According to some Conservatives, it is no longer acceptable to call them ‘right-wing’, despite this being an accurate assessment of their politics. It forms part of a growing trend of political groups making it impossible to call them by their name without facing allegations of abuse.
We have been using the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ to describe liberal and conservative politics since the French Revolution. Liberals sat on the left, conservatives on the right. That’s it. The terms aren’t precise, just a ballpark indicator of our political views. And neither is an insult.
Yet after two centuries, some folks aren’t happy about it.
Most recently, Conservatives kicked off about a video by left-wing commentator Owen Jones, who is spearheading Momentum’s Unseat campaign. The campaign is about mobilising Labour activists in areas where Tory MPs have tiny majorities, and unseating them at the soonest opportunity. But some voters in the target seat of Wandsworth recoiled at being described as right-wing.
I love you @DrRosena but you should be ashamed allowing Owen to call a council & area that gave us women like @JaneEllison and @JustineGreening ‘right wing’. You know, what that kind of language drums up. As a result of this video I will be a non Tory door knocking for them. https://t.co/K6OpBrltIp
— Nimco Ali 🔻 (@NimkoAli) February 19, 2018
Well done Nimko for putting yr head above the ugly Twitter parapet & speaking truth. 1/I'm Tory & don't consider myself right wing. 2/Wandsworth council aren't perfect but they've served me v well for over 10 years. 3/And we are so lucky with our local Tory MPs.
— Jo Corlett (@JACRic1) February 19, 2018
But as other members of the public pointed out, this was a flat denial of reality.
— Not Wandsworth BC (@notwandbc) February 19, 2018
Calling members of the conservative party right wing is not a slur. You sound like a lunatic
— PeterNorway (@classiclib3ral) February 20, 2018
But conservatives aren’t the only ones playing this game.
Fans of the film The Usual Suspects will be familiar with the line:
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.
The Kint character is paraphrasing 19th century poet and philosopher Charles Baudelaire. And it means that, so long as no one believes in the devil, he can get up to all sorts. While people will feel his effects, they will only ever be able to deal with the symptoms rather than the cause. Because they simply don’t believe that cause exists.
Well, the same could be said of neoliberalism.
So long as the establishment succeeds in convincing the public that we have no economic system, no ideology, and no establishment, it sidesteps potentially terminal challenges to all three. And to be considered ‘serious’ or ‘reasonable’, you have to accept the fundamental assumptions of this system. It’s called ‘the shame game’, and it’s worked remarkably well for the past 40 years. But now it isn’t.
The challenge the establishment faces today is bigger than one scandal, or one unpopular foreign policy decision. For the first time in more than half a century, it is the system itself which is being challenged. And that has freaked out everyone who seeks to maintain it, whether they reside with the Labour right, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, or any other political party. So now, you will hear cries of abuse and conspiracy against anyone who dares mention its name.
Here is The Independent‘s parliamentary sketch writer Tom Peck and New Statesman editor Helen Lewis on the matter:
And Labour’s Jess Phillips (who once vowed to “knife Corbyn“), too.
— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) November 15, 2015
The Telegraph‘s Michael Deacon went for the full house. Why make up one slur, when you can throw in four?
These same people use the made-up and derogatory terms ‘Corbynista’ and ‘Alt-left’. But they cry conspiracy or abuse when people seek to challenge the very real economic orthodoxy. Because you’d have to be crazy to question a system which has delivered a 2,792% rise in the use of food banks, right?
Running out of steam
It’s a tired play by members of an exhausted establishment. With no vision for the future, and no answer to the problems of the day, they’re left with nothing but stigmatising their critics to save themselves from inevitable change. And unfortunately for them, the shame game is becoming less effective by the day.
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