Don’t be “right”

Labour are worried about a revival of the “extreme right”.In politically correct circles and on the BBC I hear talk of a stunning array of “extreme right” figures, movements and regimes. The “right” includes to such commentators military dictators, “conservative” clerics preaching religious hatred and intolerance, mass murderers, terrorist groups and others who pursue racist intolerance or authoritarian eclipse of the freedoms of others.

They lump alongside the extreme right numerous democratic groups and campaigners as “right wing” who believe in the opposite of such vicious approaches to government and community. It means that Labour and their friends in the BBC have stretched the language to breaking point, where “right wing” no longer means anything if it ever did.

The twentieth century was for many of us disfigured politically by two evil creeds, communism and fascism. To me they were similarly evil. Both entailed the establishment of tyrannies. Those tyrannies eclipsed many civil liberties, placed their citizens under surveillance by the thought police, diverted huge resources to military conquest and the suppression of their neighbours and made themselves rogue states to the international community. Their leadership killed opponents, and launched genocide against large minority groups within their conquered lands.

Some socialists try to distinguish communism from fascism, either defending its proponents like Stalin, or claiming that communism as practised was a distortion of the pure doctrine. None of us on what Labour call the “right” in British politics would ever dream of doing the same for fascism, as we loathe it with an equal passion to our loathing of communism.

In modern UK political dispute “right wing” has come to cover at least five differing groups of people or viewpoints, making it a more or less useless method of describing someone’s political outlook. The five outlooks I identify are:

1. Euroscepticism. Anyone who believes we should be governed from Westminster rather than Brussels, keeping the accumulated liberties of our country and using its representative institutions and courts as the main source of authority are now called “right wing” for such beliefs. This means that a substantial number of figures in the Labour party, including Tony Benn, become right wing.
2. Believers in free markets. Anyone who believes that in most areas of production and economic activity it is better to leave people and companies reasonable freedom to compete and choose, rather than putting more things under state control, is said to be “right wing”. This makes Gordon Brown “right wing” for his recent defence of free trade and free markets in Davos.
3. The Civil libertarian right. Those of us who believe in trial by jury, no detention without charge and trial, the right of free speech and the right to undertake peaceful protest, the right to be free of state snooping and thought monitoring are now said to be “right wing”. This also includes an honourable minority of Labour MPs who have faithfully supported civil liberties against the attacks of this government.
4. The authoritarian right. Those who believe in giving the state more power to eavesdrop, detain, monitor, and restrain in the cause of anti terrorism or civil obedience are also said to be “right wing”. This includes the actions of the present government, under the Blunkett wing of New Labour.
5. The Christian right. Those who wish the state to follow policies which accord with their views of Christian teaching are also often said to be “right wing”. In the USA the religious right are an important part of the Republican coalition. In the UK the causes of controlling abortion, the right to life, and the outlawing of various scientific practises and experimentation are not party matters but free vote ones. The coalition of support includes a number of Catholic Labour MPs as well as Conservatives. This part of the right also includes the wish to use some aspects of public policy to support the traditional family, which again runs across party lines.

Any analyst on the media who wishes to capture the cross currents and undercurrents of UK politics should understand this, and must conclude that calling someone “right wing” no longer tells the audience anything worthwhile about their position. When a term adopted from a different century and a different country is used so widely as a term of abuse, it ends up meaning nothing. As the above shows, no Conservative can possibly believe all the things the democratic right are said to believe, as the freedom loving and the authoritarian strands are in tension with one another. All democratic Conservatives are united in hating racism, communism and fascism.


  1. Bishop Hill
    February 1, 2009

    The common factor between all these creeds is collectivism.

  2. John
    February 1, 2009

    I was under the impression that Fascism was simply another flavour of Socialism and only right-wing when compared to Commmunism.

  3. APL
    February 1, 2009

    Well said Mr Redwood.

    About time someone from the Tory Party started to look at the ideology of politics, being pragmatic [all the time] is well and good, but you end up often choosing the path of least resistance, which has led us straight into our enemies ambush.

    JR: “Some socialists try to distinguish communism from fascism,”

    Exactly right, but they are the same. They are both totalitarian doctrines. They both led to the death of millions at the hands of the state. Both ideologies put the state above the individual, therefore when the individual gets in the way of the state, the individual must be sacrificed.

