The politics of cross dressing mediocrity

“Most confusingly for modern politicians, many of the policy prescriptions cross traditional left-right lines.”

“Policy [...] cross-dressing is rampant and is a feature of modern politics that will stay. The era of tribal political leadership is over.”

“Across a range of issues, there is no longer a neat filing of policy to the left or the right.”

So proclaimed Tony Blair, addressing a gathering of News Corp executives in California a couple of days ago. It seems he would have us believe that modern Brititsh politics is a dogma free zone, in which our bold leaders are not tied to the polarised traditional positions of their parties. Rather policies are formulated that take the most successful elements from all sides of the political spectrum. And he is almost right.

The great idealogical battle of the seventies and eighties, socialism vs. the free market, has long been over. Labour and the Conservatives have been gradually converging over the last decade. New labour adopting most of the Thatcherite economic policies (privatisation, low income tax, etc) in order to get elected, and subsequently taking them further than the Conservatives ever could have. More recently the Tories have been desperately trying to soften their image, and doing so by adopting some traditionally left wing social policies (the minimum wage, gay rights, environment concerns, etc).

This combined with the current climate of fear, regarding crime and terrorism, leaves British politics in a very sorry situation. Both main parties show no signs of having any guiding principles or ideology other than the desire to stay in, or gain, power. Policy formed by focus group,and the desire to be seen to be doing something about whatever this weeks media outcry is. So they end up sharing the same basic platform: centre-right (but moving ever rightwards) economic policy; centre-left (but moving ever leftwards) social policy; and just for good measure a healthy dose of police/nanny statism.

Contrary to Mr. Blair’s opinion, this does not look much like radical leadership to me.


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