Left, Right and Centre
With regard to politics, the terms 'Centre' and 'Centrist' are thought of as representing a moderate, sensible, and pragmatic stance. Those happy to wear the label portray themselves as standing in opposition to the extremes of both left and right wing ideologues.
But this is because the mainstream media, representing the interests of their rich and powerful owners, want it that way. The United Kingdom, and its Westminster parliament, has long been conservative. During the Thatcher years it played a major role in dragging the whole Western world rightward, and its media seized this opportunity to drag the Overton window along with it.
The Liberal Democrats are often thought of as the most Centrist of parties. But the policies they, under the leadership of Nick Clegg, allowed the Tories to usher in during the coalition years betray the real position of their politics. Our brand new party, Change UK, also position themselves in the Centre, while boasting the most ironic of names: opposition to change is their raison d’être. While recognising the dangers of the far-right, they fear Labour are no longer afraid of being labelled socialist; they are a party of the status quo.
As a population we need to understand that the 'Centre' most commonly refers to the middle ground between the mainstream rightwing party, the Tories, and Labour, the major party to their left. This is key: to their left, but not necessarily of the left. Under Tony Blair, Labour were undeniably a rightwing, authoritarian party. Numerous useful political quadrants (gauging parties by the left/right and libertarian/authoritarian nature of their policies) have been drawn up for the UK over recent years. I have yet to see one with Labour outside the top right quadrant. (The Tories are of course higher and further right, UKIP moreso; Plaid Cymru and the Greens venture into the bottom left, with the SNP occasionally joining them).
Yes, there were important gains made in the Blair years, not least the introduction of a minimum wage and a massive increase in spending on education and the NHS. But privatisation of the NHS, supposedly Labour’s greatest achievement, has exploded as a result of Blair’s expansion of PFIs. Today it is acceptable for Richard Branson to sue our health service for denying Virgin the right to make more profit from sickness, and for the Tories (along with Farage) to be confident enough to challenge its very existence. There is a reason Thatcher declared Blair and 'New' Labour to be her greatest achievement.
Yet the centre ground was between Blair and the Tories; in other words, very much on the right.
Under Ed Milliband, some modest proposals to inch the party back toward the actual centre saw Labour demonised with every ludicrous communist adjective the tabloids could muster. Labour were militants, Trots, Marxists, Stalinists; but in reality, Labour under 'Red Ed' were still on the right overall.
By the time Jeremy Corbyn had become leader, the media had almost left themselves with nowhere to go. But with Corbyn possessing actual socialist credentials the stakes were high and they upped their game; it didn’t matter that by the standards of Nordic politics he was barely centre-left.
The weapon that has gained most traction against him has been the allegations of antisemitism. I have no idea if he is actually antisemitic; the attacks from countless angles on myriad subjects, from day one, were so blatantly part of a smear campaign that I simply haven’t had the energy to separate the wheat from the chaff. I know that his handling of the issue has been bad. And I know, coupled with his unpopular triangulation efforts on Brexit, it has resulted in a frankly awful personal approval rating that prevents his undoubtedly popular policies from making headlines.
I am not personally a Corbyn fan for a number of reasons. I have little faith he can get the job done; he has proved loyally partisan dispite being surrounded by politicians that are happiest positioned on the right. He hypocritically attacks the SNP’s record in government in Scotland, despite them being to the left of Welsh Labour, who have barely mustered a radical thought in two decades of power. The most generous excuse I can make for him is that he doesn’t seem to know anything about devolution, or even that Wales exists, but as a Welshman this is unlikely to get me lining up behind him any time soon.
However, he is demonised by the enemies of the left for a reason, and prospects of his demise should not be celebrated by anyone wishing for Westminster politics to finally shift over to the actual left.
'The cult of Corbyn' is more accurately a passion for the ideologies of the left, being expressed by people often too young to have experienced its acceptance in the mainstream. But the politicians given most airtime have for so long been little more than mouthpieces for the (rightwing) status quo, and Corbyn has come to represent their only hope. This is what needs to change.
The Left in England needs to become confident enough not to feel it relies on the tentative position of just one man. But the Left in Scotland have lost faith that this will happen any time soon, if at all. And it is my opinion that Wales needs to follow their lead as the Union dissolves. Without Westminster rule, narrated by London tabloids, the Celtic nations stand a better chance of attaining a politics that knows where the centre ground really lies, and how to prosper on the left of it.
An independent England may then, perhaps, learn to embrace leaders with policies like Corbyn’s, rather than seeing its citizens edure life under perpetual right-wing rule.
Notes on the images
The example of a political quadrant was taken from here
The Corbyn image from here
The final image is my own, taken on the day of the first march for Welsh Independence