Tuesday, November 23, 2010

(I Hate You) For Ideological Reasons

Of all the responses to the Comprehensive Spending Review, perhaps the most intriguing has been Labour's use of the phrase, "ideological reasons". The way they spit it out, the venom they attach to it evokes the broadest Valleys accent (though whether the invocation is of Kinnock, Bevan or just my granny from Trebanog's cries of "uch a fi" at my four-year-old self's attitude to chocolate is unclear...)

Sonorous qualities notwithstanding, it's an unusual phrase to use, as after all it is essentially the point; you have an election, it's contested between various parties each of which expounds a particular ideology, and whichever party best convinces people that their ideology is best is then elected to carry it out. Surely the Labour Party can't mean that political parties should ditch their ideologies altogether? (Oh, hang on, yes they can...)

But it isn't what they mean, if only because they're nowhere near ready to admit to themselves that they ditched all their principles long ago. Instead, it comes down to an idea I've blogged about before; Labour's absolute conviction that everything they do must be good for the vulnerable because they are the ones doing it, they are are the ones who have their needs as heart. As this excellent dissection of the Thatcher legacy points out, the corollary of this is that anything done by any other party must be both bad and done out of malice. This being the case, the rest of the rhetoric shouldn't be much of a surprise; the leap from "ideological reasons" as code for "Tories hate poor people" to "ethnic cleansing" (a term on which Welsh Labour has prior form) is rather less mentally taxing than it ought to be. (As for Boris' invocation of that term, however, I have no idea...)

We Lib Dems need to be vigilant, however, because Labour's future attack strategy towards us is rooted in the same "ideological reasons." All those years of Yellow Tories basically boil down to the same idea; Labour are the only ones who care, therefore we can't care, ergo we must be evil too. The special vitriol reserved for Lib Dems derives from the Labour perception that we must be lying when we talk about helping the less well-off; the Labour worldview allows no other conclusion.

Their frustration up to now has been an inability to prove our evil (to their minds because of the deceit, in reality because we aren't) but their hope must be that the coalition will be their proof. The accuracy of that, either as a summary of the Lib Dems past or their future, is more than a little questionable. But we should keep watch, because it's a very Chinese crisis; as Labour strive to affirm their psychological hangups, they leave themselves open to the exploitation of them, and without them, there's not very much left.

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