Blairite blogger Hopi Sen has a confession:
- “I sometimes like to introduce myself to Labour party people as ‘the most right-wing person in the Labour party’. I’ve found it’s a very good way to avoid being invited to sit on committees, working groups or panels, which is my main aim in all interactions with Labour party activists and thinkers.
- “I’m not sure if I’m really the most right-wing person in the Labour party (though as Brian Clough said, I’m in the top one). Instead I think I’m in the minority of people on the left who don’t quietly regard being on the right as being evidence of some gaping internal moral chasm.”
Mr Sen, however, is a grown-up:
- “Do I think the Tories want to see food banks, or increased poverty? No. I think they’re either seen as the unfortunate side effect of essential policies, to be ameliorated where possible, or as an intransigent problem with roots that go very deep and can only really be addressed at the individual, atomic level.”
So what is it that makes him a Labour supporter?
- “I think Social Democracy works – it produces better outcomes, it raises more human capability, it educates, heals and employs and it constantly tries to improve. The social market model is a wonderful, amazing thing, and it’s wonderful and amazing in part because it’s messy, and there is a constant ferment of attempts to try to improve the way things work.
- “Sometimes, of course, it doesn’t work. Sometimes government fails, just as sometimes markets fail… What I love about social democracy though, is that when things go wrong (as they always will), you’re not forced to hew to the same way of delivering your sought outcomes because of an ideological fixedness…”
That’s an interesting answer because it suggests that there is at least a sliver of intelligent Labour support that could be won over if we could prove that the Conservative Party is the best bet for social innovation in the public interest. And that means being as tough on rent-seeking corporate interests – for instance, among the utility companies – as we are on backward-looking public sector unions.
Hopi Sen’s conclusion is just as interesting:
- “You know who doesn’t laugh when I introduce myself as the most right-wing person in the Labour party?
- “They look uncomfortable, and a bit confused…”
But perhaps they’re not confused at all. Rather, they may well be preoccupied with the following question: ‘If this chap is the most rightwing person is the Labour Party, then who’s the most leftwing person in the Conservative Party?’ And the answer to that, for a certain kind of rightwinger, is none other than David Cameron himself.
Which is, of course, nonsense. David Cameron is not on the left of the Conservative Party at all. The first ever Conservative leader to promise a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is no ‘wet’. Nor is the head of a government which has already enacted radical reform on welfare, education, immigration, local government and the police.
That doesn’t mean that rightwingers have had it all their own way. Quite clearly, they haven’t – nor should they. The Conservative Party is itself a broad-based coalition – and, so, as well as being polite to our opponents in the Labour Party we should try to be more understanding of one another too.