April 27, 2013


Good policies can transcend Right and Left (Janet Daley, 27 Apr 2013, The Telegraph)

Why are we still talking as if it were 1982? Can't everybody see how utterly pointless it is to frame every policy debate in terms of Right and Left as if the ideological purity and fervour of those polar positions were still a living political reality? The most pernicious aspect of this simple-minded formula is that it forces every debate on to tram lines. A policy or a position will not be judged by whether it is socially constructive, fair-minded, compassionate, or economically productive. It is only discussed as a move in an outdated game in which nobody any longer has a clear idea of the rules. Encouraging social mobility can be either Left-wing or Right-wing depending on whether you sell it wrapped in the packaging of Labour egalitarianism or Thatcherite individual aspiration. So how do we judge the Tory education reforms? The fact that they are hated by the teaching unions suggests that they are Right-wing, but what if their effect is to enable more working-class children to do well at school? Isn't that a Left-wing goal? Either you want more disadvantaged children to succeed or you don't. We will soon have pretty clear empirical evidence of whether the new system produces that result. If it does, where will that leave the relevance of Right vs Left in this discussion?

Everyone presumably wants to promote the fulfilment of individual potential and to encourage social cooperation, but any measure that is suggested for accomplishing these things that is thought to emanate from the wrong source - or to spring from the wrong political sympathies - may be condemned out of hand before it has even got its boots on. We are getting nowhere with this silly, reductionist vocabulary. In fact, the most interesting and worthwhile policy initiatives of the moment achieve the miraculous feat of appealing to the Right (which effectively means most real people) while being so truly progressive that they are almost impossible for the Left to attack.

...is a function of the absence of any meaningful policy differences?  Having arrived at the Third Way consensus the parties of the First and Second Way can only distinguish themselves by partisan opposition to even their own ideas if proposed by the other, as with the health mandate.

Posted by at April 27, 2013 6:07 PM

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