Giles Fraser has written an article in the Guardian entitled, “Rejoice! Centrism in British politics is dead and big ideas are back“, which stomps on the grave of centrism in the UK. In it he tells us:
“Ever since the English civil war, the British have feared ideology as a reason that fellow countrymen would brain each other with pikes and cannon. From the late 17th century onwards, we would begin to organise our common life so as to exclude ideological contestation. We don’t do God. We don’t discuss politics at dinner parties. We are a practical people who want to know if something works in practice before it works in theory – which was the basis of Edmund Burke’s opposition to the French Revolution.”
It is worth remembering that one of the consequences of the French Revolution was the Reign of Terror; another was the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte, which all ended up with the restoration of the Bourbons making the whole exercise rather pointless. If that’s what big ideas get you, then no thanks.
Only, of course, we need more big ideas, now more than ever. What we don’t need more of is either extreme libertarianism or Soviet-style socialism. The idea that to suggest that the solutions to the problems society faces should come from evidence based, rational thinking is to be mushy and somehow addicted to the status quo is a neat trick of the current Left. Just so we can get this into the proper perspective, what do societies run strictly on the basis of one, unbending ideology tend to get us? Just to pick from the best of the bunch over the last hundred years: pogroms, genocide, persecution of minorities, gulags, show trials, mass famine, mass executions, civil war, regional conflict which results in massive death tolls, secret police, and those are just the ones that rolled right off the top of my head without having to think to hard about it. How about we don’t rejoice in the spectre of those things possibly coming to Britain in 2017?
One of the things that unites the hard Brexiteers of both the Left and the Right – Jeremy Corbyn and Bill Cash – is the destruction of the rules based system that the EU both represents and enforces on its members. Both dislike the concept of human rights (although the Left often keeps quiet on this one, knowing it alienates too much of the liberal left section of their electorate) – the Right because they feel it gives too much power to minorities and immigrant groups, the Left because it does things like protect property rights (can’t steal people’s land if you’re still under the aegis of the ECHR, as a for instance).
Wanting a sensible set of solutions to the problems we face isn’t opting for things staying exactly as they are, as the Giles Frasers would like to have you think. Throughout the 20th century, Europe tried a whole bunch of rigid ideologies in search of the truth – what we got instead was war and death. If being centrist means not wishing for a return to all that, then count me in.