On being on the far right of the centre left.

I sometimes like to introduce myself to Labour party people as ‘the most right-wing person in the Labour party’. I’ve found it’s a very good way to avoid being invited to sit on committees, working groups or panels, which is my main aim in all interactions with Labour party activists and thinkers.

I’m not sure if I’m really the most right-wing person in the Labour party (though as Brian Clough said, I’m in the top one). Instead I think I’m in the minority of people on the left who don’t quietly regard being on the right as being evidence of some gaping internal moral chasm.

It’s not that I’m particularly right-wing which sets me apart, it’s that I don’t mind the idea of being thought right-wing.

Do I believe that the Tories want to see a society where the poor are stewing grass?1 No. I think they’d be horrified.

Do I think the Tories want to see food banks, or increased poverty? No. I think they’re either seen as the unfortunate side effect of essential policies, to be ameliorated where possible, or as an intransigent problem with roots that go very deep and can only really be addressed at the individual, atomic level.

Oh, there are some flavours of the right I loathe, don’t get me wrong. There’s too often a comfort with the xenophobia of others, for example, or right-wing dictatorships. But there are things on the left I don’t like either. For example, every Labour conference has fringe events sponsored by the Cuba Solidarity campaign. Well, call me Mr Moral high ground, but I don’t get why I’d want to show solidarity with a gerontocratic police state. (You get free rum, though.)

Ultimately, I don’t think being left-wing is morally better. I just think it’s practically better.

I think Social Democracy works – it produces better outcomes, it raises more human capability, it educates, heals and employs and it constantly tries to improve. The social market model is a wonderful, amazing thing, and it’s wonderful and amazing in part because it’s messy, and there is a constant ferment of attempts to try to improve the way things work.

Sometimes, of course, it doesn’t work. Sometimes government fails, just as sometimes markets fail.

There can be an odd selective outrage about this. Today I’m reading that the G4S and Serco contracts are evidence of the failures of the market (which they clearly are) but I’m reading this from many of the same people who have argued that covering scandals in the NHS is a cynical attempt to undermine public services. Odd.

What I love about social democracy though, is that when things go wrong (as they always will), you’re not forced to hew to the same way of delivering your sought outcomes because of an ideological fixedness. You’re allowed to use the state, or even the para-state of volunteers, charities, companies and not-for-profits,  in many different ways.

So, the old British rail was a bit of a mess, not least because under state ownership it suffered significant underinvestment, leading to worse passenger safety. So a privatisation and regulation scheme was developed. That got investment, and increased passenger numbers, but also led to sustained pressure on fares and some companies weren’t very good.

So now we seem to be settling into an approach where some  Train operating companies will be in public ownership, as they still need subsidy, others might be private, while the tracks are run by a hands off company, with fares being regulated by an independent arm of government. That’s messy, but it might well work a lot better than either outright nationalisation or privatisation.

What’s more, you can fiddle with it if bits seem to be going wrong, and the ability to fiddle and bodge is ultimately a very good thing whether you’re a social engineer or a real one.

It’s perhaps for this reason that I find the Labour party’s current search for the moral high ground on every issue so frustrating. I just don’t see how we’re morally better, or how we got to be so sure about it.

Occasionally, I get the uncomfortable feeling that the reason some Labour politicians are in politics is that they think they’re better people than me, and certainly than their opponents. Maybe they are, but don’t let it show, eh?

After all, the search for the moral high ground can leave you dangerously exposed if you don’t always live up to the standards you loudly demand of others. Ask all those strangely muscular right-wing preachers who condemn homosexuality. Or Ken Livingstone.

Should I worry about this strange moral lacunae in my left politics, this lack of a burning certainty that I am righteous and my opponents are not? It certainly makes things a bit harder to explain. ‘They’re well intentioned but misguided’ is a harder message to sell than ‘They’re nasty’.

What’s nasty anyway, though? Harold Wilson said the Labour party ‘is a crusade or it is nothing’. But Wilson was a backstabbing hack who sold out the Bevanites, had corrupt friends and employed George Wigg, so I’m not sure I should take that at face value. I’ve seen enough brutal Labour politics to be fairly sure there are precious few angels in any political frontline.