    One other thing; Communism otherwise known as International Socialism. Nazism, otherwise known as National Socialism. Coincidence? I think not.

    JR: “None of us on what Labour call the “right” in British politics would ever dream of doing the same for fascism, ”

    Mr Redwood, that is because the “right” in British politics does or should put individual freedom and the rights of the individual above the rights of the State.

    Fascism = Socialism, THEY ARE THE SAME IDEOLOGY.

    Both elevate the state above the individual. Both see no role for the spontaneous voluntary act of kindness between individuals.

    Why do you think the “left” hated Margaret Thatcher, and made [taking out of context, btw ] so much of her ‘there is no such thing as society’ remark? Because she sought to reduce the influence of the State and encourage the free interaction of the individual. Such an idea is anathema to both the Fascists and the International Socialists.

    She set back the Socialist Totalitarian agenda by eighteen years. Sadly the pragmatists like John Major and Ken Clarke took over because they were tired of ideology. People like that prefer self advancement to advancing the cause of individual freedom, they would sup with, rather than confront the devil.

    As a result, Here we are!

  4. Cleethorpes Rock
    February 1, 2009

    John, “right-wing” is anyone the BBC or the MSM don’t like. It’s a catch all term of abuse for anyone differing from their agenda.

    Of course, as Tories, we are on the right. What about the BNP? We know that they’re against free markets, civil liberties, a small state and individual choice, yet they’re often described as “right-wing” or “the far-right BNP” by lazy journalists. Why?

    By describing the BNP, religious zealots and mad mullahs as “right-wing”, the mainstream media, led by the BBC, are basically saying that “right-wing = intolerant and backward, Tories= right wing, therefore, Tories = intolerant and backward” It’s their way of smearing by association.

    Unfortunately, too many Tory journalists and MPs go along with this lazy terminology. Perhaps, John, you could spread the word to your parliamentary colleagues that the BNP are actually left wing and to stop smearing themselves by using the Guardian and BBC’s preferred term of abuse, right wing?

  5. richard lilley
    February 1, 2009

    There is another group, who are not just a subset of 5, the views of whom are particularly denigrated by the left/liberal media. The conservative traditional nationalist. A common position of both Attlee and Churchill (and all types of religious faith, and none); but usually represented as either a yearning for the imperial past or disguised racism – unless of course its Scottish, Welsh, Irish or French Nationalism.

    At a time when these core values (parliamentary democracy, free speech and an insular spirit of self-reliance) are being openly defied it is surely vital that the Conservative Party unashamedly articulates them.

  6. Hawkeye
    February 1, 2009

    Who is “Right wing”? Anyone who disagrees with Labour Party policy, anyone who who thinks socilaism is wrong, anyone who does not conform to the prevailing “group think”.

    In other words, everyone in the UK is right wing except the true marxist believers.

    This is why we need to rid ourselves of socialism, stop pretending that it is a political philosophy and have its dysfunctional believers treated or sectioned under their own mental health legislation.

    Going slightly off-topic, the proposal to audit the government’s books on day one of a conservative government is an excellent proposal. The socialists HATE being watched and examined and I expect squeals of panic and derision when the figures begin to appear.

    The conservatives have a DUTY to do this, a duty to expose to all the country the vandalism that masquerades as socialism and to ensure that these leftie vandals never again get a grip on the jugular of this nation.

  7. Bill
    February 1, 2009

    One would only have to suggest that maybe the NHS shouldn’t be such a huge monopoly that dominates healthcare in the land. That maybe there is a place for breaking things up a bit and going for a different less centrally controlled infrastructure – and Labour and the BBC (Although I do value the latter greatly) Would interpret this as …”Right wing”…maybe even “Ultra right”

    Yet President Obama is portrayed as being to the left of centre, everyone knows that if he was a British politician and espoused his views on healthcare and the death penalty, he would probably be portrayed as a fascist by Labour and probably by the, same, BBC correspondents that swooned over him a couple of weeks ago.

    It’s unfortunate because this name calling can stifle debate on many issues, from healthcare to policing, immigration to race relations.

