Friday 30 September 2016

Middle is the new right: but they're telling us the left has got to be middle!

We're going to hear a lot about the 'middle ground' over the next few weeks. Martin Kettle is going on about it in today's Guardian. The 'theory' is that a) there is a middle ground b) it's nice being in the middle ground c) the left has to get the middle ground.

I see the following as a problems to this theory.

1. Simply saying there is a middle ground doesn't mean that it exists.

2. People are not simply one thing or another. Many people have mixtures of views some of which correspond to views that are traditionally 'left', some traditionally 'right'. These apparent differences and contradictions arise out of the fact that life contradicts itself. I may have reactions that stem from my economic situation which are in contradiction to, say, the views I have of royalty or people who 'speak nicely'. 

3. At any given moment, people's views and actions move and applying the metaphor of left, middle and right may not correspond to them. So to take the example of 'immigration'. It would appear from the way the media speak that 'immigration' is now officially a 'problem'. This makes it more serious and more dangerous for all of us than say, the consequences of the bankers' gambling crisis, the austerity measures put in place following that, tax avoidance/evasion and climate change. If a politician doesn't say that immigration is a problem that 'shows' that he or she is 'not listening' or is not in the middle ground. This means that coming up with some plan that will a) prevent people coming to live here, b) prevent Brits from living outside the UK c) probably result in EU migrants having to go back to the EU is now 'middle ground'. 

4. Same goes for Trident renewal. It is apparently 'middle ground' to be in favour of Trident renewal. In fact, there is a right wing argument against Trident renewal - spend the money on tooling up the regular army. Simplistically reducing Trident renewal to 'middle ground' is just demagoguery or what I would call testosterone politics: my weapons are bigger than yours - see me defend UK better than you by building more weapons. 

5. Same goes for any form of nationalisation. So though I lived through the 50s and 60s when trains, gas, electricity, water, education, health, coal, steel were all publicly owned and that's how we lived (presumably in the middle ground of that) it is now left to wish any kind of return to those times.

So we will get many siren calls for the 'middle ground' when in fact (I would argue) a set of right wing ideas has filled the 'middle ground' - or if you prefer, the scheme left, middle and right is like a sheet of transparent plastic, marked out with 'left, middle and right' on it'. Underneath this sheet, reality has moved rightwards. Middle is the new right.