Wednesday, February 16, 2005

When the party is over

Much has been made of the rise of the right over the past few years in both the UK and in mainland Europe. The popular theory is that the rise of the right is some how the fault of an ineffective left. Interesting stuff and something that is bound to appear in the coming election (the current bidding war over who can be the nastiest to immigrants/asylum seekers is something the “right” is sure to love). This article picks up on the theme:

New Labour has renounced the notion of left and right as irrelevant to modern political discourse. Alas, neither the Tories nor Bush seems to share that view. On the contrary, both at home and abroad, the Bush regime has signalled a major shift to the right, and it is difficult to imagine that not influencing the Conservatives here. New Labour's rejection of the old polarity was enshrined in the idea of the third way. Of course, it did not presage what it claimed at the time, namely a new way of looking at, and acting upon, the world: it was far more prosaic than that. In effect, it was a grand term for ducking any kind of ideological engagement with the right: split the difference or, alternatively, look the other way.

The result has been a government that has failed to define or hold any serious ideological ground. Indeed, in some areas such as crime, civil liberties and now immigration, it has deliberately behaved in the manner of a populist Conservative government. Nor is this true only in the domestic arena. Blair's support of Bush has been far more extreme than any previous Labour government might have displayed. Its support for the invasion of Iraq and the idea of military intervention in developing countries - in a nutshell, liberal imperialism - coupled with its increasingly open approval of Britain's imperial past, mark an abject retreat from an anti-colonial tradition. It is difficult to think of any sense in which, internationally, the prime minister even belongs to the centre left.


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