Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Left, Right and Centre: some recent observations

I’m sure many political scientists hate the way descriptions in politics so often amount to a position on a straight line. It is one-dimensional. There is the obvious aggregation problem: should a person or political party, who is left of centre on issue X, and right of centre on issue Y, be described at generally in the middle of the political spectrum? How do we weight the importance of issues X and Y? But there is also a problem about whether positions are relative or absolute. This matters in part because the perception among many is that being near the middle is good (‘moderate’), and being away from the centre is bad (‘extreme’).

Three recent posts made me think about this. The first, by Noah Smith, is part of a current economics blog topic on Milton Friedman. I happen to pretty much agree with everything Noah says, but have absolutely no expertise on this - on matters of who thought what decades ago, I am curious but not interested enough to do any work. (Much better to leave it to David Glasner or Brad DeLong.) However it did strike me as obviously relevant to what has happened to the political centre, at least in the US.

One of Paul Krugman’s frequent complaints is that political commentators define the political centre as being somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans, regardless of the positions that each side take. He argues that the Republicans today are much more right wing than a generation ago, so that under this definition the centre today becomes what was right wing back then. This matters in part because the presumption is that the centre is the place for commentators to be.

Now one reaction might be: well he would say that, wouldn’t he. He is just trying to make his own views, which are ‘obviously’ to the left, sound more centrist than they actually are. But on economics at least, how politicians see Milton Friedman’s views provides some sort of objective yardstick. As Noah points out, some of Friedman’s positions would now be regarded as dangerously left wing by a good part of today’s Republican Party, whereas they were not so regarded 30 years ago.

The second post was my own, and the comments on it. It was about the increase in support for parties away from the centre in the UK and Netherlands, which I thought could be related to the recessions and austerity there, and more particularly to falling real wages. (Incidentally Robert Reich wrote a post on the same day making a similar argument about US politics.) I received many interesting comments on my post, and I want to thank everyone involved. A persistent theme was that I was wrong to call UKIP and the Freedom Party ‘far-right’, and imply any kind of equivalence to fascism.

I deliberately did not use the term fascist. Nor did I intend to imply that UKIP or the Freedom Party was fascist, or indeed that they were comparable - except to the extent that they are to the right of their respective and longer established mainstream right-of-centre parties. I used the term ‘far-right’ to denote this, as commentators often do, but I appreciate that many people read that as short for ‘furthest-right’ rather than the ‘farther-right’ that I had in mind.

I think many of these comments raised important issues. For example, would it make more sense to characterise UKIP and perhaps others not as a point on a left/right spectrum, but instead as specific issue parties? But the comments also revealed how sensitive people are to where the party they may support or sympathise with is placed on the political spectrum, and the obvious reason why. The endpoints of the political spectrum are typically defined by fascism and communism, and therefore the farther away you appear to be from those extremes, the better. Whether that is a deficiency or an advantage of this simple left/right model is an interesting question.

Why this may have a more substantial importance is illustrated by the third post, which involves think thanks in the UK. The right of centre think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), had publicised its study into BBC bias, based in part on how the BBC uses different think tanks. [1] Part of their argument is that the BBC often calls left-of-centre think tanks ‘independent’, but mentions the ideological position of right wing think tanks. One of the think tanks it defines as left-of-centre is the Social Market Foundation (SMF). Yet, as this post from SMF complains, the SMF do not think of themselves as left-of-centre, and they provide evidence about why that description is wrong.

Now I have worried in the past about whether some think tanks are in the business producing propaganda instead of being in the business of thinking. So I cannot resist quoting the end of SMF’s post. “Especially on a significant issue of public debate - ie. public service broadcasting - think tanks owe a duty to follow the evidence. Or are CPS doing something slightly different than the normal work of a think tank? Without more evidence, I won't stick any other name on them for now.” The post is both short and amusing (unless you work for the CPS), so please have a look. [2]

Yet putting the thinking versus propaganda issue aside, this little tiff does illustrate why these issues can have immediate relevance. An organisation like the BBC tries very hard to be balanced. How you achieve balance depends in many cases on a judgement about where positions or organisations are on the left/right spectrum. The spectrum becomes like a balance scale, with the pivot right in the middle. So if you can persuade an organisation like the BBC that the mid-point is not where they thought it was, you can significantly change the content of their reporting and coverage. Or, even more seriously, if you can convince others that the BBC’s judgement is wrong, you can threaten their future.

