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Are Parties Becoming Less Ideological?

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Are parties becoming less ideological?
Recently, political parties in many countries are becoming less ideologically attached and are beginning to move towards the centre ground. This is illustrated clearly with Fukuyama’s book, titled ‘the end of history and the last man’ which depicts how with the introduction of the 3rd way on the left, and many right wing policies now too extreme, the collapse of conventional ideology. He suggests there is now a final form of government since the end of the cold war. This is some what clear in the UK with the birth of New Labour in 1997, and the less extreme Conservatives, many argue they are simply both competing on economic grounds. The famous quote being ‘its economy stupid’, almost suggesting the economy is a new form of ideology. The same can be said for the US, but on less of a severe basis. Although Clinton is said to be most similar to Blaire, centering himself from extreme left wing policies, the rise of the TEA party in America, and to some extent Obama’s health care reforms can be said to be a revival of traditional ideology. Although to a less of an extent, Cameron’s Big Society can also said to be a revival of traditional Conservative policies. In terms of the economy parties are moving more centre-right and on social issues more centre-left. Although perhaps appearing very ideological in the US in particular American Politics is still very ‘catch all’.
In terms of the economy it can be said parties and not becoming more ideological. Traditionally parties on the left intervene more in the economy and the right favor a free market economy. This can be seen clearly in the UK with the response to the banking crisis of 2007. The Labor government chose to nationalize the banks, starting with Northern Rock. This is significant as it stretches back to the nature of the left wing intervention party. Similarly just recently under the new budget plans, Osborne’s decision to let the individual councils in the UK decide on how to make the cuts stems back to the step back approach of the Conservatives. Although it must be said, the Conservatives are taking this approach in an attempt to satisfy the electorate. This decision is so that when the people of Bury, for example, are looking for whom to blame for the privatization of their library, Cameron’s government can shift the blame. Similarly in the US, Obama’s healthcare reforms suggest more of an ideological shift. Some extreme commentators would class the reform as ‘socialist’. Italy is also being witness to more of an economic ideological shift to traditional right wing policies, similar to that of Cameron with their ‘less state more society’ approach. The People of Freedom Party are a Right wing coalition, which seem to be moving more ideological in their approach to the economy.
Socially, there is also still evidence of ideological difference between competing parties. Simplistic media coverage can partly be to blame of the approach that ‘all parties are the same’. In the US the individual Congressman suggest ideological differences in the way they vote. There are more Conservative Republicans such as Senator John Kyl of Arizona and was ranked by National Journal as the fourth-most conservative United States Senator in their March 2007 conservative/liberal rankings. Similarly the Democrats contain ‘liberals’ like Senator Barbara Boxer of California, chairing more liberal committees such as the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Select Committee on Ethics. In terms of policy too, US parties are still very much ideological. One of the first things Obama wanted to happen was the review of the controversial ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy in the US military. This is significant as Obama is trying to connect to more left wing policies favoring homosexuality. Similarly Bush has called for the right wing patriotic ban on gay marriage with in his attempt to amend the constitution in 2001. This shows that within each party in America there are strong ideological members on social issues. In the UK, the parties share similar stories. Labour have been more traditional left wing in their legalizing of civil partnerships and granting the rights on par with a heterosexual marriage. Likewise the adoption of the Human Rights Act in 1997 was a liberal step, which the Conservatives would not have adopted. They instead have recently made a return to the marriage tax allowance promoting traditional conservative values stressing the importance of marriage and family. This again shows there is still a social ideology difference within UK society today.
Foreign policy is another important factor to help determine the ideological differences between political parties. Conventionally in the UK the right favor a more tough approach to foreign policy. This can be seen with Cameron’s intervention with Libya promoting the intervention using the UK and French partnership fighter plains. Cameron has also stressed to keep the Trident missiles where as Labour were against this approach. In terms of international bodies such as Europe the Conservatives are much more skeptical, and Europe is a ‘touchy’ subject on the Tory bench with very divided opinions between the party. Labour on the other hand is much more in favor of Europe and has pioneered agreements such as the Human Rights act. Similarly in the US Republicans take a very aggressive approach to foreign policy, notably following 9/11 with Bush’s radical policy using his emergency powers in which many said was in breech of the 4th amendment. If Gore were in office at the time, many argue the immediate aggressive approach would almost certainly have not been as severe. The Democrat’s dove approach can be seen with Obama immediately closing down Guantanamo Bay, a strong more liberal statement made by him immediately coming to office.
