Friday, 28 August 2015

People of the extreme centre

In an unashamed call for the party to return to the approach of New Labour which Miliband abandoned, Blair wrote: “The route to the summit lies through the centre ground."
Margaret Thatcher's administrations dominated the 1980s and are supposed, by friend and foe alike, to have changed the long-term course of British politics. As far as I remember, Margaret Thatcher had nothing good to say about the centre ground route and made her own ascent of the political summit via the more confrontational North Face:
"The Canadians are a people of the extreme centre. They have not been averse to the quiet life...nor keen to spend more money on defence or effort abroad."

—Margaret Thatcher's diplomatic team, actually believing this to be an insult [1]
The Thatcherite attitude to the centre ground, distilled from an entry in RationalWiki.

In other words, the "centre ground" which Tony Blair inherited from the Thatcherite Tories was already pretty extreme and fundamentalist.* But, according to current received Westminster/meeja wisdom, it's "extreme", or, even more hilariously, "outdated" to suggest that we might ease off a bit from the uncompromising orthodoxy which most of our political class inherited from the confrontational 1980s and hardly thought to question, even since it seems to have brought us roaring inequality, stagnant wages, insecure employment, decades of costly, failed "efforts abroad" and a hypertrophied, state-rescued financial sector trashing the rest of the economy with the biggest crash in living memory:
But basically, on the key questions of our time - austerity, inequality, the role of the state in the economy - [Jeremy Corbyn] is actually the closest thing to the zeitgeist we have. Innovative and smart thinking about the economy - Piketty, Mazzucato, Summers, Haldane - is much closer to the kinds of things Corbyn is saying than to any other major political figure in the UK. That doesn't necessarily win you an election of course, but it does suggest that you are asking the right kinds of questions, and could even have some answers. 
Writes Jonathan Hopkin, who won't be voting for Corbyn, but still thinks that what our extreme ideological brand of politics needs right now is a moderating dose of calm, centrist Corbynism.

*I don't know what else you'd call an ideology which bizarrely condemns the centre as "extreme" and the simple desire for a quiet life as some kind of sinful backsliding, intolerable to a True Believer.