Sunday, 28 August 2011

What is wrong with 'The Right'?

In today's 'Observer', the Labour Party are said to have drawn their new mode of attack against David Cameron (1).
They will be branding him as 'recognisably right-wing' and as an 'old-style tory', the Conservative party will also have moved 'rapidly rightwards'.

Labour will have to be very careful with how they actually go about this 'attack' for a number of reasons. Firstly, and I believe most importantly, they have yet to define where they stand. It is impossible to go into battle without having your own lines drawn, therefore we will have to assume that the Labour party are 'anti-Right'.
Secondly, without getting too deep into a debate about what is 'left' and what is 'right', we have to look at the grounds on which these accusations come from. Effectively, what has caused this apparent shift to the 'right'.
And finally, the centre. If Cameron has moved rapidly to 'the right' and taken the party with him, who or what will fill the void left closer to the centre?

Since Miliband's election as Labour Party leader, he has done very little with regards to laying down his policy and vision. Much of his rhetoric has been standard opposition to whatever the government says, nothing that establishes his/his party's position, just simple opposition.
Establishing a line of attack is all well and good but it's no use going to a duel without a gun yourself.
Labour should first focus on what it is they stand for instead of launching supposed attacks, Gordon Brown was fuelled by savaging the Conservatives and finding their weaknesses but at least he always had policies of his own to fall back on, even if they were purely partisan.

I struggle to see what has changed about Conservative/Cameron policy to signify this lurch rightwards. His, and the party's rhetoric has remained very much the same for the past few years now. Examples cited in the 'Observer' article are lacking in conviction and substance.
Cameron has spoken of a 'Broken Society/Britain' on the verge of or having experienced a 'moral collapse' for a long time now, this is no sudden development that he wants to change the way that society is structured and functions. Tougher sentencing in the wake of the London Riots is not a move rightwards, it's just populism. The same game that Miliband tried to play but failed at post-Riots.
Regarding immigration, it's not a shift rightwards to speak of multiculturalism failing or to point out the negative effects of immigration on communities. Once more it may be somewhat populist but at the same time it is very consensual and nothing ground-breaking or new.
Criticisms of Cameron's brand of 'compassionate conservatism' are sure to show up but effectively, where have the Conservatives shown a lack of 'compassion'?
Being tough on crime shows compassion to those who deserve it, the victims. Just as underlining the failures of multiculturalism shows compassion to those who have had to live under a system of 'state/forced multiculturalism' but 'compassion' in this sense is not the same as that between people, 'compassionate conservatism' is the shedding of the 'nasty party' image, it's realising that the more staunch partisan politics of the past are not so relevant today.

I have been of the belief that Cameron is looking to change the political consensus for quite some time now, so much so that my undergrad dissertation will focus on it.
What we have to look at is the actual shift of political wings post-war and post-Thatcher.

‘Thatcher made the market the central place in politics, and Blair announced that he intended to “rule from the centre”. That meant the market, and in practise meant a large measure of “Thatcherism” (James, 2003: 360).

The 'centre' in modern Britain is what would have been regarded as the 'right' in 1945. If the centre has shifted rightwards, the 'left' becomes what would have been the centre, everything has to shift along otherwise we would have a vacuum of ideology between the 'left' and 'centre' or vice versa.
So if Cameron is (according to the article) moving more towards the 'right', the 'centre' becomes vacated. Labour now either move to the 'centre' (which is effectively the 'right') or move further away to the 'left' and create the aforementioned vacuum or gulf thus creating two distant poles, neither attending to the 'centre'.
What Labour are doing is painting a picture of Cameron as a 'typical right-wing politician' and planting him on the 'right' so that they themselves can fight for the 'centre' which as we've seen IS the 'right'!

I fail to see what is wrong with a move to the 'right', it's what the people seem to want in the wake of a poorly orchestrated dosage of socialism (in the form of bank bailouts).
People want police to be tougher and more respected, they want to be more selfish and care for themselves, they want their community to be structured not to have a structure imposed on it.
Populist nationalism wins hands down over petty socialism or party politicking, what Labour need to do is go back to the drawing board. The theories of old are losing relevance, a new consensus is coming in and it will bring with it new ways of dealing with things. Labour are classing Cameron as 'right' but their definitions are outdated, Cameron is at the centre and what he is doing is most certainly right.



James, H., 2003. Europe Reborn – A History, 1914-2000. Pearson Longman: Harlow

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