Why we should stop using 'left-wing' and 'right-wing'

(Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
(Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The terms left- and right-wing may be a little outdated.

A challenge to the terms which have most appropriately described the opposing sides of the political spectrum for over a century, is nothing new, but the terms do not seem to apply to British politics as aptly as they once did.

For example, Ukip’s anti-EU platform caters to blue and white collar voters who want out of the EU for various reasons.

In the run-up to the election, Ukip had to U-turn on the NHS, saying it would protect public services, in order to attract former blue collar workers and stop alienating its base who could have been pushed to Labour had Ed Miliband's party been less pro-EU.

This move to the left economically, for a socially right-wing party with right-wing stances on immigration, shows the inadequacy of 'left' and 'right' labels.

If you chart economic and social policies, you start to find precisely the overlap of today’s political climate, which is exactly what Jonathan Wheatley has done.

In a study, the regional director at the centre for research on direct democracy in Aarau, Switzerland, analysed the mean positions of over 60,000 party voters along a different scale to the traditional ‘left’ and ‘right’, using a socially communitarian/cosmopolitan scale and an economic left/right scale.

The results show the shared space in the UK's political environment.

Corbyn's movement of Labour to the economic left on issues of welfare and fiscal responsibility has been welcomed by Green voters, who may be sucked into the party, but could alienate Blairite Labour voters who could migrate to the Liberal Democrats or even the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Theresa May's anti-immigration speech to the Conservative party conference could easily be seen as an attempt to win back the more communitarian Conservative voters that Ukip has poached over time.

'Left-wing' and 'right-wing' are often used to generalise arguments and encourage preconceived notions of parties. In reality, politics is in constant flux, and the stayed left-right scale is starting to show that it's not adaptable to multi-party politics.

(HT Democratic Audit)

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