Pictures so often speak louder than words.
The graphs shown below (http://www.globalissues.org/article/39/a-primer-on-neoliberalism) illustrate one of the problems of defining left and right, which can be exploited by politicians, and in political debate, to befuddle the opposition.
The x-axis is the left/right spectrum in terms of economic organisation. The y-axis is the spectrum of values and philosophy; libertarian ( a political philosophy that upholds individual liberty, especially freedom of expression and action), and authoritarian (a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority, usually opposed to individualism and democracy.)
On the Authoritarian/Libertarian axis, Fascism is the opposite of Anarchism. On the Left/Right axis, Communism or collectivism is the opposite Neoliberalism or Libertarianism.
The second graph indicates the position of some leaders of 2006. It can be observed that Tony Blair was more ‘left wing’ and ‘liberal’ than George Bush; and more ‘right wing’ and less ‘liberal’ than Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, all fall within the Authoritarian Right Wing quadrant. In contrast, the man voted the most admired global leader, Nelson Mandela, is firmly located in the Libertarian Left quadrant.
The third graph shows the mobility of the different UK political parties from the 1970s to 2006. The most obvious feature is the steady movement of the Labour Party from the Libertarian Left quadrant to the Authoritarian Right quadrant. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democratics were much more consistent over the same time period. However, it seems likely that a more current appraisal would place the Osborne Tories, Nick Clegg and the Orange Bookers much further to the right, towards the Neoliberal end; although the Cameron Conservatives might also be considered less authoritarian.
The position that has yet to be clarified is that of Ed Miliband’s Labour Party. Will he be persuaded by the Purple Book and former Blairites to keep the party within the Authoritarian Right quadrant? Will Blue Labour persuade him to move Labour further away from the Libertarian end, towards a more Authoritarian stance? Or will the Labour Party take up a position alongside Mandela and Ghandi, and become ‘Real’ Labour, once more standing up for real people and the global environment?
Test your position on the graph by logging onto http://www.politicalcompass.org/