    1. James Morrison
      February 1, 2009

      “It’s unfortunate because this name calling can stifle debate on many issues”

      But isn’t that exactly why it’s done, precisely to stifle debate. No-one on the “left” ever wants to debate about anything. We can see plenty of examples of that from John’s posts on here, and in the lack of challenge from the like-minded MSM.

      This is precisely because they fear (or know) their beliefs/policies will be shown up to be nonsense…..

  8. Mark
    February 1, 2009

    Labour have been raising the spectre of the BNP a lot recently. I am not sure whether this is because they are genuinely worried about the BNP (which has been picking up some white, working class votes) or whether it is a device to try to smear all on “the right”, including the Convervative party.

    Examples of the BNP spectre include a preposterous post on Labour List suggesting that a third runway is needed at Heathrow to prevent local residents voting for the BNP. And David Blunkett raised the BNP on “Any Questions” this week. I sense a coordinated move and fear that the intent may be to smear.

  9. Kit
    February 1, 2009

    If you think phrase “right wing” has been abused just look what has happened to “liberal”, “free”, “fair”, “justice”… they have all been twisted out of all recognition from their original meanings.

  10. Acorn
    February 1, 2009

    I have been a follower of the “Political Compass”. for some years; perhaps I should take the test again (see website menu). Interesting to see how Labour are gradually drifting toward the authoritarian right. Perhaps all governments drift that way, the longer they are allowed to stay in power. Perhaps we should limit how long an individual can be in elected office?

    Other systems of analysis are available.

    Regulatory Advice.

    1. APL
      February 1, 2009

      Acorn:”Perhaps we should limit how long an individual can be in elected office?”

      No, but we should make sure that some things are simply not the business of government.

      Jack Straw, [who’s own constituency affairs do not seem to be entirely in order, neither is the BBC giving the irregularities much publicity.] is now using the (alleged-ed)corruption of *Labour* appointed peers as a pretext for another power grab.

      We need clear separation of powers, clearly defined powers and repatriation of powers back from Brussels.

      This constant meddling in the constitution of the United Kindgom is simply a pretext for a protracted revolution.

  11. John Moss
    February 1, 2009

    I believe politics is a clock, not a line.

    Hitler and Stalin, of course, met at midnight!

  12. anoneumouse
    February 1, 2009

    In this, the Chinese year of the ‘Ox’ lets have some “more on” Reactionary Progressives

  13. Peter
    February 1, 2009

    In 2008 a book came out in America, “Liberal Fascism” by National Review Online columnist Jonah Goldberg. It is a fascinating study – using Benito Mussolini as the exemplar – of how Fascism is actually a phenomenon of the political Left and not of the Right. My understanding is that Penguin Books has recently launched a U.K. edition. For those of us born after WWII, the book is quite instructive and serves to correct the common misunderstanding of actual roots of Fascism prevalent among us Baby Boomers. I recommend it.

      1. Alan
        February 2, 2009

        Very interesting link. Thanks.

  14. Obnoxio The Clown
    February 1, 2009

    Hear, hear, John. My take on this.

  15. Dennis
    February 1, 2009

    Cleethorpes Rock, well said!

    It’s curious that the BBC demonizes anyone it doesn’t like as “right-wing” (i.e. thuggish, uncaring), when its own business model is based on demanding money with menaces.

    I for one don’t pay them a penny, and over on Facebook the anti-BBC group, pledged to withholding their telly tax, now numbers well over 300,000. These are the predominantly young people — you can tell that because they’re illiterate — upon whom the BBC is presumably basing its hopes for the future. We also have the wrinklies following Charles Moore’s lead at the Telegraph: the number of refuseniks must be well over 500,000 and growing.

    No doubt the BBC will come up with a cuddly and liberal solution to it all.

  16. Neil Craig
    February 1, 2009

    Right & Left were first formulted when the French revoluyionary Parliament was set up. The door was on the left of the chambrer & the toffs natrually entered first & thus ended up sitting on the right. At that time what are now “environmentalists” (wanting to stop the workiong classes building houses outside traditional cities, preventing new technology & ideas( were the right wing aritos, those wnating a free market without clas or ethnic discrimination were on the left. As such the terms are meaningless now.

