Archive — Centrism
Chuka Umunna reminds us that centrism is not liberalism — Jonathan Calder, Liberal England
I’ve viewed the formation of the Independent Group with a mixture of interest, mild hope, and mild horror. Chuka Umunna’s latest vanity missive has tipped the balance further towards the horror end.
Chuka Umunna wish to bring in compulsory national service for 16-year-olds is a reminder that proclaiming you are in the centre does not make you a Liberal.
Amid Brexit, supported by the leadership of both the Conservatives and Labour, both of those parties are moving in ever-more extreme directions. With extremist views on the rise, I had begun to think of myself as a moderate. But the ‘moderate’ tiggers are little more appealing.
This is a reminder that liberalism isn’t merely moderate or centrist. It is a distinctive worldview. This reminds us of how liberalism should sell itself.
Both the Conservatives and Labour are authoritarian parties. Our job as liberals is to rail against those tendencies, not to split the (often very little) difference between them.
The centrist fallacy
Fascinating piece from Nick Barlow on why it is problematic for the Liberal Democrats to attempt to chase centrist voters. Because while most people report having centrist views, when you analyse what their views actually are, more people are actually economically-left authoritarians.
These views are the effective centre of views in Britain, but they’re not really at the centre of political debate and in conjunction they tend to be the most unrepresented.
What is concerning for a liberal is that there do not seem to be many of us generally. Moreover, Nick Barlow’s analysis suggests that liberals tend to be on the economic left, not the centre.
Talking ’bout my generation
How our political views throughout our lifetimes are shaped by our formative years.
If you were politically aware in in your teens and early 20s in the mid-80s, you’ll have vivid memories of how the SDP did indeed weaken Labour, and how early hopes for the party were dashed. Amongst 50-somethings, these memories create a jaundiced view of new centre parties – a view perhaps not shared by those younger than us…
The psychology here is simple. There is such as a thing as an impressionable age – in this context, our teens and early 20s. I, for example, have vivid memories of most of what happened between around 1976 and 1989, but everything before then is what I’ve only read or heard about, and everything since is a bit of a blur, mostly of minor significance.
I definitely feel that. I followed politics very closely in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. But for the past ten years or so, the day-to-day detail has all felt rather less significant.
Centrism isn’t dead – we just need a new word
I find it strange that so much attention is being put on centrism at the moment. I definitely do not identify with either the left or the right. But I have rarely used the word centrist to describe myself. Partly because I find it quite meaningless, and perhaps also because it assumes I am seeking a middle ground (which is sometimes true, but not always).
In an increasingly polarised political landscape, the idea of centrism is actually beginning to appeal to me more — even as it is becoming exceptionally unfashionably in certain quarters.
This article makes the argument for the need of “a rational approach to politics”, not a centrism that is simply “stuck in the middle”.
I simply want a term that adequately describes the need to shout “leave me out of this insane squabbling” or “I want no part of this imbecilic narrative”. What we are perhaps crying out for is a new term for politics that isn’t defined by the end points but by the process; defined not by the beliefs but the rational steps the lead us to those beliefs.
Note — 2017-10-11
When did ‘centrist’ come to be used to describe pretty much anyone who’s not a bit of a dick?