What’s more, by searching for the moral high ground, I think we lose the opportunity to explain the real reason we’re better: because what we offer bloody well works.

Look around you. The health service. Free education. Road, trains, busses. Pensions, childcare. See that? from Seattle to Sunderland, that’s the social market, and it’s built the most prosperous, fairest, strongest society in human bloody history, and without hardly any forced Labour camps. That’s not because its advocates are better people, but because we’re right, and where we’re wrong (which is fairly often, in truth), we’re allowed to change our minds.

More cynically, I also think it’s a good thing if people on the left don’t give in to the temptation to think we’re somehow better souls than people on the right, if only because we have to convince people who don’t share our glowing self assessment.

You know who doesn’t laugh when I introduce myself as the most right-wing person in the Labour party?

Tories.

They look uncomfortable, and a bit confused, and because I’m not particularly moral, that’s kind of how I like it.

  1. Remember though: There’s only one country in the last couple of decades where the poor have been reduced to stewing grass. North Korea []

56 Responses to “On being on the far right of the centre left.”

  1. PooterGeek

    1. I have been The Most Right-Wing Person In The Labour Party since the 1980s and I will challenge anyone who says otherwise to a game of modernization Top Trumps.

    2. The corollary of your justification for social democracy is that the surest test of a socialist ideologue is the “But What If It Worked?” test. If you ask a self-proclaimed Left-winger if they would support (for example) a free market reform of the state education system that has been shown to lead to consistent, measurable improvements in outcomes for poor and minority students (without damaging the prospects of others), and they say no, then they’re a narcissist, not a socialist.

    Reply
    • hopisen

      I think I may see a flaw in both our positions. Is it even possible to be the most right wing person in the Labour party and have been in the Labour party for two decades? Our very loyalty may undermine our claim *sobs*

      Reply
  2. Richard Nabavi

    Hopi, I’m not sure if you’re the most right wing person in the Labour Party, but you’re certainly one of the most sensible.

    Reply
    • Mark Smith

      What worries me about food-banks is not so much that they are necessary, because there have, and will always be, the poorest in society with great needs, who undoubtedly needed them in the past as much as they do today, it’s just they were not used as much in the recent past, because they did not exist. I would have used them when I was unemployed 15 years ago, but there were not any foodbanks back then. Likewise when unemployment was up to 3 million in the 1980s, there was great need for foodbanks, but they were not about. besides, people had a totally different attitude back then. I remember people were much too proud to accept “charity” back then. This seems to be a philosophy that has become extinct as more and more people would rather accept charity than work and provide for themselves.

      What worries me about Foodbanks is once people start using them, through genuine need, then they will adjust their personal budgets to allow for this and come to rely totally on them for food. Often people are using them to subsidise their SKY TV subscriptions and expensive mobile phone contracts and other NON essential spending, then claiming that they cannot afford food.

      How do we get people to budget properly, live within their means and spend money on essentials, before relative luxuries, instead of dishonestly utilising charity when it may not be genuinely needed.

      Furthermore, if and when the income of such individual poor families improves, how do we get them to stop continuing to use foodbanks instead of spending their increased income on more luxuries?

      I know people who are on benefits and use foodbanks, but who are not starving. They have many things which I would have considered a dreamworld luxury when I was unemployed 15 years ago. Of the things which I could not afford back then, They now have X-boxes and Playstations, large flat screen 3D TVs SKY packages and smartphone contracts and run a small old car.

      I think that before claiming that they cannot afford such essentials as food, they should really think about getting rid of the £60.00 SKY subscription and £30.00 phone contracts and their car. That would save them enough to buy plenty of food.

      Reply
  3. Adrian

    Hmmm, never regarded myself as on the Labour Right – even though some friends and many enemies routinely do so – because I am not interested in machine politics and statist solutions.

    Blairites – though I think maybe we should revive the early 1990s term “modernisers” – have a lot more in common with the late 50s, early 60s New Left than many are willing to concede – a suspicion of the state, a less than reverend attitude to THIGMOO’s institutions, especially but not exclusively trade unions, pro-feminist, socially liberal and so on.