If you think I’m being alarmist in this respect, here is how the director of the CPS ends his comment on their own research. “The most important [question] is why should everyone in the UK be forced to pay a poll tax to support an institution which has so conspicuously failed for so long to obey its founding principle of impartiality?” A serious charge if true, but is it true? It is clear that governments (of whatever colour) put a lot of pressure on the BBC, although measuring its effect is very difficult (although sometimes the circumstantial evidence is strong).

However some simple things can be measured, like how much coverage different political parties get. Of course coverage always tends to be biased towards the party in power. But, as Justin Lewis of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism notes, one study suggests that whereas in 2007 the margin between the Labour government and Conservative opposition was less than 2 to 1, the margin in 2012 favoured Cameron over Miliband by more than 3 to 1, with a ratio of more than 4 to 1 between Government and Shadow Ministers. So on this count, the people who should be claiming that the BBC is biased is Labour, not the Conservatives or the right. Are we in danger of entering that state of affairs where everyone just ‘knows’ that the BBC is biased to the left, just as everyone ‘knows’ that there is a liberal bias in the US media, without bothering with that annoying stuff called evidence?

Now one response to this emerging state of affairs is to ask why the left does not bang on about media bias the same way as the right does. Although with a coverage ratio of 1 to 4, perhaps they do, but we just do not get to hear about it.

[1] The publicity appeared to predate publication of the report, which seemed like a strange thing to do.

[2] The blog response from the CPS is also worth reading. As far as I can see, their reason for characterising the SMF as left of centre is that their objective is to “champion policy ideas which marry markets with social justice and take a pro-market rather than free-market approach.” So social justice in the context of a pro-market approach is left wing! One rather telling comment on the SMF post suggested that the CPS used transparency of funding sources as their guide to who was left or right wing. 


  1. I thought Chris Hanretty's comment was quite interesting, particularly in the alternative classification of think tanks:

    Generally, it shows why the CPS' ranking method might be unreliable. However, as a sideline, it is interesting to note that only Labour MPs cited the SMF's work in the House in 2010-2011.

  2. On left vs right
    Simply fully depending on the situation your in. Geo but also which era. You in Europe are seen here all as krypto communists. Well a few borderline libertarian Conservatives would be seen as borderline socialists.
    Today people moved more to the right. Compared to say 70s and 80. But certainly not to the period before that (leaving the extremes crisis and wars aside). Imho however 70s and 80s views look more as an exception than the present ones historically seen. Simply very difficult to manage part of the world, so changing things is only limitedly possible.

    Probably central is a good position to be in as a commentator. At least one without an own agenda.
    However the postion is moving over time and from country to country.
    However usually complete useless for discussions. If you want to use a discussion to get information, make up your own thoughts usually 2 opposites somewhat from the middle but ultimately with compromising abilities work best.

    In that respect for internal UK purposes the BBC is probably longer term not a good idea. Simply too far left from the UK centre (defined as having 50% left and 50% right of you). And simpleton left partly as well. Taking up positions that are easily to attack. Anyway if you depend on public funding hardly clever to p#$$ off a large part of the electorate. When it gets on the political agenda they might shoot you off. Things have changed since 1 or 2 decades only the BBC hasnot.

    Both UKip and Wilders are no fascists unless you stretch the definition thereof considerably. However using that kind of terminology kills the discussion. And simply strengthens these parties. There is no better commercial for a populist in the start up phase as being abused by people (often of the so called elite) that large parts of the electorate simply hate despise. Large parts that are often not presented in traditional politics.

    On selfpositioning
    Simon is clearly a leftie/lefty. Nothing wrong with that as such (apparently they are human I have been told).
    And one that is not able to hide that fact. Fine as that is clearly his choice.
    However it does some important consequences:
    -makes him likely unpallatable for large groups on the right. With as a consequence that his academic views (especially as they are hard to explain in simple language and partially counter instinctive/intuitive) are suspect.
    -as a consequence of the above views have lost a lot of their effectiveness. If you can find an idiot that has the opposite views it becomes a draw and pure politics take over (if it did not already anyway).
    -field becomes politicised. Makes it under the present conditions also very ineffective. And as the sociology example shows you might be on the way to irrelevance. Who takes somebody that has studied Lesbian studies or something with other minorities really serious, especially as research results look usually very biased as well. If you position yourself in that way the end result might be similar. At least that was Einstein's idea, but what does he know.

