is , like “woke” , a silly over-simplification.

I like “liberal” to describe myself because it is undoctrinaire and not prescriptive. Social liberalism was a great cause when I was growing up and many battles have been won along the way since. But some of Margaret Thatcher’s economic reforms could also be described as “liberal” – the social democrats Blair and Brown didn’t unwind them did they?

Modern day politics is complex and in general the labels used are unhelpful or old-fashioned. Politicians and political commentators should be encouraged to explain without resorting to over-simplifications in speech and symbols. Do I ask too much ?

2 thoughts on “Modern day politics is complex and in general the labels used are unhelpful or old-fashioned

  1. The SNP has long argued that their party promotes an inclusive sense of Scottish identity – anyone who comes to live in Scotland has the right to be regarded as Scottish, irrespective of whether they or their parents were born in Scotland or not. So the label ‘Nationalist’ does not apply. A national party does not mean nationalist in the traditional sense.
    I use the SNP as an example because it’s difficult sometimes to understand where the root of their politics actually is. Are they of the left or right? Are they liberal or conservative? Labels then do help as a form of shorthand to quickly see the direction of travel.
    The term ‘Woke’ tends to be used as a form of abuse. I personally dislike these modern terminologies although I would still consider myself as being politically aware and against any form of racism or injustice. Liberal fits that better. I am a member of the Lib Dems since they represent to me the best of my own values.
    One the other extreme there is Fascist and often attitudes from some in the conservative movement parallel Fascism in its purest form.
    Here in Spain the Fascists are resurgent, now calling themselves Vox. However, they are still the same old, same old reactionaries. There is nothing new under the sun, everything gets recycled and repackaged eventually.

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  2. In essence, Paddy if something gets repackaged it requires a label or it never travels.
    John Stuart Milne’s book On Liberty published in 1859 talks very clearly about the nature of freedom. You are free until your freedom restricts someone else or hurts someone else. In the pandemic that principle becomes ever more relevant.

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