business politics

The best ideas from the left and right

Across the street from the Houses of Parliament is Westminster tube station, where a good few MPs arrive every morning on their way into work. Given the number of influential people guaranteed to walk past them, the advertising hoardings of Westminster tube do good business. Heathrow Airport likes to put ads up here, so to BAE Systems and BP. And of course campaigners like to take advantage of the space too, and this week the ticket barriers at the exits to the station look like this:

It’s a campaign from the Social Economy Alliance, who have crowdfunded their campaign and timed it for the MPs return from the summer. It calls on government to drop the traditional dichotomy of right and left, and take the best of both.

thatcher-marx“The traditional notion that, politically, we can apportion basic ideas and concepts to being of either the left or the right, is being turned on its head” says the alliance in their 2015 manifesto. “Capital and labour, collaboration and competition, society and economy are working together to drive the growth in the social economy.”

The Social Economy Alliance believes that the perceived division between business and society is being undermined by new forms of social business. Non-profits, cooperatives and crowdfunders are creating a  ‘social economy’ that brings together financial and social value. You can read more about this, and how it can be encouraged, in the manifesto.

The campaign also features posters that blend the faces of politicians with opposing views. I’m not sure these work as well (is Che Guevara the ‘best of the left’?), but they’re certainly iconoclastic enough to get people talking, and I agree with the sentiment. I strongly believe that the biggest problems we face today are only going to be solved when we take the best ideas from wherever they may be found, and when we stop categorising everything into left and right.


  1. The idea that where different political parties agree is the ‘best’ solution is just plain wrong for many reasons.

    Consensus politics leads to fudge, to difficult decisions being put off (Italy). It leads to corruption (Italy again) and it also leads to voter disenchantment. Voters already are fed up that all the main parties ‘are just the same’. If they really were, and so voting really made no difference to the policies pursued then they would be even more hacked off. Look at the rise of UKIP. They are the different party , popular because they aren’t part of the Westminster consensus. France with Le Pen and the FN leading the polls is where that leads.

    Also those ideas where parties agree can be the worst – Labour and the Tories are neither very keen on civil liberties. Liberalism (in its proper 19th century meaning, pro markets and pro civil liberty) can easily the missed out of left and right wing thinking. Agreement between them can lead to crude majoritarianism

    As to these policies themselves – they are just soft left mush. There is very little from the free-market right here. Its all about restricting choice (hence raising costs) to favour certain types of business that if thy were superior, wouldn’t need such protectionism in the first place

    1. I agree, and this isn’t about finding consensus or plucking policies out of the overlap between ideologies. It’s bigger than that. It rejects the categories in the first place. There is no left and right, no divide between society and business.

      I think the artificial categories of left and right are thoroughly unhelpful, and serve only to dismiss ideas we don’t like – something you demonstrate admirably with your ‘soft left mush’.

      So easy and so complacent – these are ideas from the ‘other side’, and don’t need to be taken seriously. The moment you identify something as ‘left’ or ‘right’, you can stop thinking about it. This is one of the big reasons why people can’t be bothered with politicians, and leaving the false dichotomy behind would be very helpful to democracy in the 21st century.

      1. Those on the left have very different starting points, assumptions and world views to those on the right. That they may end up agreeing doesn’t invalidate those starting positions. So left and right are still useful, except to those who wish to impose their views under cover of ‘consensus’.

          1. My point is that it is a political tactic to assert that something is a consensus to drown out opposing voices. An example is the way the BBC has given into the Green Party that Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation has effectively been banned from the BBC because it doesn’t fit the ‘consensus’.

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