Queen’s Speech shows up Centre-Right Conspiracy

by Stephen Tall on November 6, 2007

This was Labour’s 11th consecutive Queen’s Speech. And it showed. Is this list of 29 new bills really what Gordon Brown has been plotting and dreaming of delivering for the past 15 years? Even had Mr Brown not decided to pre-announce the measures back in July (ah, the new ‘no spin’ era – remember that?) this would still have ranked among the most tepid of policy programmes imaginable.

Of course, there are some welcome good intentions – bills on climate change and constitutional reform – but there is little radical thinking, no real progressive advance. And in other areas, there are clear signs of just how illiberal Labour can be – new moves to extend detention without trial, and the proposed criminalisation of those who don’t want to stay in education or training until they’re 18.

There are those who will call this Queen’s Speech a huge anti-climax. I’m not sure I agree, as I’ve no recollection of Mr Brown teasing my expectations. For all his supposedly vast intellect, we’re still little the wiser as to what the Prime Minister wishes to achieve during his time in office. He’s had plenty of opportunities to tell us. Remember the early hinted promises of surprise reform packages on a whole range of issues – from ID cards, to Iraq, to nuclear power, to fair votes? Like the general election that wasn’t, Mr Brown flunked them all.

The reality is that Mr Brown continues to preside over the same kind of soggy Labour/Tory consensus that Tony Blair and David Cameron spent 18 months scrapping over. It’s nothing more than a Centre-Right Conspiracy – and only liberalism stands opposed to it.

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Which of the three parties favours higher taxes and spending?

Which favour lower taxes and spending?

by Guido Fawkes on November 6, 2007 at 3:10 pm. Reply #

Roundly, I’d say the answer to that question at the moment is “none of them”.

by Joe Taylor on November 6, 2007 at 3:27 pm. Reply #

Guido responding to LDV – good stuff

The problem that Stephen has here is that he uses the left-right argument. I think it is becoming increasingly bogus.

by John on November 6, 2007 at 6:14 pm. Reply #

Yes, I have to say the impression is that he’s spent 15 years plotting and scheming on how to get the Leadership and about 5 minutes thinking about what he’d do when he got it.

There’s nothing new. Nothing interesting, surprising and nothing uniquely Brown (or uniquely Labour)

And the worst thing is that he postponed the election so he could “communicate his vision”, which then turns out to be exactly what he told us in the summer anyway.

I’m starting to think Brown’s a bit of a plank.

by Charlotte Gore on November 6, 2007 at 7:14 pm. Reply #

Stephen, what’s the thinking here?

Many of our voters identify themselves as centre-right, particularly in the south where our most vulnerable seats are held against Conservatives.

This sort of commentary is an attack on them as much as the other two parties.

Secondly, while I could understand ranting about the right-wing or authoritarians, are we now claiming being centre-right is some kind of extreme position. That says more about us and where we think we sit, than our opponents.

Thirdly it’s evidently not true. The Labour government has raised our tax burden to it’s highest level in our history. If that’s not left-wing or centre-left then what qualifies?

Finally I’m not sure how effective this attack becomes when we also complain when the other parties steal our best policies. Does that make them part of an occasionally liberal centre-right conspiracy? Does it mean we consistently retreat from our own positions to be distinctive?

The LabCon attack has some resonance on individual issues like Iraq. As a generalised narrative it’s simply insulting the 80% of people who vote for the other two centrist parties, rather highlighting how much we represent the spectrum of liberal opinion.

We need to do better than this. We will not win elections or establish a liberal government by being distinctive only for talking to ourselves.



by Andy Mayer on November 7, 2007 at 12:29 am. Reply #

Agreeing with Andy here.

It’s very difficult to attack other parties without attacking their supporters and voters at the same time.

Make love not war, man!

by Charlotte Gore on November 7, 2007 at 1:05 am. Reply #

Stephen Tall is right about diretion and we definitely need Hulne to make our economic distinctiveness clearer still and not become part of the soggy centre.

Liberal Democracy will crash and burn in the centre /centre right of British politics.

The democratic crisis of appalling turn-outs cannot be solved by sentimentality but by making hard choices and establishing a much clearer identity

by bill haymes on November 7, 2007 at 2:44 am. Reply #

I must agree with Andy, here.