  3. Part2

    Cameron is hardly a strong politician (like Blair was or Merkel is, whatever you think of both their political views). But Mr Ed is in another league of awfull. He is simply crap as 'face of any political party. So more to do with him being utter rubbish electorally than Cameron being good. Cameron would have been blown out of the water if he had a Blair or a Merkel at the other side. Or a nitwit like Obama who is great in selling himself.
    Look at the NSA issue (again whatever you think of it). Cameron is now in Europe and the UK all over the papers as anti-free press.
    And the UK is in the spotlight again (while it was nicely flying under the radar).
    Makes his position in Europe more difficult. As well as in the UK (where a lot of people (also his own electorate) simply donot like this kind of things (and with reason imho). He should have stayed away from it politically. Much more downside risk than upside. Effectively it only bullies people who were likely not impressed from that (but possibly will get more determined). And might find out what the other side knows for a part at best anyway. Unlikely that the documents were not stored somewhere else.
    Should have had proper deniability as well. Merkel is not going to burn her fingers on that sort of things.
    And Cameron makes a lot of those mistakes.
    As said little to do with being left of right. Ed is simply crap as a mainstream PM candidate even compared to Cameron. Who looks the strongest PM candidate and by far. Simply shows that the present Western political systems are crap imho and dysfunctional and urgently need change.

    1. What constitutes the left and the right is changing!

      Consider a party like the Danish People's party. Pro women in work, good childcare, insisting healthcare comes from taxation etc. In Europe you will find too many people who will call them a far right party. To an American they must sound like the far left. In general they are just a regular old fashioned left wing party for Europe though. Except that they are against an open immigration policy.

      A party like English labour is called a left wing party but they were enthusiastic privatisers. They launched England on numerous imperial wars for baseless reasons. Look up Gordon Brown's speech to the City of London gathering talking about a new world economic order built around big finance. Thats what passes as a left wing politician in Europe. They used to be called conservatives.

      The left and right will realign so you will have left wing parties like Danish people's party who are against immigration, left wing parties like labour which first has to ask the bankers what should they do, and left wing far left parties which are well who knows.

      On the right you will have parties for immigration and parties against immigration.

      Immigration is no longer a divider for left/right politics.

    2. It works more like a traditional left and right (X-axis), combined with a up and down (Y-axis). The Y-axis being social issues: social-culturally conservative and social liberal. Social issues like abortion, gay rights, animal rights and immigration.
      And in between the 2 the welfarestate. Most populists like to keep that intact only in a more nationalistic way.

      This all messes things up. The populists are framed as ultra-right. When you use the economic left-right scale (which most people like yourself do) they are nowhere near. LePen and Wilders for instance are from that perspective left of centre.

      Whether you get parties in all the gaps in the voter market is also depending on other issues.

      -What is playing at the moment. Now there is clearly room for an anti-EU party in many countries where before the crisis that looked nearly impossible as voters were not interested. UKip got its lift because of the crisis and Polish immigration.
      Immigration is basically nearly always an issue. Belgium has a Flemish party sort of pro-independence, something that doesnot play in most other countries.

      -Leadership. Populist parties often fully depend on one leader. No charismatic leader (for the target group), no party. Rest of the organisation is usually rubbish. Clearly a weak point.

      -Reaction by traditional parties, especially those that are fishing in the same electoral pont. Traditionally these react too late and in the completely wrong way. Take Cameron should have reacted 2 years earlier on the EU issue. With an Euro crisis (plus now lower class poor-EU country immigration) which would almost certainly take several years UKip would likely have a good chance. And Cameron is by far not the worst in that respect. Framing as little Englander and racists basically works most of the time counterproductive. Clear that say in Holland and Danemark the populists have now established themselves and are there to stay. UK is not far from that. But in Germany the traditional parties could still avoid that as there is not a high potential populist party yet. But they will have to move to the populist/protest voter. So less Euro-aid, less EU, less lower class immigration. Likely more police and higher penalties etc. We have to see how that will play out. Merkel looks to have the picture. The SPD clearly has not and so do the Greens and FDP.

      -Electoral system. hard to see that the UK develops a similar number of populist parties as Holland for instance.

      For the UK as a new party one can only really imagine a sort of split of Labour (next to UKip). Traditional blue collar workers (bit middleclassed at the moment), against entitlement receivers of the structural kind. The Green wave basically has passed the UK. Hard to see at this stage a new successful Green party developping. Unlikely to happen.

