Tony Blair knew that the political centre ground would give the best chance of forming a government. He moved New Labour to the right to show that he wasn’t going to frighten off the middle classes.
David Cameron moved the Conservative Party to the left. Its young career politicians wanted to be seen as modernisers in the spirit of New Labour’s ‘Cool Britannia’.
Both parties then held the centre ground in the hope of gaining power at the 2010 election. But UK voters weren’t convinced and we ended up with a Coalition government.
Unprincipled politics leave us a poor legacy
What legacy did New Labour leave? It will be remembered for building up a huge state sector and squashing the private sector wealth creators. We’ll remember that it withdrew the 10p tax rate on lower incomes, doubled the tax rate for the poorest workers and increased the state pension by a miserly 75p a week.
New Labour failed to represent the poorest and weakest in society because it took up the centre ground and distanced itself from its core values. The party deserted the people it was set up to champion.
The Conservative Party may leave an equally poor legacy. But perception is all-important in politics and, trying to hold on to the centre ground, the Notting Hill Tories rebranded the party with a green tree. This is to show us that the Conservatives are a modern party and understand how to manage climate change. Are we that naïve?
Our inheritance from this unprincipled rush for the centre ground, from this cynical ‘cross-dressing’, is the erosion of our belief system and of our democracy’s credibility. There’s a standoff: politicians don't trust the people and we don't trust politicians.