Neither left nor right – Britain is just confused
The right-wing made much of the recent British Social Attitudes survey which showed a toughening of attitudes towards welfare recipients etc. Dan Hodges called for Ed Miliband to ‘listen’ and follow the public mood. Well, I wonder if he will be making a similar plea regarding the poll in today’s Independent .
The poll showed a clear mood for putting people before profit and action by the government to address the gap between rich and poor. Something tells me Mr Hodges might be quieter with regard to this particular poll.
Some people will see these contradictory findings as proof of the useless nature of polling when it comes to reading the complex rubric of the public mood. However, I believe both could be valid, which tells us quite a plain truth – Britain is confused about what to think. It’s seemingly not alone – across Europe election results zig-zag seemingly with no rhyme or ideological reason.
People know, broadly speaking, that neo-liberal capitalism has failed. Recognition of this can be found in the pages even of the Daily Telegraph and the rest of the right-wing press. However, they are unsure about what, if anything, should be put in its place. They also want somebody to blame but are not sure who should carry the can.
It is possible the entire political system will. In parallel to the crisis of faith in economic orthodoxy, a crisis of faith exists in representative democracy which is blighted by the inter-connected evils of corruption and public indifference.
This is therefore both a moment of danger and opportunity for the left (and indeed the right). Public faith in what is has been shattered but their faith in orthodox solutions has evaporated. The left is still tainted by the failure of the USSR and the obliteration of its traditional centres of power – like the trade unions. Nature abhors a void and soon fills it – we should be weary of what the right would fill it with and a concerted attack on what little democracy we have – also, we should avoid the trap of joining in with these attacks.
Instead, the left would be well advised to first acquaint itself with the weakness of its own position and the fact its orthodoxy, as well as the rights now, are discredited in the public eye. This should tell us of the need to reinvent itself urgently; for the winner of the next ideological contest will be the side that reinvents itself quickly and more coherently – traditionally the right has been much better at this than the left. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
If, rather than returning to ‘sacred texts’, the left returns to core values – for example, consistent democracy, aiming to empower and free people rather than focusing solely on a big state etc, etc it could find itself the victor. Out of chaos must, eventually, come order, and if the left is alive to the opportunities of the current situation it can be the one that shapes the current mood and changes the world for good and all and much for the better. If it isn’t, well then we should all have reason to shudder…