    I think the real division is between big statists & libertarians (or perhaps traditional liberals & Roosevelt liberals). Of the groups you mention 1,2 & 3 are all on the libertarian side (though I don’t think Brown walks the free market walk as well as he talks the talk). 4 is big statist & 5 splits both ways depending on how much they want the state to support churches & how much merely not to make the separation of church & state an enforcement of agnosticism).

    My strong suspicion is that if the debate were allowed in this form the vast majority of people would believe that our current state, which spends half the money in the economy & heavily regulates the rest is bigger than optimum.

  17. chris southern
    February 1, 2009

    Yet again John you are the voice of common sense.
    Hopefully democracy as it should be will see Labour out of power for a long time.
    Unfortunately they won’t be out of power forever and their bid for controling a nation, if not an entire continent will eventualy be started again.

  18. CountingCats
    February 1, 2009

    Anyone, and everyone, who support the principles of a liberal society get smeared, not just as right wing, but as far-right.

    Geert Wilders being a case in point:

  19. […] Continued here: John Redwood MP » Don’t be “right” […]

  20. Robert Eve
    February 1, 2009

    I’ve always maintained that right is right and left is wrong.

  21. mikestallard
    February 1, 2009

    Now that we have a governing class of people with luscious apartments, reliable pensions, a small fleet of minions, several private houses and the use of various sorts of gas guzzling air and land vehicles for their very own private use, it is highly ironic that they pretend to be “of the people”, “working class”, and they they demand “radical change”. Do you know what, I think they actually believe that they are all of these things!
    Nothing could be farther from the truth.
    They are, actually, the very Tories who they despise. The pigs have taken over the farm. These are the people who think we have got it about right at the moment and they do not want any form of change. They are the people who can quaff expensive food and drinks at conferences and they can rub sholders with the rich and famous. They are the people who send their children to the most expensive education in the world.
    Meanwhile there is an underclass rapidly developing which has no pension, no job, lousy education for the children and no law and order in their streets.
    Religious note: Jesus had a lovely name for these kind of people: “fifth rate actors”: or, in Greek, “hypocrites”.

  22. Tony Makara
    February 1, 2009

    The fundamental ideas of Fascism, as formulated by Alfredo Rocco, and before they were adopted by Benito Mussolini, could not be called evil. In fact Rocco’s ideas were aimed at ending class distinctions and in rolling back the state and limiting the power of party political structures. Racism was not a feature of early Fascism at all.

    Sadly, those brought up on the works of court historians have a very limited perspective when it comes to understanding the intricacies of different political movements. Fascism is completely different from National Socialism or Falangism, yet all are tied with the same brush, to the point where, as Mr Redwoods article implies, the definitions have become meaningless.

  23. Coeur de Lion
    February 1, 2009

    The axis is no longer left or right -it’s freedom or oppression.

  24. Bernard Palmer
    February 1, 2009

    Excerpt from ‘What is the Primary Fundamental Right?’

    “Every American president has started their term of office by breaking the rules of the US Constitution, (Article 2 section 1 clause 8), when they added the words “So help me God” at the end of their swearing in oath. This traditional practice appears to be in defiance of the intent of the 1st Amendment, as does the words “In God We Trust” found on US currency and the “one Nation under God” pronouncement in the allegiance to the flag. This is possibly an indication of an innate desire of many religious elite people, often lawyers, to live in a theocracy where everyone is similar and ‘God fearing’.

    All religions are basically gatherings of Conformists and are probably fundamentally opposed to Individualism. Throughout modern history there has been strong links between Religionism, Communism, Fascism, Socialism as all four practice Totalitarianism to varying degrees.

    Communism is probably a Religionism where the government is the god of the Conformists. Many Fascism/Socialism/Theocrocism Democracy governments also appear to have divine attributes such as omnipresence and omnipotence and all seem to be run by lawyer-clerics controlling large police forces.

    Atheism and Pantheism are apparently opposite ends of the Religionism scale with Atheism possibly more associated with Communism and the liberals while Fascism/Socialism Democracy seems more connected with the main line religions and the conservatives. Pantheism along with Agnosticism are not religions so would probably fit best with libertarians, while possibly pointing towards the Primary Fundamental Right which is the probable embodiment of Individualism and Capitalism Democracy.”