    3. Part2
      Potential probably is 50-60% of the total electorate. Have a look at Holland they are now at 40-45% in polls. Divided into Wilders (20%), Socialists(15%), Animalhuggers (3%) and the Elderly (7%) (approx. poll results). Popularity caused by the traditional parties messing things completely up. There is possibly room for a more pro-business/libertarion party. Plus there is now a move by higher income university educated people to especially Wilders. People who are frustrated by Rutte (VVD).
      Huge potential, but both on the left and on the right. With the right being somewhat larger 30-35% and the left 20-25% (my marginally calculated guess). There is some movement between these 2 groups.
      Views are moving over time. Not only because of the issues that play, but also because parties want to become more or less acceptable as coalition party.
      Hard to see that it will be very different in countries like the UK or Germany. Only their electoral and/or political system is different.

      Southern Europe is different from the North. Younger relatively better educated voters. Who are not social/culturally nationalistic but international oriented and looking for change of their dysfunctional systems.

      Labour under Blair has moved to the middle. Traditional views were increasingly less appealling to the potential electorate. Movement we have seen in a lot of countries. Simply a move to the middle.

      Skandinavians often are difernt from the rest of Western Europe. Simply because of their isolated position and long time very homogemnoous populations (immigration started relatively late). High tax history, well functioning state, large welfare society. Danemark the country that is most similar to the rest imho.
      Some trends will be similar in the rest of Europe others will be not. Holland looks much clearer in that respect. Ahead of most other countries. No LePen history like France. No splits like Belgium). And a system that allows new parties (unlikely Germany and the UK). Plus with Wilders somebody that exactly knows how the marketing works.
      And as said the South is different again.

  4. On Left Right

    It is simply the general impression media give. And the BBC that is clearly left of the UK middle. Same as Fox is right of the US middle. And all lefties are probably complining about that may be even harder than the righties over the BBC. BBC however looks to move more to the centre lately I got the idea probably more to protect themselves than for any other reason.

    Populists are not to be catched by left or right. And certainly not on mainly economic terms. What they do is go for issues that are on the public agenda but not on the traditional politics one. And they put things on the agenda that already should have been there decades ago. Very little to do with left or right. In the north with a bit of fear for the future. But in Europe's South they want decent governance (or simply be amused by Mr BungaBunga). And the voter base is mainly traditional and disappointed with the government. So there is a larger electoral part at the right.

    The recipe is very simple take a weird concept of the traditionals (that is on the public's mind) and attack it hard and mean.
    Their voters might not be the best educated but their leaders are usually excellent politicians. Grillo, Wilders, Fortuyn (hope I right it corect), Berlusconi, Ms LePen, farage all excellent politicians (whatever you might think of their views and leadership skills).
    Btw Wilders is rapidly catching up with higher incomes and university educated people.

    The traditionals have made the huge (long term) marketing mistake that they cannot deliver what they have sold. And now get presented the bill for that. They were sold cultural diversity they see foreign criminals and basketcases. They were sold economic prosperity they get a dysfunctional Euro. Etc. Like Italian cars who we were told would not rust. However always did but again we were told they would not rust. After 2 or 3 times nobody really buys that anymore and more important nobody buys the cars.
    The only reason why it still sort of works is that this crap marketing approach was used by all as it was a sort of closed shop. But with closed shops when new competition comes they usually suffer. And effectively with very weak competition. A guy like Farage is easily to attack but simply especially the conservatives completely fail on that and now apparently move to mud throwing (which might have worked a decade ago but not now).

  5. Simon, thats a refreshingly open and honest post. Internet based debate could profit from such a position.

    I dont think there is a need to label parties like UKIP as issues party. Certainly not for the Freedom party. The are mainstream parties with a different view.

    You did not state they were fascists but some of the words could be misconstrued to mean that. You should be aware of the context in which people who argue for reforms to Europe's immigration / immigration assimilation policy are operating.

    Suggesting that the current policy needs reform is to be labelled a fascist. To say immigration is okay and beneficial but that the policy of multi-culturalism instead of integration is failing is even worse as that makes one a fascist pretending not to be a fascist. Thats the context which those parties face and people who are not racists or fascists dont like being labelled that just because some closed minded person thinks only fascists disagree with the establishment policy view.