    Labour First backed Ed Miliband for leader after all.

    Reply
  4. Neil Jennison

    As a ex-Tory (now UKIP) supporter and firm Thatcherite, I am pleased that at least one lefty accepts that I don’t want to eat babies for breakfast and hunt the homeless down with hounds.

    Could you explain that to the people who comment on the Guardian’s CIF ?

    Reply
      • Jeremy Poynton

        Ah. The mad Left say we are all equal (equality laws), all different (diversity laws), which, cooked up together means we must all be treated the same.

        Unless we disagree.

        Infantile, really, if you think about it.

        Reply
  5. TickyW

    If, as you say, the Right would be horrified by the consequences of their (essential) policies then a valid conclusion is that the Left is smarter, given that in no time in history have Rightist policies of blaming individuals for their predicaments ever worked. Learning from the past is an indicator of intelligence, and the Right’s anachronistic mindset is a testament to its stupidity.

    There is also a moral difference – the left represents (or purports to represent) workers , which group comprise the majority of humanity. The Right are on the side of capitalists, a minority. I would say that because of this the cause of the Left is morally superior.

    Reply
    • MrVeryAngry

      Utterly flawed analysis, but you are nearly there.

      1. Don’t confuse the ‘right’ with fascism/communism/socialism, they are the same thing.
      2. Being right of leftyism does not make you right wing.
      3. We are all ‘capitalists’ in one way or another. You are confusing ‘capitalism’ – as in the free excahnge between men under the rule of law – with cronyism, which is what we have now and which exploded under Blair Brown Balls.
      4. The ‘right’ do not blame people for their circumstances. Some people to the right of leftyism do. What people who are not lefties say is that it is up to all of us not to inhibit anyone’s freedom to make progress and by simple human nature and compassion we will help them do that – but in a constrctive not paternalistic/client state creating way.
      5. The biggest failing of the left is to think it is smarter tha the average bear (Blairs getting rid of the wonderful Edwardian English phrased Cl4.4 was tacit recognition of this. Mind you what he replaced it with was dire). Central planning always fails.

      Other than that, keep taking the pilss.

      Yrs etc

      Reply
      • TickyW

        No, you don’t understand capitalism, otherwise you would not say we are all capitalists now. A feature of capitalism is that it procures the services of the state so as to advance its interests. So laws and institutions come into existence at the behest of the capitalist class. Capitalism is not synonymous with “free markets”.

        I think you will find the Right do blame individuals for their circumstances and position in society. Laying the blame at the claimant’s door underpins the current so-called ‘welfare reforms. Remember, it has been Osborne’s and Cameron’s mantra to end the ‘something for nothing’ culture and the labelling of claimants as scroungers. This is blaming the individual, as distinct from ascribing unemployment to a dearth of jobs.

        I don’t understand your point about Blair but in any case, he is/was not a ‘lefty’.

        Finally, I’m not sure if your exhortation for me to continue taking my pilss (sic) is an attempt to pathologise me for my ‘lefty’ views or whether you are encouraging me to drink a sugar free German lager. It would be ironic if the former – the USSR was the champion of sectioning its dissidents as lunatics. Surely you would not wish to be associated with Stalin et al?

        Reply
        • MrVeryAngry

          A feature of capitalism is that it procures the services of the state so as to advance its interests. Nope. That’s cronyism, as I was saying.

          Reply
          • MrVeryAngry

            Read Marx? I don’t read much fiction these days. I might as well read Mein Kampf.

        • MrVeryAngry

          I think you will find the Right do blame individuals for their circumstances and position in society I was trying to say that your definition of ‘right’ was in error. People to the right of lefties do not necessarily blame individuals for their circumstances. But the narrow definition of the ‘right’ – the authoritarian right (probably exemplified by ‘land owning Tories’) may well do so. What I was alluding to is that the left are just as bad as the right. The left trash society through the morally and economically bankrupt philosophy of socialism and the right achieve the same thing via some form of authoritarian cronyism. They are just as bad as each other. I think that this is rather well illustrated by the Nolan Chart.

