Tag Archives: centrism

The Problem of Centrism

Last time, we established the party’s lack of identity and direction stemming from the overuse of the term “moderate”. With this in mind, we can turn our attention to the problems that the term “centrism” presents.

The centre position is one that the party has found itself in since the 1920s, as an inevitability owing to the rise of Labour, with it being officially recognised in the 1980s during the Alliance as a selling point for possible coalition government. What, then, is wrong with this?

The first problem is similar to that of moderation – the conflation of terms. The term “liberal” has been wedded with the term “centrist” in a similar fashion. This comes from the idea that centrism is, somehow, an ideology unto itself. When it is not. Centrism is a position on the political spectrum but it does not have ideals or a worldview that underpin it.

The Left, collectively, is not an ideology, and neither is the Right. Rather, they are groups of ideologies that run along similar ideas and liberalism, with its myriad and varied schools, is an ideological spectrum unto itself, able to stretch across Left and Right. One would not call a radical a right winger, and an Orange Booker is not leftward. To put it this way – if tomorrow the party dropped all of its liberal trappings and went, instead, toward social democracy and progressivism it would still find itself in the centre. Not because these are “centrist” in scope but simply because the party as an entity is squashed between Labour and the Conservatives.

But this, I acknowledge, can be seen as nothing more than pedantry. A more pressing problem is found in the inherent instability of the centre. Due to the reliance it has upon the Overton Window it is impossible to remain truly in the centre for very long. Indeed, it shifts leftwards and rightwards, or even shatters under the weight of what is considered to be “common sense” and “conventional wisdom”. The Conservatives currently claim the centre as the country occupies a status quo that favours them. Labour, once they win, will, if their plans work out, be able to claim it after the first term. The Liberal Democrats, however, occupy the same space as we did a decade ago, and therefore no longer representative of anyone in wider society, apart from some disconnected special interest groups. In short, during these polarised times, the very term “centrism” becomes meaningless.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 17 Comments
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