June 15, 2005

Do the terms 'left' and 'right' mean anything in the modern world?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4086892.stm

So here we go! My first blog posting.

This is an interesting piece by Brian Walden about the confusion caused by the terms 'left' and 'right'. People often think of themselves as falling on the left or right, or in the centre. The media also seem obsessed with such terms. Politicians, however, often seem to dislike them. David Davis (the next Conservative leader?), for example, is anxious not to be seen as 'too right-wing'. I recall a recent interview in which he asked whether the sale of council houses under Thatcher was left-wing because it helped the poor, or right-wing because it promoted private property. Similarly, Charles Kennedy always seems to side-step the question of whether his party is to the left of Labour by stating that the left/right spectrum is no longer relevant. A sceptic may argue that Davis and Kennedy are simply trying to hide their true political positions (arguably quite right-wing and left-wing respectively). Clearly, however, there are problems with the left/right spectrum. Is an opposition to identity cards, for example, a left-wing or right-wing stance? Is it time, therefore, to do away with such terms? Would other labels be more appropriate: for example, authoritarian/liberal, or moderniser/traditionalist?

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. The term comes from the French Revolution in the 1790s. In the French parliament, people loyal to the king we're on the right, hence traditionalist, and people on the left were revoltionairies. It's evolved to mean left for liberal and right for conservative (or fascist if you're a Warwick Blogging Liberal ;) ). I think I'm correct in saying that if we were to turn the clock back a little and reverse some of the evolution of the phrase, it would be more relevant today.

    15 Jun 2005, 23:47

  2. John Dale

    Centralist/devolver? Public-leaning/private-leaning? Marketist/Stateist?

    16 Jun 2005, 08:42

  3. Peter Thomas

    Depends really on where you come from but people need tidy categorisation in order to at least try to make sense of a political spectrum.

    16 Jun 2005, 11:26

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