          Anyway, lefties do not have the monopoly of empathy. End of.

          (pilss = pills.)

          Reply
    • Neil jennison

      Hmmmm. Since when has socialism left us with anything but a stuffed economy. Whereas Capitlism has seen wealth improving for all.

      Some of us on the right predicted the current mess left by Labour back in 1997…..I was mildly surprised it tooklonger than usual but spending money like it was going out of fashion always has the same outcome.

      You say the right are not bright….but many lefties like Callaghan realised yoy cannot spend your way out of trouble in the 70s. Not something the current Labour leadership understand.

      Reply
      • Neil jennison

        I would add that you say that the “left represents the workers”. Does it? It claims it does but that isn’t the same thing.

        Mrs. Thatcher and John Major didn’t win those elections without “the workers” voting Tory.

        Look at Unite’s own research….Nearly as many Unite members support the Conservatives as the Labour Party.

        Reply
    • Matt Wardman

      >the left represents (or purports to represent) workers

      Unite have just admitted:

      a – That most of their members do not vote Labour.
      b – That if they actually relied on people who *wanted* to make political donations to Labour, they would fall by 80-90%.

      And that’s after all the people pissed of by the sectarian sabre rattling of the National/Regional Leadership and controlling political activists have .. er .. pissed off.

      You were saying?

      Reply
  6. MrVeryAngry

    Sometimes [always] government fails, just as sometimes markets fail [actually they do not actually fail, usually they are on the way to working out how to sort stuff out when some numpty bureaucrat sticks his nose and ensures failure].

    You sound like a bit of a libertarian to me. And as you know libertarians are neither right nor left…

    Reply
  7. therealguyfaux

    “Clowns to the Left of me– jokers to the Right…”

    The Tories are glad if you started out with nothing and you’re proud that you’re a self-made man.

    And Labour come around, pat you on the back and say, “Plee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-heeze…”

    Reply
  8. Kevin T

    Social democracy works as long as people feel responsible for their society and are happy to pay for it (eg: Germany, Sweden). It doesn’t work in countries where people grow up not giving a shit and see state benefits as free money from the dumb old government (eg: all of Southern Europe & the UK). Because social democracy runs on the same market economy engine as free market capitalism and it has the same basic laws, including that you have to have more money coming in than going out. We don’t.

    Reply
  9. TheEponymousBob

    On the basis of this article, you and I seem to have quite similar views. The trouble with being hard left, right or any which way is that it tends to lead to knee-jerk-ism and over-simplification of complex problems.

    Just yesterday, I was pointed towards someone petitioning for all MPs to be paid national average salaries (around 27k, if I recall correctly). The justifications were 1) that it would provide incentive to do a “good job”, since if they did so, the national average salary would increase, and 2) it would be “fair”. When ideology gets in the way of actually thinking your arguments through for a moment or two, you end up doing more harm than good.

    For me, disregarding the extremes on either side, what currently veers me left-of-centre is something that has not always been the case in differentiating the camps; it is that in recent times, the Left has taken the lead in pursuing evidence-based policies. The modern Right seems to be going through a peculiar fascination with “common-sense” policy, and if there’s one thing science has taught us, it is that common-sense is almost always wrong.

    But again, it can only work if people are willing to loosen their grips on ideology. The uncomfortable truth of following the evidence is that inevitably it will occasionally lead you to unpalatable choices. Sometimes you might discover, say, that tax cuts for the rich will have a positive effect for the country, just as sometimes, evidence may show you that awarding government contracts to private security firms is a really bad idea.

    Reply
  10. David Walsh

    Leaving aside the “big” arguments, I feel you are wrong about the old British Rail. A copy and paste from Railway Eye shows that in the years prior to privatisation, their engineers had lived the dream under a grey bureaucracy

    “From 1989 to 1992.

    Gosh they were grim times for investment.

    All we had was more electrification than under any government, including the East Coast Main Line with a brand new fleet of 140 mile/h IC225s that delivered a London – Edinburgh run in just 3hr 29 min.

    Plus total route modernisation of Chiltern, the re-equipment of Regional Railways with new trains – frequent DMUs replacing infrequent loco hauled services. Oh, and a new fleet of freight locos.

