One of Joseph Stalin’s great political achievements was to dismiss any difference between the right and the left in politics. The three great show trials in 1935, 1937 and 1938 were of the Left-Wing Trotskyite Bloc, the Centrist Trotskyite Bloc and the Right-Wing Trotskyite Bloc respectively.
Indeed, he summed the whole mess up in a pithy sentence: “You start to the Left but you come out on the Right.”
Now I am not suggesting that things are quite as bad as that in European and British politics but the meaning of what is the Right has become quite hard to encompass.
In today’s Daily Telegraph there is a letter by some Conservative MEPs, who are replying to their colleagues, other Conservative MEPs, who had written before, calling for a withdrawal from the highly federalist EPP-ED Group. Today’s bunch of Conservative MEPs, on the contrary, affirms that they must stay in the group. And the reason?
“We believe in seeking out where the real action is, rather than fleeing to the margins. We believe that, to be a credible alternative government, Conservatives need to work with EU centre-Right colleagues whose parties are already in government. We believe that, in the EU, just as in Britain, the Left is the main enemy - and that when the Right is divided, the Left prevails.”Sounds good but what does it mean? It is true that most of the European countries now have centre-Right governments in power or so they say. Even in Germany, should those negotiations between Merkel and Schröder ever come to any conclusion, there may well be a centre-Right Chancellor. I recall some people referring to her as the German Thatcher. But then the same people referred to Nicolas Sarkozy as the French Reagan. All tosh. The Right in European political terms means protectionism, federalism, high taxation, high regulation, high unemployment.
As Mark Steyn wrote in his column in the National Review on September 15:
“You know those showers where the merest nudge of the dial turns the water from freezing to scalding? Mainstream European politics is the opposite of that. You can turn the dial all the way from “left” to “right” and it makes no difference.”After all President Chirac is supposed to be centre-Right. What does that mean in real terms? How do his policies differ from someone centre-Left like, well, like Lionel Jospin? You start out to the Left and you come out on the Right. Or vice versa.
Within the Conservative Party, as we have tried to chronicle on this blog, it is becoming quite difficult to tell who is on the Right and who is on the Left and what it might mean in real terms. They all seem to stand on the same platform: modernization, change, Tories holding their heads up high. Ahem, what of actual politics?