However, there are may arguments in favor of the question, and on economic grounds parties can be said to becoming less ideological and both moving towards the centre ground. Left wing parties seem to be defenseless to the era of a globalised world in terms of control and intervention in the economy. With the birth of New Labour, Blaire immediately changed the Clause IV policy, which was devoted to the nationalization of industry. This deep-rooted Labour policy was felt superannuated, and therefore re-wrote it to be more in line with the mainstream view. Although this may deter core voters, both parties seem to moving in the same direction. The Conservatives lack of ideology can be seen with their decision not to cut the NHS. Labour’s foundation policy has been ‘ring fenced’. Similarly on the other side, the New Left stands for globalization and choice, linked to what the Right believes on economical grounds. For instance Blaire wanted hospitals and schools to compete with each other, an unthought-of of policy pre-1997. In the US the same is happening where both parties are moving towards the middle of eth theoretical ven-diagram. Bush seems to be adopting more left ides in his high spending, taking the US from a country with a surplus to one with huge deficit over his 8 years. Obama has taken up more right wing policies with the decision to continue with Bush’s tax cuts. This was initiated with Clinton’s famous expression ‘the era of big government is over’. The same can said to be taking place in Greece where a socialist government has just decided to privatize €50bn of state assets. Australia seems to be taking a similar stance as New Labour in the UK of which he said ‘competitive markets are generally efficient generators of economic growth’.
Socially parties have been said to move more centre on a wide range of issues simply to satisfy the electorate. Parties want to make themselves as ‘catch all’ as possible in order to win votes. The conservatives have moved more centre-left in their adoption of policies such as Emily’s List, all women short lists for safe seats. This is completely against traditional Conservative views where many would argue were sexist against women. In the US Bush has popularized the phrase ‘compassionate conservatism’ adopting policies such as the ‘no child left behind act’. This was where he guaranteed education for all children despite income, a far stretch from traditional Reganites, and much closer to Democrat views. In must be said however, both parties take on different ideological colors from region to region in the US. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be national parties.
Again on foreign policy, parties seem to be moving to the centre right. Following the terrorist threat of 9/11 and the July bombings parties on both sides of the political spectrum have been ‘tough on crime’. There was no surprise with Bush’s aggressive approach to terrorism, but Obama has recently supported the no fly zone over Libya and a potential trade embargo on them. Similarly in the UK, Blaire wanted to extend to the detention of suspected terrorists to 28 days and had to compromise by the House of Lords to 14. The Conservatives too seem to becoming less skeptical of Europe with their new agreement on the Fighter Jet sharing scheme with France. Parties seem to be moving to the centre left on social themes but more centre right on foreign policy. This can be seen with France, currently having its military stationed in Libya and the Ivory Coast, where as choose not to go to Iraq. This change signifies the change in attitude and the shift right.
Overall parties have indeed become less ideological and seem only to strive to please the electorate. With the now globalised world, left wing parties are finding it increasingly difficult to control economies as businesses can simply re-locate very easily. As a result the left seemed to have moved left on economic issues. In terms of social and moral issues, with the dawn of gay rights campaigners and those for women’s rights, the right wing parties can no longer be too traditional with their views. Therefore they are moving to the centre left. It can be said that in both the US and UK parties are becoming less ideological, yet in some select areas, such as in the Republican party there is great divide. The dawn of the TEA party seems to have revived ideology more. There is growing discontent with Obama who has just recently announced he will show his birth certificate to prove he is a US citizen. This may spark ideological revival particularly on social and moral issues in the US more so than the UK.

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