Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Centrism is a duff concept right now

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected Labour leader, centrist Labour politicians and a lot of political commentators have been extolling the virtues of 'third way' ideas and there has inevitably been talk of break-away centrist parties. With the Brexit negotiations going terribly, some Conservative remainers have finally joined in. In the last week or so, James Chapman, former advisor to David Davis and George Osborne, has been touting for interest in an anti-Brexit 'Democrats' party and this has stoked a lot of media interest. Some have been talking about Macron's success in France but it is hard to draw many significant parallels with what has been going on politically in France and the UK over the last 40 years. And already, Macron is quickly losing popularity.

To me, any talk of centrist politics as a viable option at the moment is another indicator that some people simply cannot understand what has been going on politically for some time now, at least since the 2007/8 financial crash. The 2017 snap election, which was contested by the Conservatives, supporting Brexit and with some of the most right-wing ideas we've seen in decades, the Labour party, reluctantly supporting Brexit and with a more left-wing platform than we've seen since the 70s, and amongst others, the anti-Brexit centrist Lib Dems. The result was that the biggest proportion of votes went to the two largest parties since 1970. Yes, that's right: there is already a centrist, anti-brexit party people can vote for and overwhelmingly, they chose either the left or the right instead.

We are living in a very divided country and the election shows that it is a time when the public either support a party who makes the poorest poorer, increases homelessness, cripples the NHS, worsens the housing crisis, kisses the arse of Donald Trump and cosies up to dictators in the middle east, or a party who would invest heavily in health, education, housing and the environment and would stop selling arms to the Saudis and make sure Donald Trump knows what they think of his words and his actions. What evidence is there that a new centrist party would win anyone over? Surely it's now far too late in the day to come out fighting for our membership of the EU: the time for that was when the little Englanders on the Tory backbenches were discussing UK sovereignty with UKIPpers over pints of Bombardier. They might even have staged an intervention when David Cameron promised the referendum before the 2015 election. Or they could have stood down after winning the election, reducing the slim majority to nothing and stopping the referendum from happening. They could also have worked harder in the referendum campaign.

And this key issue takes me back to the start of this blog: the referendum was lost because those behind it (the Labour side of the campaign was under the command of self-professed 'moderates') simply don't understand the lives of ordinary people and are completely out-of-touch with how most ordinary people think.

Essentially, centrism, as with Tony Blair's 'third way', claims it is possible to marry hard neoliberal economics, which always favours the few and never trickles down to the many, with progressive and fairer policies. In reality, the left agreeing with the right and expanding rather than reversing the deregulation of the financial sector is how we ended up with the recession, huge inequality and the resulting Brexit vote. As many are pointing out - although unfortunately they are not the loudest voices in the press/media - that to propose a solution from the centre is to think that you can fix the problem with more of what caused it.

James Chapman and anyone else who even considers jumping onto this project are completely deluded if they think a new centrist party would be a good move. But hey, if it takes away some of the Labour right and removes and few Tory MPs, you go for it.

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