UK public lurch to the left

Am back from a week’s holiday without internet access. Am usually online 24/7, so thought I might struggle, but it was actually quite refreshing. Didn’t take me long to slide back into old habits though, so here we are with another blogpost!

The title is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but relates to the results of a recent Yougov survey published here. The blog in which Yougov wrote up the survey results focused on the questions they asked about how left or right wing the public saw each of the main parties and their leaders, but Yougov also asked people how left or right wing they saw themselves.

When last asked this question in September 2013, 14% of people described themselves as either very or fairly left wing, while 12% described themselves as either very or fairly right wing. In last months poll, the figures came out as 15% very or fairly left wing and 11% as very or fairly right wing. So a surge to the left! Overall, 29% see themselves as left of centre, 20% as centre and 25% right of centre. 25% don’t know where they stand!

This is all relative of course because 30% saw Ed Miliband as being either very or fairly left wing (down from 36% last time), and I don’t think Miliband is left wing at all, so maybe the concept of left and right is not all that clear in people’s minds. I’ve blogged about this before, but if you want to find out where you are on the political spectrum, you can do the Political Compass test here. I posted my own result on my about page.


How far to the left or right of the main parties are you?

When asked what was her greatest achievement, Thatcher famously answered “Tony Blair and New Labour.” The truth of this statement is neatly illustrated by this chart taken from Political Compass:

UK Parties at different times

This is the true impact of Thatcherism. It has been the narrowing of political ideas to such at extent, that on most issues, the main parties are now virtually indistinguishable in outlook. Politics has now been reduced to ‘branding’. David Cameron said this morning “…we are all Thatcherites now”, which didn’t go down well, but in terms of the political class he’s absolutely right. The wider public, not so much.

The knowledge that Labour have drifted to the right is obviously not new, but I think this chart really brings out the transition they have made from a left, slightly libertarian party, to a party almost as wedded to neo-liberalism as the Tories and marginally more authoritarian. For the Tory’s part, for all their efforts to paint Ed Miliband as ‘Red Ed’ and the Labour Party as representing the ‘nanny state’ or the surveillance state, their actual differences in political outlook are superficial at best.

This lack of political choice presents a real problem for voters. Here’s another chart from political compass that shows the political stance of the parties running in the 2010 general election:

UK Political Parties chart

The left-right axis represents economic stance, and all three main parties tended towards neo-liberalism. While Labour and Conservative Parties went into the election with pretty authoritarian manifestos, the Liberal Democrats actually managed to retain some weak libertarian tendencies. The Greens where the only national party in the lower left quadrant.

The media talk of parties seeking to ‘claim the centre ground’, where most voters sit, but if that were true, the ‘centre ground’ is not actually the centre ground at all, but a brand of free market economics twinned with a strong inclination towards authoritarianism.

I find this hard to believe. Voter participation at general elections is falling consistently as the years go by, and those that do vote often vote for the lesser of two (or more) evils. Since voting for the first time in 2001, I’ve voted for Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party, but only once have I voted for someone who I actually wanted to win and who had a chance of winning (he lost). Here’s where I score on the Political Compass test:

From this, I should be voting Green, but they don’t have a chance of winning where I live, so what to do? There are those that think we need a new party of the left and others who think the Labour Party must be pressured into returning to its roots, but whatever the answer, there are a huge number of potential voters who’s views lie to the south-west of where Labour sit at the moment. As it stands, they are relying on there being enough people that either hate the Tories or are disgusted with the Lib Dems to get them over the line, but they could be so much more if they had both the courage and the inclination. Right now, they seem to be lacking in both.

P.S. I’d be interested to know the Political Compass scores of anyone reading this, if you feel willing to share in the comments below (mine was: Economic -8.75; Social -6.82) 🙂 .