    And what about the upgrading of all the Kent and Sussex lines to take the new state of the art Networkers, not to mention….”

    Reply
  11. Peter Samuels

    The reality is most people have a mixture of views.

    You can be anti war and pro life., believe in a strong role of the state for some things, but others are best run by the market.

    What people don’t like is hypocrisy – people who support socialism, whilst owning several homes they intend to make a profit on. People who have an elite education, but deny others the same opportunities.

    The other concern is the small pool of people who enter politics, and the low level of engagement in political parties.

    The role of the media is also important and shapes a lot of what is discussed.

    Reply
  12. Jules Wright

    Interesting piece. However, there’s only one political position that works. And that is what works. Everything else is self-indulgent, egotistical and dysfunctional rubbish. To which all are welcome. But the Left is the majority shareholder in this equation.

    Reply
  13. Matt Hoffman

    There’s also a simple mistake involved. People on the left believe (often rightly) that they are motivated by compassion. They conclude (with faulty logic) that those on the other side, the right, must be motivated by the opposing vice, selfishness. And, of course, they rate altruism as morally superior to egoism. QED, they feel themselves morally superior.

    Reply
  14. Bill Quango MP

    That was scary. for a minute I was genuinely worried.
    here is a well known left wing blogger who is making not just a reasoned argument but a sensible reasoned argument. With ideas that are rational and themes that have resonance. Someone who understands that times change and people and issues change too and so solutions and arguments and even ideology must also change with them.

    But then I read the comments and it all soon breaks down into who is the most pious. Most morally correct. Has a better social conscience or cares more deeply than who.

    Phew!
    For a moment there I thought we might be in trouble.

    Reply
    • Neil jennison

      Indeed Mr Qango ! Of course, we all have our own ideas of morality and social conscience. What the left wants to do is use the power of the state ( state violence) to force everyone to conform to their idea of morality.

      Freedom to choose is not something most of them understand – unless the choosers are one of their chosen groups of course.

      Reply
      • Neil jennison

        Eg.

        People should have the right to have sex with who they like whatever sex they are…..(No problem with that).

        However people should not be allowed to have a guest house that prohibits homosexuals from sharing a bed because of their own consciences. (Of course they should…it is supposed to be a free country)

        Freedom is a one way street for the left.

        Reply
  15. TickyW

    The reason why social democratic models work (better) and are morally superior is because they deliver a greater good to a greater number of people than would unbridled capitalism. Practicality and ethics are more aligned with each other in social democracies, basically because they are informed by Leftist / Marxist ideals.. Economic systems that do not deliver the maximum good to the maximum number of people, such as with unbridled capitalism, are likely to become authoritarian.

    Whether the USA is social democratic is a moot point. A similar question increasingly can be asked about the UK as its welfare state has been and is progressively dismantled by this and the previous government. Perhaps it is time for the UK’s Left to regenerate itself by immersing itself once more with Marx, whose work remains a serious analysis of capitalism, its strengths and its paradoxes.

    Reply
    • Neil jennison

      “”The reason why social democratic models work (better) and are morally superior is because they deliver a greater good to a greater number of people than would unbridled capitalism. “”

      Do they? I don’t believe that at all. Not that we have “unbridled capitalism” anyway. All state interference reduces personal freedom too.

      As to something being morally superior because it deliver a greater good to more people……..down that road lies all manner of evils. The killing of people to harvest organs produces a greater good to the many at the expense (death) of the few. is that morally superior?

      Reply
      • TickyW

        “The killing of people to harvest organs produces a greater good to the many at the expense (death) of the few. is that morally superior?”

        Of course it isn’t. No one has suggested it is.

        Reply
        • Neil jennison

          I didn’t say they had. I said that it was something that produced the greater good of the many at the expense of others.

          Ergo it is not as simple as that which produces the greater good being morally superior. (Even if social democracy did produce the greater good, which as I said, I and many others dispute.)

          Reply
          • TickyW

            Well, you’re wrong.

            For every kidney harvested there is one beneficiary and one benefactor, so it is a zero sum game – there is no greater good arising from this arrangement. In fact, aggregate welfare is diminished because the value of consent for medical intervention is breached.

