James Forsyth

What the left thinks of the right

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Open Left, the new Demos project headed up by James Purnell, has invited various people to explain why they are on the left not the right. The answers are thought-provoking, not least because they show what those on the left think the right is.

Peter Hyman, the Downing Street advisor turned teacher who wrote a very good book about the move and is on Newsnight’s political panel, responds to the question as follows:

“I teach a Somali boy who is stunningly bright and hard working. He is shy, modest, gentle, and lacking confidence. I fear that coming from a comprehensive on the outskirts of London he will not have the networks and contacts, the openings and lucky breaks. Over time the pressures may be too great, the poverty too grinding, the setbacks too tough for him to succeed. I am on the Left because for him and thousands of children just as bright and not as bright as him, I want there to be no barrier of snobbery, race, or class that stands in the way. The Left will always be instinctively on his side; the Right, however much they try, will not be.”

Having thought about this for a while, I really think Hyman is mistaken on this. When I think about what motivates people on the sensible right it is very similar to this, it is the belief that their solutions are best for society as a whole. Indeed, I think it is a human reaction—not a left right one—to be on this pupil’s side. Surely, where left and right differ is not on the desire to see this child succeed, but on what policies will give him the best chance of doing so? (Unsurprisingly, to my mind, policies from the right--school choice etc--would help this child most) The left is deluding itself if it thinks that its motives are so superior that it doesn't have to engage on whether its ideas are.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articleSociety