    Rik has written it well. Slinging mud may have worked a few years ago but the kill debate approach has ran out of road. Adjustments do need to be made to ensure immigrants can be accommodated in Europe but because there is no debate permmited on how its unsurprisingly going wrong.

    Perhaps like that other 'top down, its in your interest project' the single currency it was group think gone mad. (The reference to euro might make some readers believe this makes me a UKIPer but not certainly not. My aversion to the Euro is based on its too long ignored flaws)

    To the Labour -Cons ratio I saw recently that Labour were pursuing a policy of keeping the head down. Its not impossible that Labour's political strategy in 2012 involved low profile to allow the 'you lot made the mess' charge grow old.
    Its a complex question but I would not rule out the ratio having firm grounds as well

    1. The no debate on immigration is one of the political wonders. Of the uk. Even though we have had pollitical parties dedicated to the digression gor the past 80 years there's never any debate.The issue is articulated well by the phrase one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

  6. “The endpoints of the political spectrum are typically defined by fascism and communism..” A problem with that statement is that there’s a fair amount of fascism in communism.

    Fascism is defined in Chambers Dictionary as a mix of characteristics including “restrictions on personal freedom”. Various Oxford dictionaries give “authoritarianism” and “intolerance”.

    Since communism has in practice included large dollops of the latter uncivilised characteristics, I’m doubtful as to whether fascism and communism are “endpoints”.

    Indeed, the latter fascist element inherent to the political left lives on in 2013 Britain. Section 5 of the Public Order Act until recently made it illegal to insult anyone (scarcely believable). That more or less gave the police the power of arbitrary arrest. Yet twice as many Labour MPs favoured retaining section 5 as compared to Tory and Lib Dem MPs according to this Comres poll:

    And any fascists disappointed at the removal of section 5 will be comforted to know that the British police have recently been given new arbitrary powers of arrest:

    1. "A problem with that statement is that there’s a fair amount of fascism in communism."

      Ah, but what you have to understand is that we've never had a communist regime. By a coincidence of cosmic scale, every single regime that called itself communist, and which British leftist intellectuals hailed as communist, later turned out to be some weird perversion of communism that involved extremes of violence and authoritatianism that "real" communism would never have had anything to do with.

      Or so they will tell you, after the fact, of course.

    2. Taking Communism and Facism as the extrmes as siad earlier is imho not correct. Most people use the left-right scale and determine the position thereon mainly by economic criteria.
      Certain forms of Communism might be one end of the most used scale but Fascism is certainly not.
      That is why I go for the X and Y axis and basically a division in four parts.

      Both Communism and Fascism assume that the population will move into the desired direction and that the leadership is competent and not in anyway egoistic. Both assumptions are illusions. That is why you never will see a functioning theoretic Communist regime in practice. There are always people and a lot of them who go for themselves. Nearly all will take little advantages that do not firt in the system. Leadership that think they can oversee something as complicated as a society and manage it in detail completely overstretches itself. And leadership that uncontrolled doesnot use their position to get some benefits still has to be invented.

  7. How much Media coverage would be fair and unbiased? The same for each party, no matter how large they are? Proportional to their seats? Proportional to their current approval? It seems to me that that is a nontrivial decision...

    1. "How much Media coverage would be fair and unbiased?"

      It's an interesting question, but I think it's really the wrong one. What we need as media that aren't pretending to be unbiased while pushing their bias.

      This is the real problem with the BBC. You know that Fox News is basically pushing a Tea Party Republican/Libertarian rich guys agenda. You only have to watch it for half an hour to suss it out.

      But the BBC pushes a leftist agenda while simultaneously draping itself in a false drag, pretending to be objective and even handed, and decorating itself with cultural and national emblems.

      A privatised BBC would swing sharply left, then it would gradually run out of money, shorn of license income, and eventually it would shrivel up.

      We are actually keeping quite a nasty institution on license fee life support that would not survive in its present form if it had to earn a living like the other media.

      And actually that's not quite right about all the other media either, is it? The Guardian consistently loses money and avoids paying full taxes, while collecting about L25m a year in BBC job advertising revenue, and the New Statesman only exists at all thanks to a very large interest free loan it will never pay back.

    2. Agree with Jon.

      Btw it is not only the quantity of coverage it is also the fact if it is pro or con. The latter imho more important at the end of the day.
      Or like the BBC simply going along its own agenda. Which make the coverage criteria pretty useless. Assad probably wins from the protesters (while all the news ids Asssad negative) with Al Q ex aequo with the more pro-Western modernisers.
      Having a lot of programms that say cover disadvantaged people in all sorts and measures is indirectly also often anti-Government but not Labour coverage.

