Monday, May 05, 2008

The vanishing world of left vs right

Interesting discussion tonight that sidetracked me from the post I was intending to write. We were listening to a radio discussion on the budget contrasting the differing views of Labor Treasurer Swan and Opposition spokesman Turnbull.

For the benefit of international readers, the Liberal Party is usually thought of (often wrongly) as the party of small government, Labor as the spenders. Now Mr Swan was arguing fiscal restraint, Mr Turnbull against spending cuts.

The Institute of Public Affairs, a right wing think tank, was quoted as attacking Mr Turnbull. All I said in conversation was that in listening to these things you needed to understand where people were coming from, explaining the IPA's position. I was asked what left and right meant.

Think about it for a moment. Try explaining concepts of left and right today to someone who does not only not know what the terms mean, but lacks the complete historical background to put things in context. The entire traditional left-right divide has vanished as though it never was!

Still, it did give me the opportunity to use one my favourite lines from Cyril Pearl.

Traditionally, I explained, the Labor Party stood on the left of the fence and talked about the evils of the bosses. The Liberal Party stood on the right of the fence and talked about the evils of the workers. The Country (National) Party sat on the fence and talked about the high cost of fencing!

A fair bit of truth remains in all that.

3 comments:

blonde canadian said...

The divide between the two has been getting smaller and smaller recently - and I love the quote, Jim!

Thomas said...

"The Country (National) Party sat on the fence and talked about the high cost of fencing!"

I liked that quite a bit.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, both. Cyril Pearl really had a great turn of phrase.