Have Left and Right Lost Their Political Meaning?

Written on 14 September 2012.


Winston Churchill once famously said:

“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, my early political affiliations were with the left.  I was sympathetic with the liberals from my time as a teenager until I left university when I became involved in the Labour Party.  I now consider myself a conservative (please note the small ‘c’ – I am not a member of the Conservative Party), though more to the left wing of conservative thought.  I did the political compass test just the other day and ended up near the very centre, though located slightly within the section for the libertarian left!


It was interesting to discover, though not altogether unexpected, that the Labour Party is located quite far within the quadrant depicting the authoritarian right.  Perhaps that’s why they call it ‘New’ Labour and why the Labour Party no longer represents the interests of the working class.

The political world today is nothing if it is not peculiar.  Looking at the political scene is like looking at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – the situation is bizarre.  It seems that politicians who are not ‘in it for themselves’ are a very rare breed indeed.  Perhaps the poor quality of leadership in the Western world explains our decline into the Spenglerianwasteland we see around us.  I believe that the lack teaching of history in our schools and the popularity of the socially destructive moral relativism has played a role too – but they are based on political choices too.

I witnessed authoritarianism within the Labour Party while serving as Chairman of my local Young Labour Party group.  This was before the election victory in 1997 but Tony Blair had already taken the reins of power within the party.  My friends and I, within the local Young Labour group had taken it upon ourselves to create a political magazine so we could express ourselves politically and exercise our young intellects with something that is becoming increasingly rare – free thought.  One of my friends was a politics student who had applied to work at the regional party office during the summer vacation.  However, he was in the unfortunate position of writing an article that the party apparatchiks did not perhaps quite agree with – to cut a long story short, he did not do his work experience at regional office!

We were all aware about the concept of being on message, and my unfortunate colleague found out about that the hard way.  However, the Labour Party once in power made being ‘on message’ almost your civic duty and draconian laws were enacted to ensure those who were off message were suitably punished.  Seems that I have learned the lessons of the excesses of socialism myself too, and my own work in helping the party gain power is something, even though my contribution was minute, for which I will suffer eternal shame.

The Conservative Party on the other hand, bruised and battered by over a decade in opposition has failed to reverse the authoritarian socialist legacy – we are still lacking the freedoms that were stolen from us by New Labour.  In many ways the Conservative Party is just a watered down version of the Labour Party.  We have socialists who are not socialists and conservatives who are not conservatives both wallowing in a social and economic disaster of their own making.  From a democratic point of view a world without values has become a world without choice.  If left and right are indistinguishable is democracy even possible?

Today we live in a Western world where those with power are incapable of using it wisely and those without it are powerless to improve their lot.  Going back to the Churchill quote at the beginning of this article, the political class have neither heart nor brain and those that they govern have no choice.  Left and right have lost their political meaning and our societies have lost their way.


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