  25. Stuart Fairney
    February 2, 2009

    JR I am curious as to the effectiveness of the Facebook campaign with regard to not paying the TV licence.

    Could you make a (neutral) written enquiry to the appropriate minister concerning the current scale of licence non-payment?

    Reply: The BBC believes 5.1% of set owners dodged it last year. There are an estimated 1 million households without sets.

  26. number 6
    February 2, 2009

    The biggest example of the state as all seeing and all powerful in the modern world is the EU. An unnacountable and unelected group of bureacrats whose diktats run (or seek to run) virtually every aspect of our lives – from what seeds we may plant in our own soil to what rubbish we may put in our bins to be removed from our own property.

    Where the EU facist/socialists are different from those of the past, is that they have taken control without resorting (as yet) to acts of violence against individual nations.

  27. MarkE
    February 2, 2009

    As others have said the term “right wing” is usually used by commentators within the BBC/Guardian consensus to describe anyone (everyone?) with whom they disagree or who they dislike. “Fascist” is anyone they really dislike (hate even) but against whom they have run out of arguments.

    As a libertarian I find it insulting to be bracketed with the hangers and floggers of the Blunkett wing of the Labour party, but apparently only those on the left are allowed to complain when the BBC insults them.

  28. Sonia
    February 2, 2009

    Your description of “The Authoritarian Right”, is what most of my friends and I would call “The Authoritarian Left” as in “Old Russian Communist” left, where ordinary people were spied upon and had to be careful what they said.

    After NuLabour, most people I know use the terms “left and right” to denote the difference between “NuLabour’s Commie Policies” and “Conservatives Free Trade/Competitive Policies”

    Extremist Right Wing are people like the BNP who are fiercely Nationalistic, prioritising the indigenous population for jobs, housing, welfare state and expecting anyone that comes to the UK to integrate and “become British”.

    The fact that politicians and the BBC are trying to redefine the words mean nothing to most people. These are terms that have been around for years.

  29. Peter Holttum
    February 2, 2009

    Right again John – and the twin evils 20th C evils of fascism and communism were both “socialist” in inspiration – never forget it was National Socialism, but the left like to ascribe it to the right. They recognised each other, hence the non aggression pact.
    We see this deceit in New Labour, who manage us not responsibly by rational argument, but by emotion through dog whistle marketing. Its the dishonest emotional targetting that defines fascism for me. Jews were the emotional target under National Socialism. Unfortunately the conservatives do it just as much – maybe democracy always leads to fascism through such malpractice – is it a coincidence that these evils arrived with democracy on the 20th C? We need to be ever vigilant about our politicians – much harder in the era of spin, huge goverment ad campaigns claiming to be information, a media and political parties in thrall to the odious new rich for funds, and a fudge about the division of powers in our nation which has led parliament to become a waiting ground for government, and the judiciary to be regularly pilloried by government.

    1. chris southern
      February 3, 2009

      Even if we are vigilant about our politicians, they still have to tow the line to a large extent with the eu.
      And that is where they have us trapped.

      Without a major party wanting to leave the eu, our political system means we will stay in and things will only get worse (yes, get worse than being fined for any reason, being detained without warrant or arrest and then tried without even being in the court, they have the capability, thankfully only parts of it have been used on the innocent so far)

  30. Amanda
    February 6, 2009

    The OED, that arbiter of our language, gives the following, as a definition of fascist,

    “a person having Fascist sympathies or convictions; (loosely) a person of right-wing authoritarian views.”

    So in the OED’s view does that mean that people of left-wing authoritarian views are not fascist? And given the above debate, how does the OED define right-wing. Well as follows:-

    “That section of a political party, assembly, or other body most tending to hold conservative or reactionary views.”

    It seems to me that the key word in the definition of Fascist is authoritarian – and when we talk about ‘climate change’ facisists or health ‘facisists’, or ‘little Hitlers’, that we are not talking about right-wing views, but people who want to dictate their views to others.

    Maybe someone should talk to the OED about their definitions!!

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