Yesterday we reported Menzies Campbell’s new attack on the Tories. In a bid to damn us he said that we are "still right-wing and unpleasant". He didn’t say that we were nasty and unpleasant or selfish and unpleasant or racist and unpleasant… the LibDem leader chose "right-wing" as a catch-all term of abuse.
Ming is not the only one who appears to understand that the right-wing label is a pejorative one. On last night’s Any Questions? (for which Eddie Mair made an excellent stand-in chair(man)) Steve Norris said that, on civil liberties and the environment, Tony Blair was far to the right of him – again as if being ‘to the right’ was somehow unpleasant. David Cameron recently made it clear that he didn’t like the expression very much:
"Some say that we should move to the right. I say that will turn us into a fringe party, never able to challenge for government again. I don’t want to let that happen to this party – do you?"
On a recent blog for the Social Affairs Unit, Harry Phibbs wonders if the term ‘right wing’ is beyond rescue:
"Describing such ideas as supporting parliamentary sovereignty, or the rule of law, or greater individual freedom, or a smaller state, as right wing tends to put people off. Of course Tory policy is up for review so at the moment the changes are about tone and emphasis. We have had this presented as a change of policy. But it is not. The Conservatives were never in favour of poverty or pollution. But if people thought that they were and no longer believe them to be than that is an advance. If part of that process is resisting the description "right wing" then why not?"
The whole right-left thing is increasingly out-of-date when today’s issues
of centralism versus localism, social conservatism versus liberalism
and pre-emption versus multilateralism are causing serious divisions
within political parties. Nonetheless, given that Tory MPs are seen as ten times more right-wing than Tony Blair, the unattractiveness of the right-wing label could be something of a problem.