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Race for political centre is futile, Labor needs to be more progressive

Greg Jericho comments in The Guardian (23.7.17) on the major parties’ moves to capture the political ‘middle ground’, pointing out that a voter who favours parties meeting in the middle on negative gearing is wildly different to one wishing they did on penalty rates.

‘Quite often the political debate in this country is about the “sensible centre” – this mythical place that apparently captures the majority of voters. With his speech on Friday to the Melbourne Institute’s Economic and Social Outlook Conference, Bill Shorten has correctly gauged that progressive parties don’t win by conforming to a pre-established centre, but by instead convincing people that the centre needs to be more progressive.

‘This week the Essential Report poll found that 71% of respondents agreed with the statement “I wish both sides of politics would try to meet each other in the middle more often”, and that 45% would consider voting for “a new party that took ideas from both sides of politics”.

‘Such a finding is to a great extent both not surprising and not significant. Nearly half of voters might say they would vote for a new centre party, but all historical evidence suggests they would not.

‘Emmanuel Macron and his new party might be a model to follow, but the reality is Australian politics differs greatly to France and as Macron has shown, a new “centrist party” is more about branding that any actual new policy direction.

‘… If 71% of voters want parties to meet each other in the middle, going for something that is “politically difficult” is surely code for pursuing something outside the centre. But such thinking would be a mistake.’

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