Modern politics is dominated by a very simple theory. It is a dumbed down version of Blair’s triangulation. The theory states that a party of the left has to attack the left and show it is moving towards the centre to attract the floating voters there, whilst a party of the right has to attack the right and show it is trying to occupy the centre ground in its turn.
As with so much modern politics there is little thought and lots of spin. As I have argued before, the idea of “left” and “right” is far from a good way of analysing modern politics. Is David Davis of the left for wanting more civil liberties? Is Yvette Cooper of the right for wanting more state control and more police to improve public order and safety? Is a Eurosceptic Labour figure right wing because he is Eurosceptic? Am I left wing because I want to end our military involvement in Afghanistan immediately? And so on.
We should also question who all these voters are, huddled on the centre ground. They may dislike both Labour and the Conservatives, but many of them are far from being in the middle between Labour and Conservative positions. Indeed, Coalition and Labour positions on many things are so closely together, that it would be difficult to find people camped between them. Both the Coalition and the Labour front bench support quantitative easing, a high deficit, reducing the deficit in due course, increasing current public spending, cutting public capital spending, owning loss making banks, staying in the EU as currently constituted, welfare reform to make it more worthwhile working, more Academy schools and the rest.
Indeed, because both main parties believe the theory of moving to the centre, it is inevitable that they end up together on many issues, bumping into each other with enthusiaism to show how moderate and centrist they are.
The floaters, however, are a very varied group with many differing views. Many of their views lie well outside the polite spectrum of views espoused by the three main parties. Large numbers want to pull out of the EU altogether. Many wish to restrict immigration very tightly. Some think both Coalition and Labour are far too generous on benefits to the workshy and recently arrived. Many think both main parties are too weak on crime and punishment. Many think politicans of all persuasions overpay themselves and waste loads of public money. These people would be said by the sloppy theorists to be well to the right of polite society.
Others think both the Coalition and Labour are far too mean on state pensions and other benefits that matter to them. They think students should have grants, not loans. They think the state should be much more generous over care for the elderly. They think the state should do more to regulate every aspect of private sector commerce which annoys them. They are said to be to the left of the main parties.
The problem for the theorists is both groups are not in the centre but outside the parties narrow definition of the acceptable and affordable. Worse still, many people have elements of both agendas in their thinking. You meet people who want to pull out of the EU and have a higher pension, and who say stopping the EU contributions would help pay for it. You meet people who both want to have fewer migrants here, and who want more generous care for the elderly. Voters refuse to be pinned down in the silly left-right boxes the politicians and their analysts often use to decribe the people they wish to represent. They should get out more and listen to the voters.