            It’s usually a good idea to make valid comparisons and to think things through, otherwise you will end up defending absurd positions. This is what you are doing here.

  16. Major Plonquer

    “The social market model is a wonderful, amazing thing”.

    I agree 100%. I just wish we could afford one.

    Reply
  17. John D Clare

    Re your comments: “I think Social Democracy works – it… [etc.]’ and ‘What I love about social democracy though, is… [etc.]’ and many of the comments above.

    Labour is not a social democratic party. If you want a party that is social democrat, join the Lib Dems.
    But if you read the back of your Labour Party membership card, you will find that it starts by saying: ‘The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party’, which is *very* different.

    You are not to the right of the Party, you have simply misunderstood what the Labour Party stands for.

    Reply
  18. The Remittance Man

    Hopi is infuriated by Labour’s desire to claim the moral high ground on every issue. Fine, but an analysis of the track records of left of centre governments shows that claiming some higher morality is all they actually have. They certainly don’t have a record of success in the practical sphere.

    Reply
  19. Sam

    Doesn’t the moral distinction come in what you think it means for a policy to ‘work’. The right don’t want to see the poor stewing grass but their vision of the ideal society must be different from yours.

    Reply
  20. ukgoldbug

    Where to start a comment on an article that is so deeply rooted in statism they don’t even realise it.
    All the drivel we hear about left and right wing is just that, drivel. Most people think Adolf Hitler was right wing when he was most definitely not. Fascism and Communism only differ in the nominal ownership of assets -fascists use corporations, communists use government. Everything else is the same. They are both the ultimate expression of statism. Adolf and Joseph absolutely agreed that the state should control the economy and the people through central planning backed by violence. Anyone that thinks that government should control people whether the totalitarian bullet in the back of the head way or the softer lock them up and take their assets route we now enjoy is a statist and differs only in degree and/or management system from any other statist. They actually think that a bureaucrat or politician has the right to steal their money and tell them what to do and how to do it. Anybody that does not agree with them is so far outside their mindset that they cannot process it. In reality left and right wings are no more different that Catholic and Protestant, their god is the state and they just can’t bear to be without it.

    Reply
  21. Neil jennison

    TickyW,

    There doesn’t appear to be a reply button so sorry if this is in the wrong place……

    But who mentioned just kidney transplants? Kill a healthy human for spares you get two kidneys, a heart, lungs, corneas, liver, oesaphagus…..no end of parts so it certainly isn’t a zero sum game.

    But the wider issue is, why take issue with the example when the principle is clearly true?

    Reply
    • TickyW

      People can always find exceptions to Bentham’s utilitarian proposition or to Kant’s categorical imperatives.

      For instance, it is ethical to hang an innocent man to deter others from committing his alleged crimes? Benthamites may say yes, Kantians would say no

      Would it have been ethical to have assassinate Hitler to save millions of lives? Bethamites would say yes, Kantians would say no.

      My answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively. I suspect your answers would be the same as mine. So whether we adopt a utilitarian or Kantian approach depends on the circumstances. At least this is my understanding.

      Returning to the context of Hopi’s post, should governments rule in the interests of the majority? I say ‘yes’. The alternative is to hold that governments should rule in the interests of a minority.

      I largely subscribe to the Marxist view that there are two distinct classes – capitalists and workers, with workers forming the majority. I thus hold that a ‘lefty’ position, which seeks to advance the interests of workers, is the correct ethical (or morally superior) position to take.

      Just to reassure you, I also believe in human rights and do not believe that murder, exile and other Soviet methods should be used to achieve political ends.

      Reply
      • Neil jennison

        The reply button has returned!

        “”My answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively. I suspect your answers would be the same as mine. So whether we adopt a utilitarian or Kantian approach depends on the circumstances. At least this is my understanding.””

        Yes I wouldn’t argue with that. My whole point was that it isn’t an absolute as it appeared you were saying.

        On the actual issue I would argue that capitalism ( or the bastardised capitalism we have at least) has brought enormous benefit to everyone, including those you would describe as “the workers”. The workers are usually the biggest losers under socialism. You would dispute that…..that is the nub of the difference between us.

