The language of politics 2006
In the UK it seems like the three main parties are trying to outbid each other in seeming to position themselves onto the centre ground of British politics.
Of course, the centre of gravity as to what constitutes the centre ground has actually been decisively shifted rightwards by Blair's authoritarian Labour party since 1997.
In the early days of Ming Campbell leadership we've had the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail passed by the Lib Dem Spring Conference and David Laws proposing cutting state benefits to lone parents. Now Ming repeatedly claimed to be a 'creature of the centre-left' during the leadership campaign, but these proposals will surely be a real vote loser amongst the centre and left inclined voters.
The language used by leading spokespersons seem to more frequently echo that of 'New' Labour and the Cameroonians.
Modernise - in progressive parties this seems to mean moving the party further to the right than their tradition or party activists generally support. Greens, Labour, Lib Dems have all been ripe for being 'modernised' and 'fit for the 21st century'(sic).
'Credible' policies - means abandoning most areas where your party is most distinctive and in economic terms offering the same explicitly free-market solutions as your opponents.
Public Service 'Reform' - as above. 'Choice' [for some] and a view of private provision good, state provision bad prevails. Good job the 1906 Liberal government and the Beveridge inspired welfare state had a differing view of 'reform' !
Radical - now means daring people wishing to go against the grain of party tradition and surprise, suprise, move their party rightwards.
Dinosaur - usually confered on people like me who seek to adhere to the progressive left-of-centre social liberal tradition within the party. Pre-eminent amongst these in Lib Dem terms is 'Lord' Tony Greaves. Donnachadh McCarthy used to qualify but is now a extinct Lib Dem dinosaur.
One quaint tradition with the party dinosaur - with Tony Benn being Labour's equivalent - is that as you become an 'elder states[wo]man' and as you begin to have less influence you get to be described as being 'much loved' by the party faithful in the media. You get cheered for making radical speeches at conference, but trouble is, party leaderships persuade representatives / delegates into voting for something the dinosaur virulently opposes.
Simon Hughes should worry already as he is frequently described in the press as a 'favourite' with party activists. Another ten years and dinosaur status could be his too !
In the case of the Tories most of these words mean to suggest as if the party is moving leftwards from their recent Thatcherite history. There are no actual policies to confirm the reality of this 'radical' shift to date though.
One common feature is also to talk lots about the environment, but especially in the case of the Labour and Conservatives , means actually make no tough decisions !
Where have the real radicals gone ? Even the youth / student wings of the three main parties seem so orthodox and on-message these days.
Ah for the 'good old days' of the Liberal 'Red Guard', the NOLS and Trots bunfights within Labour and the preposterous 'Hang Mandela' T-shirts and craziness of the Federation of Conservative Students !
Unlike David Cameron, I don't mind the occasional bit of 'Punch + Judy' politics. It shows passion and difference and much better and honest than the 'Richard + Judy' politics-lite of Blair. Political opponents should be on the canvas from a knockout polical blow and not on the bloody sofa !