      Hard to make a proper distinction this way. Which brings us back to just the impression it gives and that is clearly a left one and not even really a centre left one on top of that. Like Fox but on the opposite side of the spectrum.

      I have less problems with a sort of subsidy for papers like the Guardian just to cover the whole spectrum. But preferably as little and short term as possible of course. But certainly not indirectly via an organisation as the BBC.
      For the BBC the situation is different it is supposed to be there for everybody and the only one of its kind. You simply need a 'centre' broadcaster for that. Moving with the times, times go left move a bit to the left, times go right move a bit to the right. Probably with about equal room for left and right. If they want to be clearly left of the centre having a polltax/license fee to finance it simply doesnot fit in the picture. As would subsidizing it via other ways.
      The only exception imho would be if there would not be a left channel left. But that would have to be in a completely different set up from now. Press should be pluriform imho. not in the extreme but main stream views should be represented. Providing of course there are readers resp viewers who are interested. And demanding some advertising revenue as one of the conditions. Hard to defend that other papers, channels have to go for that while a subsidised paper/channel wouldnot.

  8. It is good to remember where the model of 'left' and 'right' came from, which was the seating plan at the beginning of the French Revolution - were you sitting to the left or the right of the speaker? So there is a comparative, positional meaning to the term, in the sense that there is no such thing as Politics, only politicians.

    As for the BBC, every time the Tories from 2010 repeated the message of Labour incompetence wrecking the economy, they should have replied every time with the Osborne quote from February 23, 2006:

    “In Ireland they understand this. They have freed their markets, developed the skills of their workforce, encouraged enterprise and innovation and created a dynamic economy. They have much to teach us, if only we are willing to learn.”

    Then the BBC could have treated the economic problem as an intellectual rather than a political one, but they chose not to do that. And into the intellectual vacuum has rushed all the falsehoods on the welfare state, on immigration, and on supply-side economics.

    1. Really? Why? Why not the current GDP growth figures, or the decline in the 10% fiscal deficit Labour left us in 2010?

  9. "Nor did I intend to imply that UKIP or the Freedom Party was fascist, or indeed that they were comparable......"

    Sorry, but this is just disingenuous. In the first place, the left in UK politics regularly uses the phrase "far-right" exactly to imply fascist and/or racist tendencies. In the second place, you used the phrase repeatedly; I think I counted close to a dozen uses in that single column.

    But on a larger point, you are struggling with a problem you don't have to have. Evaluate parties on a two or three dimensional space, and you simply won't have the left-right problem to deal with.

    Oh, and your defence of the BBC is extremely thin. When the BBC spends 85% of its job advertising budget at the Guardian, are we really supposed to believe it is trying to be even-handed?

    1. Wait a minute! Disingenuous? And your evidence that I am not sincere in saying that I used far-right to mean farther right rather than fascist?
      (1) Some other people use it differently
      (2) I used it a lot!
      You will have to do better before calling me disingenuous.

      And as for the Guardian, try searching for 'media jobs' in Google and see what comes up first. But perhaps you would prefer the BBC to waste public money advertising jobs in places no one looks!

    2. Simon you obviously haven't taken the Political Compass Test.

      It defines political views on a two-dimensional grid: X(left vs right on economics), Y(authoritarian vs liberal on social issues).

      Under this model most parties (UKIP, Labour, Tories) have a well defined central point on economics, but Labour and Tories are split on social policy and civil liberties between liberal and conservative/authoritarian views. The Lib Dems are all social liberals but split on economics between the SDP wing and the Orange Book Liberals. I would suggest that there is massive potential for political realignment in the future with the Tories and Lib Dems both splitting. The result would be a new Tory Party (Cameroons plus Orange Book Liberals) with the SDP wing going back to Labour and the eurosceptic Tories joining UKIP.

      Personally I would add a third dimension to the test: change (conservative vs radical). This would measure how receptive people were to dynamic change over time that was forced upon them. This could include climate change or immigration.


Unfortunately because of spam with embedded links (which then flag up warnings about the whole site on some browsers), I have to personally moderate all comments. As a result, your comment may not appear for some time. In addition, I cannot publish comments with links to websites because it takes too much time to check whether these sites are legitimate.