Scoville Units Unite

21 Jul

The “Centrism” of the Mainstream

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a trend in articles using the term centrist, it’s often used in commentary on the Labour leadership election for example.

So what is meant by Centrist?


In the traditional political spectrum there is a left, a right and the centre. Unfortunately this model is flawed. If you are in the UK and discussing with an American for example these terms, alongside Liberal, Conservative etc all have different interpretations.

The reason for this is obvious, if you look at the spectrum in the UK and compare to the US, an American discussing what they see as left is discussing political ideas which may be on the far right in the UK.

So it’s clear that left, right and centre are not absolute terms but based on where the commentator is standing or the political ideas they are most familiar with.

So when the Guardian discusses Liz Kendall and says

Liz Kendall, the centrist leadership candidate, has warned

What do they actually mean?

In absolute terms, is she centrist? No, she appears to be on the right wing of the Labour Party, who themselves are on the right wing.

In relative terms compared to the other candidates? Well Jeremy Corbyn is clearly the leftest of the candidates. If Kendall is the Centrist then who is further Right? Can’t really see any so that doesn’t work.

On the Spectrum of the UK? Well that would put her to the left of Labour, again, clearly not.

The only way it works as an accurate term is to say she is Centrist if Labour is Left and Tories are Right.

But what then does it actually mean? Why not say the most right wing, closest to Tories, right of Labour. These are all accurate descriptions. It’s as if the media want to promote the most right wing candidate, because they are right wing, without wanting to say they are right wing.

It’s the language of the Liberal Democrats, who describe themselves as being of the centre ground and fantasise about pulling the Tories to the left.

Last night was the vote on the Welfare Bill. Let’s look at the headline from the Guardian

Labour Party sees massive revolt but welfare bill that will cut £12bn from spending is passed in parliament

The Tories are the sole party of Government. The Labour party are the official opposition. Reading that headline alone you would assume that some Labour MPs voted for the Government Bill. Wrong. They voted against it. For the Labour Party today, voting against the Government is revolting against their leadership.


This is the consequence of triangulation and the move to the centre ground. A Tory Party in power and a Tory Party in opposition. They may as well merge or failing that form a coalition for all the difference it will make.

One Response to “The “Centrism” of the Mainstream”

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    Scoville Units Unite » Blog Archive » Thinking the Unthinkable Says:

    […] space for other socialist groups to grow. And they did for a time. Unfortunately the moving of the centre from the centre to the far right has made it much more difficult for […]

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