I do enjoy twitter. You end up discussing and arguing points with complete strangers. Sometimes you or they are enlightened. Sometimes you realise people do not want their thoughts to be challenged, however much the evidence says otherwise.
This weekend I had an interesting conversation with someone who said that you need an ideological standpoint to be able to drive through policy in government. I disagreed. He also stated that ‘no ideology is to sit between whatever parameters the mainstream considers permissible and this is neither free, diverse or soulful’. Now this was impossible to unpick, on twitter on a Sunday afternoon, when I was out for lunch with my wife. She did not appreciate me trying either. But it is an interesting thought process that is worth exploring.
The basis being that unless you are ideologically driven, then you cannot affect change. That if you have an ideological aim, this will drive you forward when times get difficult. This was in the context of both left and right, although I felt that the respondent was on the right. This thought I find interesting because it is the antithesis of what personally drives me. I reject fundamental ideology because in the end it I feel it blinds you to the errors and inadequacies of that ideology. Religion is the obvious candidate of this, but in British politics, Margaret Thatcher is a case in point. She revolutionised the economy in the eighties and after winning in 1987, seemed unbeatable. Yet the arrogance in her belief of her ideology stopped her and her party from seeing potential problems, leading to recession and the decision to implement the poll tax. She was eventually removed and a moderate, more liberal PM put in her place.
The socialism (and communism abroad) of the 70’s showed how purity of one system leads to poverty and economic ruin of the UK and the eventual fall of the communist economy. Now with both examples you will find exponents of these ideas blaming people, external influences or any other excuse for why their system did not work. But for me it is that fundamental belief that they are right, that always leads to their downfall. The thought process goes that if they just do one more policy, if they go that one step further, then everything will be proved right. This road to Damascus really just leads them nearer the edge of the oblivion. It is also interesting that the sudden surge in popularity in Corbyn’s socialism seems to forget the hardships of the 70’s and the rejection of these ideas thereafter.
So, what is a centrist? First of all, I don’t think I like that term; one term that I was given was political triangulation. A new one for me, but the labour triangulation of Tony Blair, John Smith and Gordon Brown essentially took the view of supporting the public services, while trying to encourage business. Could we argue that the decade 97-07 was one of the most prosperous for the country? I am not intentionally ignoring the crash that happened afterwards, but that happened to all systems globally and so could not be pinned on one political movement.
In the two-party system the liberals are seen as centrists who don’t seem to stand for anything. Further harmed by apparently leaving their core aims once they helped formed a coalition. Maybe this is what the correspondent meant. They don’t own a piece of the political pie and are neither one thing or the other. Their former leader got stuck on the gay sex commentary meaning their message was lost. They have struggled to find a clear identity and liberals are seen to be woolly and nice, but not really effective to lead the country. This means, with the current first past the post system, they are not seen as credible and lose votes. Again, not helped when their leader said they did not want to win, just to be the effective opposition. A bit pathetic for me.
Personally, I think the centrist view is the ideal location. We should be a pro-business country as the entrepreneurial system drives change and is a true meritocracy. The successful can thrive on that success. We should also be there when people fail. This is the social side where government should be there so that when times turn difficult, people are able to live, get back on their feet and start again. This egalitarian approach does not mean we are jealous of people who work hard and earn money. More often than not they deserve it. We should neither look down on people who are poorer and who may only survive on benefits. The divisive politics that we are currently in is driving a wedge between many groups in this country and it is only getting worse. Pro EU v Brexiteers. Rich v poor. Right v left. Farage v decency and humanity. The last thing we need is the right-wing of the country taking us down the hard Brexit route, any more than the left-wing socialism of Corbyn, creating more debt. Both sides create walls which mean you are either with them or against them, which is utterly ridiculous and not what we need from our politicians.
There has to be a different choice. On the right, we have a Tory party, dying of the cancer of Brexit, and unable to see past austerity for any solution to the debt problem, because they refuse to increase tax. On the left, we have our socialist party, who would spend their way out of austerity, but our debt is £1.56 trillion. The interest alone is £43 billion, which is approximately 40% of our NHS spending. The dogmas of each party need re-assessing so that the country can move forward and prosper. Neither though is willing to blink first and so moves further away each day from the very position that the country needs.
This is where a new way needs to be found. I agree that something needs to drive you in terms of ideas in politics, where ever you find yourself on the political spectrum. Your driving principles. Yet when this inhibits your decision-making process because it is your way or the wrong way then that is where ideology has indoctrinated your thought process. This is where politics needs to learn from science. A politician’s ideas can be put forward, but they should then be tested. Parameters of success should be stated before the policy is enacted and a time period given for that success. It should be periodically reviewed, by the select committees, and improvements made to the policy. The problem we have had is the swings from one position to another mean we neither know whether it works as a policy and it wastes billions in the process. The prime example of this is the NHS and is the very reason why it struggles to do its job. The enlightened have already suggested that the politics should be taken out of the NHS and a cross party group should be there to run it and make the incremental changes over time to ensure it does its job, efficiently and cost effectively. The boom and bust regime changes over the last 20 years have not worked, left the NHS bankrupt and on its knees.
Have we evidence that this different approach works? Look at the conservative policy after the 1992 election(once we left the ERM), of aiming for low inflation and trying to provide stability for the economy to thrive. Labour, gained power in 1997 promising to keep this policy and extending it by giving the bank of England independence. This time period to the 2008 recession was the longest period of growth this country had seen. Stable centrist politics, giving continuity to business and so to the people in the country.
No dogma, no ideology, no extremism, no Brexit and no great divides opening up in the country. I challenge you to look at the division of the socialist era of the 70’s, the right-wing 80’s and compare that to the unifying time when Blair first came to power and the hope this brought(whether you agree with him or not). That is what will drive this country forward and putting in the safeguards so that parliament can stop the corrupt deviating from this (Iraq war). I also challenge you, whether you are with him or against him(!!), whether Donald Trump is a unifying force for the US or the world? Is this the politics that will breed success and bring unity?
The liberals have an opportunity to drive this change by reinventing themselves, as Labour did into New Labour. By giving the people what they want. Stability, a government for the people, a tax system that is seen to be fair and an end to the divisive politics which has dogged our system for the last few years. If they cannot do it then I fear for the future of our country, because both sides are currently more interested in fighting for themselves, rather than for the people of this country.