Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alan Johnson revels in being 'right-wing' Home Secretary

The most jaw-dropping moment of Question Time this evening was when Alan Johnson claimed that the Tories had "got it wrong" by not "staying right" on the DNA database - in other words, he was unashamedly boasting that Labour are more right-wing than the Tories on the issue. In many ways this is, of course, similar to the familiar Blairite conceit that in modern politics the distinction is no longer between right and left, but instead between right and wrong. Naturally, the 'right' policy on any given issue was the Blairite one, with all the myriad alternatives being the 'wrong' policies, regardless of where on the political spectrum they came from. No wonder Mr Blair found the basic nature of Catholicism so much to his taste.

In reality, most of us recognised that the distinction between the two meanings of 'right' was in reality remarkably thin, with this nominally 'democratic socialist' government being identified as one of the most - perhaps the most - right-wing administration in western Europe. But where Alan Johnson has broken new ground tonight is in brazenly acknowledging that truth, rather than adhering to the now-traditional doublespeak.

So should those of us on the left take any comfort from the fact that even Labour acknowledges that an incoming Tory government would not be quite as far to the right on certain issues as the current administration? Hardly. Looking at the broad sweep of policy - law and order, immigration, the economy, taxation, education, human rights - there is no doubt that, on balance, the Tories would represent a significant shift still further to the right. They would also block long-overdue progress on constitutional reform, notably extra powers for the Scottish Parliament, democratisation of the voting system for the House of Commons, and an elected upper house. So it seems to me the only rational thing for voters to do is to look beyond the false choice between a rubbish incumbent government, and an even more rubbish alternative. We're fortunate in Scotland to have the SNP to turn to, and in Wales there's Plaid Cymru, but even in England there are other options - most notably the Greens (who have a great chance of winning their first seat) and Mebyon Kernow, who memorably humiliated Labour in Cornwall in the Euro elections last June.

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