        I am not really quite sure who are “the workers” and who are the “capitalists” in your definition. Are the capitalists the super rich and the rest the workers? Or is anyone modestly well off with a few BP shares a capitalist, even though they have a job? Are the workers only those on low pay?

        In any case I would further argue that a smaller state doing far less and thus allowing us all to spend our own money is both advantagous for the economy and for freedom of the individual. Not that any government here, Conservative or otherwise has ever reduced the size and power of the state despite the promises. This coalition hasn’t even made any real cuts.

        As to the last paragraph……..I never though otherwise. I don’t consider lefties are all murdering totalitarian types like Castro and Stalin.

        Reply
  22. Jeremy Poynton

    ” See that? from Seattle to Sunderland, that’s the social market, and it’s built the most prosperous, fairest, strongest society in human bloody history, and without hardly any forced Labour camps. ”

    We won’t mention the fact that a certain William Beveridge wanted “re-training camps” for those he described as “malingerers”.

    Imagine the kerfuffle if a contemporary politician proposed such an idea; never mind one revered for his influence on our society. But then, there were no identity politics on those days, nor did people parade themselves as multiply victimised by “society”.

    Reply
  23. Jeremy Poynton

    BoJo on the Left v Right dichotomy; words to the effect of

    “They see us as evil, whereas we see them as deluded”.

    I think that sums it up nicely. Nothing to beat a good session of dehumanising your opponent, is there?

    Reply
  24. Reaguns

    Brilliant article. I’m not in any party but in terms of economics I am to the right of anyone in labour, the conservatives or the american republicans for that matter. Well maybe there are some republicans to the right of me.

    I abhor right wing dictatorships, the social things associated with being right wing, the far right etc.

    I do believe in some measure of the social market, I don’t think right wingers or left wingers are evil, but I do think they are cynical and devious in their attempts to buy or create voters, ie if you give a man a job here you might make him into a Tory voter, but if you put him on welfare and bring in a pole to do his job, thats one more person on welfare, and one more immigrant. Both welfare recipients and settled immigrants tend to vote labour so you have just created two voters for yourself there. Same with adding people to the public sector payroll, and to bringing people into the government dependency net using tax credits, child credits etc.

    So I actually believe in paying dole, believe in the NHS, and other things which might be a bit leftie, but still think in general this country needs a huge shift to the right.

    Reply
  25. Adrian

    Another centre rightist here who enjoyed your article.

    I often think to myself that I have more in common with people on the centre left than people further right of me, it’s the extremists on either side who frustrate me.

    Reply
  26. Paddy Briggs

    I remain unpersuaded that the idea of “Left” and “Roght” as used by Mr Sen has much meaning.

    Mr Sen’s description of Social Democracy is excellent and one with which I fully concur. That said if you take away the phrase “Social Democracy” and substitute “Mixed Economy” I guess many Conservatives would as well! Certainly the current Government is broadly Social Democratic, as was its predecessor. The huffing and puffing on the Left is pretty disingenuous. Looking at what the Coalition has done in the past three years I can’t see much that it is inconceivable that (say) a David Milliband led Labour Government would have done.

    The Right of the Conservative Party is really a Party within a Party. It has some influence and we can expect its core beliefs to influence the Party in the run up to the next Election. Mr Crosby will no doubt advise Cameron that that is what he must do to counter UKIP. The Left of the Labour Party – notably Mr McCluskey and Unite – will try and do the same to Ed Milliband. I don’t think that they will succeed. Labour can win the next election by capturing the Middle Ground that UKIP and the Tory Right will force Cameron to vacate. That is why Tories look confused when Hopi Sen calls himself a Labour right-winger. The smart ones know that Mr Sen and the Social Democrats in Labour will take Labour into Government by broadly espousing the policies of the Coalition! And understandably they don’t like this one bit !

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  27. Sally Roberts

    I’m a Tory and I am not “confused” or “uncomfortable”. I think you are being honest and sensible.

    But then I’m possibly one of the most left-wing in the Tory Party….

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