Forgive me in advance as I am about to take politics, a hugely complex beast, and reduce it down to what I see is at its core. All politics is, is different groups of people vying for supremacy within society. Human societies form naturally into hierarchies based on power. With the existing elite at the top, usually making up a tiny fraction of society. I think a pyramid is always a useful shape for visual purposes when it comes to thinking about societal structure. The base being the largest portion and what the community rests on.
What I see when I look at the political spectrum is a struggle for power. The conservatives try to preserve the existing hierarchy and the progressives try to alter it. Each side tries to employ thought processes to justify the reasoning behind why its side of the spectrum should take precedence over the other on a variety of issues and society ebbs and flows based on this tug of war.
Usually progressives consist of people who want huge scale change, but are satisfied to wage the long war and fight for steady, incremental reforms within the system. Over the long run, these people have been successful in fundamentally changing societies. People like Robert Owen spring to mind, a factory owner turned socialist, who helped campaign for the 8 hour working day. Owen is probably not the best example, given that he tried the radical idea of setting up a town in America called new harmony based on Utopian, socialist ideas, which ended in failure. But nonetheless he springs first to mind as a man that aided the bottom of society by working for change from within the system.
Every now and again you get a group of people who see attempts at working within the system for change as futile, because it serves only to play into the hands of the existing elites. They favour smashing the system entirely, usually in the form of some sort of revolution, either peaceful or violent and re-designing it anew in their own image. In my experience, this comes from a section of the community who feel powerless and weak and grab for extremes to improve their societal situation. Sadly, when this smashing of the system is achieved, what tends to happen is there isn’t an effective plan to replace the existing hierarchy and so chaos ensues. The power vacuum and lack of order, creates the right circumstance for a strong figure to emerge, a dictator.
What then happens is power is taken away from the higher ups to be given to someone equally, or more tyrannical.
All the work the progressives made in the existing system, the hundreds of years of steady gnawing at the power structure is washed away with regime change. The new leaders flex their muscles and clamp down on the lower downs they once claimed to represent and civil liberties are destroyed. The premise of the Utopian system of equality is a clever carrot to dangle in front of the working class if you’re a psychotic, power hungry, authoritarian.
When it comes to the conservatives, they will try to preserve aspects of policy that benefit them, often at the expense of other societal groups. This is just the nature of the world, when something benefits one individual or a group, it often impacts another. The conservatives also serve the function of trying to maintain societal structure under the onslaught of the progressive juggernaut and the incessant struggle for change. Sometimes some people will emerge who feel that too much change has happened within a society, or that those changes have led the country down the wrong path. This can breed the tendency to want to employ authoritarian means to clamp down on the progressives to maintain and reinforce societal structure or reverse it.
When taken to its extremes you can have similar instances of repression as the group of people that want to smash the system.
It’s important in my view to find the right balance in society. To conserve the good aspects, the achievements we have made that in part help people to be able to coexist in some sort of system that can then act as a leap-board for us to pursue the arts, the sciences etc. It is equally important that the progressives continue to push the conservatives and ensure that the freedoms they have won over time are protected and built upon. But the balance is inevitably delicate in a tug of war and at times this can lead to imbalance. We are in such a period of imbalance in my opinion and it is only lending support to the types that want to forsake all order and structure and pull down the system in their anger.
It would be folly to let that happen in a country, so storied, so proud as Britain.