I feel a lot more comfortable attacking authoritarians who insist on ID cards and massive state intervention in our lives to attacking fellow liberals because they’re not the right shade of yellowy-red.

I can’t imagine that many people would honestly believe that our party would be better if all the liberals in the “centre” and “centre right” of politics simply left – As someone who is happy to grow or shrink the state depending on its impact on personal freedom, I’m constantly being told that coherent liberalism has no place in some people’s view of the party.

by Peter Bancroft on November 7, 2007 at 10:48 am. Reply #

Andy – do many of our voters “identify themselves as centre-right”? Genuine question. Politicos like us spend a lot of time working out how our beliefs fit together, and giving them a label. Very few of the folk I canvas do that.

That’s not to say they haven’t thought through what they believe: just that they’re not easily compartmentalised. And voters tend to be at least as influenced by who they don’t want running the country as by who they do (they vote Labour ‘cos they don’t like the Tories, or vice versa).

And, no, I’m not suggesting Centre-Right is an extreme position: I thought using the word Centre would make that clear enough. As for the ‘tax burden’, it’s been at or around 40% for the past four decades under both Labour and Tory governments (with the highest levels under Mrs Thatcher in the early ‘80s). Sure, there are differences between their approaches, but they’re scarcely seismic.

Nor do I see it as a narrative problem when the magpies in Labour or the Tories nick our ideas – so occasionally they implement a liberal idea (though rarely implement it in a liberal way). But they don’t steal it because it’s liberal, but because it’s popular.

If you look at UK politics today, there are two parties who are aligned in their general approach to issues: whether Labour or the Tories are at the wheel they govern in a similar way, using the same bearings – occasionally pulling a different lever or moving up or down a gear – but heading in the same direction. It’s not a liberal direction.

I would characterise it as Centre-Right, but terminology is always loaded, and too much political debate gets bogged down in tedious semantics. But I happen to believe that with either Labour or the Tories in power, the UK will continue to be (mis-)governed in roughly the same way.

I would like to think that if the Liberal Democrats were in power this country would look and feel very different in a decade’s time. So I make no apologies for putting Labour and the Tories in one box, and the Lib Dems in another.

by Stephen Tall on November 7, 2007 at 11:39 am. Reply #

Your voters are centre right, centre left, hard left / BNP, frustrated SNP, gay-haters, diversity fascists – you name it.

It goes with being the dustbin party for the protest vote.

What’s the Monster Raving Loony Party’s core vote? You should know, because in constituencies where they don’t field a candidate, their supporters vote for you.

This thread shows that you can identify a centre-right consensus, but you can’t agree if you’re part of it or opposed to it.

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.

by Bunnies Can And Will Go To France on November 7, 2007 at 2:17 pm. Reply #

I’ve voted lib dems in 3 out of 4 general elections in either New forest east (2) or now southampton test (1)i missed an election in NFE. The thing is I’m in a constituency that is Labour held with alan whitehead and seems to be the Conservatives in second place. Why should I vote lib dems over the conservatives in my constituency when I want labour out?

by Starswillshine on December 3, 2007 at 4:07 am. Reply #

It depends whether you want Labour out more than any other factor. First, you have to look at the candidates involved and the strength of campaigning. Who knows, you might actually decide to vote for the best candidate regardless of party allegiance (obviously, party allegiance gives some indication as to which candidate will be best!). It’s certainly not impossible to come from third to win.

Secondly, by voting Tory to get rid of Labour you’re actually voting for identical policies – Labour and the Conservatives are so similar these days that you can have a red Tory or a blue one. I wouldn’t base my vote on my preferred colour.
Lastly, if you only ever vote for the second-placed candidate to get rid of the current MP you are just perpetuating the system where people vote negatively. I’m not saying that Lib Dems don’t sometimes ask people to vote for them because they have the best chance of winning (indeed, they’d be stupid not to as a number of people still vote in this way. And they should always give positive reasons too), but I’m saying that if you truly want the Lib Dems in power, you might have to vote for them now so that in a few years time they’re in an even better position in your constituency, even if you don’t win this time.

by Grammar Police on December 3, 2007 at 8:22 am. Reply #

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