During a discussion about BBC bias at a lunch last week, a brainy woman remarked that the organisation was admirably positioned and she hoped that David Cameron would note that this was the country's centre of gravity. Thus she revealed her political colours. According to Donald Rumsfeld, who I think we agree is a little to the right of the BBC, a characteristic of a leftie is someone who regards a difference of view as a sign of stupidity because they cannot imagine "how anyone intelligent could possibly disagree with them". I think the BBC is scrupulously neutral, except that many of its staff believe that there is a sane world view, and then there are the crazies.
Left and right are not always at odds. In Rumsfeld's autobiography, we see him strike unstereotypical positions, pro civil rights, pro Kennedy. He admiringly quotes a Belgian ambassador: "What one needs in life are the pessimism of intelligence and the optimism of will." Doesn't that describe Ronald Reagan, and Winston Churchill, heroes of the right? Yet the quote originally comes from the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci.
Politics can coalesce – the Iraq war even united William Hague and Christopher Hitchens. But culturally, emotionally and socially, you are right or left wing. The response to different institutions is telling. On the latest Any Questions on Radio 4, Polly Toynbee expressed a generic joy in revolution, and a reserve about the Egyptian army being in charge. The pro-Israel Conservative lobby has been nervous about the composition of a post-Mubarak government, but cheered that at least the American-trained and supported Egyptian army is in charge.
It is right wing to support Middle Eastern democracy in nostalgic reference to Eastern Europe and as an endorsement of Western values. It is left wing to feel that the west, particularly Britain and America, has nothing to teach the Middle East, and that its historical record is purely shameful.
I was recently invited by a right-left married couple to a party. It was held on a Saturday night in London, quite a leftie social rebuke to the Conservatives who feel country weekends are sacred. This couple disagree about everything, yet are supremely happy. Politics is about the means rather than the end. We all want a strong economy and for children to be properly educated and for people to be loving. We just separate politically on the means. For a start, it is right wing to say "children". The left wing says "kids". Valentine's Day is a tense mix of left and right. Sex, I would say, is left wing (although kinky sex is quite right wing). But romance demands the resolution of marriage, the territory of the right.
From the top of my head, here are some daily divisions. Baths right wing, showers left wing. Cars right wing, except for the Prius, cycling left wing, except for the Pashley. Rambling self-righteously left wing, country walks right wing. Potatoes right wing, rice left wing.
Non-fiction right wing, fiction left wing. Blondes tend to be right wing, in the manner of Margaret Thatcher or Anna Nicole Smith, being instinctively game and seeking self advancement. Yet the even more iconic tragic blonde Marilyn Monroe is a left-wing icon, because she regarded herself as a victim. See how simple it is? We are right wing and left wing in everything except politics.
Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'Reuse content