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By The Last Ditch
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A diagonal division

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When introduced at West London parties as “to the right of Genghis Khan”, I smilingly reply that he was well to the left of me on economics but far to the right of me on social issues. At the same parties, I have become accustomed to being called a “Nazi” or a “fascist” by people whose ambitions for the power of the state and its influence on our lives place them far closer to the true definition of those terms.

When the present hoo-ha about Brexit has passed into history, I am beginning to hope that it will have taught us, finally, that “Left” and “Right” are meaningless labels that inhibit intelligent debate. 

It is currently the most prominent issue that divides us – not vertically between Left and Right – but diagonally. Some Brexiteers want out of the EU so that they can avoid the restrictions on “state aid” that prevent the nationalisation of key businesses. Some Brexiteers want out of the EU to strip away an unnecessary layer of government and hope that, once free of its Napoleonic influence, they can strip away several more. All that unites them (and this is why sneers about the lack of a Brexit plan ring true) is that they want out of the EU. Their only “plan” is that the future direction of Britain’s laws should be set in Britain. They have hopes but no certainties as to what that direction should be.

As our current political parties are ranged along a Left/Right axis they are therefore useless as a means of resolving this great national argument. Like Fulham FC’s current porous defence, they contain a selection of talented individuals – some of them very highly-paid and/or well-regarded – but deployed in entirely the wrong shape (and some might play far better for another team). The current gilets jaunes protestors in France are also arranged along a diagonal divide. Their political demands are many, varied and mutually inconsistent – if measured by traditional Left/Right means. They seem united only in despising the hauteur of the current European Narcissism Champion, Emmanuel Macron (and what sane person could disagree with them on that?)

Throughout the West, we need new parties arranged along a different axis; one that more accurately reflects the genuine differences of opinion in our society. As a classical liberal, I would love that axis to run between a laissez-faire Liberal Party and an Interventionist Party. Almost every political argument I ever encounter could be summarised as “more state / less state”– whether it’s about “public health”, Brexit or the most serious real problem in Britain today – the affordability of  housing. Others might draw the dividing line somewhere else. 

Given the tribalism of British politics, it’s hard to imagine how new parties might arise but things certainly can’t continue the way they are right now. Tell me, gentles all, how do you think our politics will develop?


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