Back in 2005, Nick Gruen wrote a useful post about the components he liked of the three ideological elements of our political culture: liberalism, conservatism and social democracy. In practice, all major political parties tend to be a mix of the three, but with differing emphasis.
I’d call Labor conservative liberal social democrats; social democracy placed as the noun because that I think is the party’s animating force. People join Labor because they want more equality. Some can be quite conservative and others quite liberal on social issues, and Labor has in the past proven itself capable of major liberal economic reforms. Rudd proclaims himself an ‘economic conservative’. But these ideas complement or modify the party’s social democracy, rather than being the core of what Labor is about.
Under Howard, the Liberals have been social democratic liberal conservatives. For him, conservative ideas were most important – family, Queen and country, so conservatism is the noun. While I think the argument that Menzies was more liberal than Howard is nonsense, this is not because liberal ideas are what drove the former PM, but because he largely took as given the large social changes of the last 40 years.
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