Thursday, January 05, 2006



Right is left in the UK

The election of David Cameron as leader of Britian's Conservative Party was widely assumed to signal a new challenge to Tony Blair - not just because he's a young, fresh face, but also because he also seems willing to try outflanking New Labour on the left. The first sign of that strategy was unveilled today, with Cameron reversing previous Tory policy of vouchers and part-privatisation, and instead vowing to defend free, high-quality public health care:

David Cameron invoked the long hours he has spent at the hospital bedside of his severely disabled son, Ivan, as proof that the Tory party he leads will improve the NHS, rather than scrap it.

His speech yesterday included a confession that a proposal in the Conservatives' election manifesto last year, which Mr Cameron helped to write, was wrong, philosophically and in practice.

The proposed "patient's passport" - which would have allowed patients to claim money from the NHS towards the cost of private operations - has been dropped as Conservative policy, Mr Cameron confirmed.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair - supposedly a left-wing leader - continues to try and privatise the NHS by stealth through the use of "foundation hospitals" and the Private Finance Initiative. Is it just me, or are politics in the UK arse-backwards...?

2 comments:

I think we are the ones who are arese backwards. Politics shouldn't turn just on the concept of "left and right". And people offering solutions should not be confined only to those to the left of their opposition not only would that be stupid but it would also imply the parties themselves are philosophically no where near the position they propose (ie we really have comunists standing against libiterianz).

Just imaginea govt that backs itself into a corner by creating a policy (lets say privatizing energy production) and then gets burnt but has to keep putting band aid's on the problem because fixing it proves they ae wrong while leaving it as is leaves it ambiguous whether it is their problem or just the environment.

Posted by Genius : 1/05/2006 04:49:00 PM

Well, it's possible we're seeing one of those periodic reversals. From recent reading around American politics, for example, I gather that until fairly recently the Democrats were the party of Southern racist plutocracy, with the Republicans representing a more liberal tendency. Sometime between then and now ("then" being some time I'm a bit hazy on, but as recent as the fifties or sixties), the two parties somehow switched ends.

Is it possible we're seeing the same thing in British politics? Just about. New Labour has moved aggressively to seize the far right of the political spectrum. Conservative attempts to stay to the right of New Labour have only continued to marginalise them. Maybe Cameron has decided that, since Blair has left no room between New Labour and the neocons for the Tories to occupy, he has no choice but to radically shift the party into the fertile centre ground abandoned by New Labour (currently the playground of the Liberal Democrats).

Whether the party will buy this is another matter. And the electorate are likely to be deeply cynical -- even apolitical friends in the UK were moved to mockery by Cameron's attempts to paint himself green. Equally, once Blair goes, there's every chance that Brown and the activists will be able to recreate Labour as the party of social justice. But it's not inconceivable that in thirty or forty years time the Conservatives will be a "one nation" party with a programme of social liberalism and economic egalitarianism, while Labour will be the party of the corporate robber barons. Stranger things have happened.

Posted by Ivan Towlson : 1/06/2006 07:51:00 PM