In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Into the Second Dimension


Politics is not just a line. (Edited: Pushing Social)

One of the enduring legacies of the French Revolution is political terminology. Supporters of the king, the party of order and defenders of the ancien régime, sat to the right of the National Assembly’s president. Supporters of the revolution, the party of movement and in favour of continued revolution, sat to the left [1].

The uses of this terminology are typically economic, in which the social democratic Labour Party called left-wing, and the pro-business Conservatives called right-wing. These can be reductionist, meaning that it is presumed that to be in favour of freer markets or business procurement in public services must also imply a desire to reduce immigration levels. Economic protectionism can take various forms of tariffs, regulations and immigration restriction. Politics is more than just economics, concerning how the state relates to the individual.

John Wheatley, writing for the London School of Economics, states that economics is only one dimension of political ideology [2]. A tool launched by researchers at Queen Mary University, London, asks users for their opinions on thirty policy statements. The WhoGetsMyVoteUK application then matches respondents to the party or parties that best corresponds with their views.

Two dimensions

After analysing 17,281 England-only users of the application, Dr Wheatley identifies two distinct dimensions: economic and cultural. The first is based on their support for taxes and economic arrangements for the National Health Service. The second dimension looks at EU membership, immigration, same-sex marriage and English Votes for English Laws. Parties are not just separated by economics, but by culture.


There is substantial overlap between the cosmopolitan and economic-left parties. (Source: Wheatley, J.)

Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters are overwhelming cosmopolitan. This is compared to the communitarian views of UK Independence Party (UKIP) supporters, who are typically against current levels of immigration, against British membership of the European Union, opposed to same-sex marriage and wanting English votes for English laws. Conservatives are considered centrist on the cultural scale.

On economics, the mean Green and Labour voters are actually close to another, favouring more taxation. UKIP are to the left of the Liberal Democrats on economic policy, with the Conservatives moderately wanting lower taxes.

As Dr Wheatley writes:

This conforms well to Ford and Goodwin’s characterisation of UKIP as older blue-collar workers who feel threatened by social change and cling to past certainties. In this respect, UKIP is similar to other right-wing populist parties in Europe that draw their support from globalisation’s “losers”.

The study would suggest that UKIP are an anti-globalist force, with an entirely distinct social profile to the Conservatives, rather than being ‘more Tory than the Tories’, as the Labour attack line went [3]. The paper also suggests there are electoral limitations to economic liberalism.

As noted in the full paper [4], there is an inescapable bias in the people who used a voting advice application are “likely to be more interested in politics than the average voter by virtue of the fact that they have used an online app on politics”.

Whilst this constraint of the study should be recognised, politics makes little sense when thought of as only a line.


[1] Diffen, 2016. Left Wing vs Right Wing. Available from: [Accessed: 18th March 2016]

[2] Wheatley, J., 2015. Politics is too complex to be understood just in terms of Left and Right. LSE Blogs. Available from: [Accessed: 18th March 2016]

[3] Labour, 2014. More Tory Than The Tories: UKIP’s Tax Policies. Available from: [Accessed: 18th March 2016]

[4] Wheatley, J., 2015. Cleavage Structures and Ideological Dimensions in English Politics: Some Evidence from VAA Data. ECPR General Conference. Available from: [Accessed: 18th March 2016]



This entry was posted on March 30, 2016 by in National Politics and tagged , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: