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Meeting with the UKLP in the pub

This is one of those before-I-entirely-forget-about-it and better-late-than-never postings, for which deepest apologies to all who might mind that I didn’t put it up a week ago, when I should have.

So anyway, some while ago Antoine Clarke and I did one of our occasional recorded conversations about politics, here and in the USA. After we’d talked about the mess the US Democrats have got themselves into (I suggested a coin toss to settle it), we then mentioned the Libertarian Party, and the fact that they will soon be choosing their Presidential candidate. And after that, we switched to libertarian politics on this side of the pond, the point being that, in a very small way, there is some UK libertarian politics to report, in the form of the recently founded UK Libertarian Party. Antoine mentioned that the UKLP was having some kind of public event in the near future, and I mentioned this possibility in the blog posting I did in connection with all this. And “Devil’s Kitchen”, one of the bosses of the UKLP and also a noted blogger, left a comment:

We have a general meeting and piss-up from 3pm this Saturday (29th March 08), upstairs at St Stephen’s Tavern, Westminster.

Do feel free to drop in if you so desire …

So, I did. This was just over a week ago, as I say. As I made my way there, I feared the worst, namely a little clutch of social dyslexics as old as me and as badly dressed as me, but even fatter and even uglier, some of them clutching grubby plastic bags full of newspaper cuttings. I got there nearer to 6pm than 3pm, and immediately thought: oh dear, I am too late and they have all gone. The first floor of the St Stephen’s Tavern was, you see, full of normal people. But just as I was about to leave and go home again, the guy who turned out to be Mr Devil’s Kitchen himself hailed me. He even recognised me. So, I went over, and asked him which of this enormous throng of people were the UKLP. “They all are”, he said.

I did not stay long, because I was trying to recover from a nasty cough and cold. Also, what with these people looking so normal, and hence of potential political significance, I did not want to infect them. But I stayed long enough to discover that they all seemed to have lives and jobs and brains, and social antennae, and the looks to match. Mostly they were twenty somethings or thirty somethings, mostly male but with a few young women. I was allowed to take photos, but the ones without flash were too blurry and the ones with flash (which I seldom use) made all concerned look like horror movie extras, because my red-eye thingy was either not switched on or else is useless.

Which was a pity, because appearances matter, or they do if you are trying to start a political party. If your only concern is publishing things, the way it always has been with me, fine, look any way you like. But trying to be politicians and looking old and ugly means that you are not just old and ugly, but stupid and pathetic as well.

But I did stay for a bit, and I can report that the effort put in by my generation of libertarians and libertarian fellow-travellers, such as those who run and write for Samizdata, have most definitely not been wasted, if all these nice intelligent young total strangers were anything to go by, which they surely are. I have always been deeply pessimistic about whether libertarian parties can ever get anywhere, but have reluctantly come to the conclusion that although it is a dirty job, someone has probably got to do it, and whether they should or not, they will anyway, so why fight it? I wish these people all the luck that I fear they will need.

I also learned something else. Mr Devil’s Kitchen is, like David Cameron, an Old Etonian. That’s another thing that maybe should not count, but does.

16 comments to Meeting with the UKLP in the pub

  • Laird

    I wish the UKLP well. It just might be able to get a few people elected to national office, since (as I understand it) your parliamentary system is reasonably friendly to minor parties. Unfortunately, in the US our two-party system is so entrenched and inbred that third parties have zero chance of being elected to anything. Even at the local level, unless the particular office is specifically “non-partisan” most people still look for a “D” or “R” next to the candidate’s name. The only way libertarians can get elected over here is to run under a major party’s banner (a la Ron Paul). (Oh, and if you should attend the USLP’s national convention you’ll see some real weirdos, which doesn’t help the cause.)

  • Ha! Thanks for the most gratifying write up, Brian. It was a pleasure to see you there…


  • RRS

    A conundrum:

    Political parties are formed, usually, to attain political power.

    Libertarians are opposed to political power over individuals, broadly.

    So, would a Libertarian Party seek mainly to keep power away from the grasp of others?

    OR is there some Libertarian point (or points), other than fellowship, to gaining influence in the politics of “shaping” Public Policy for others to live by?

  • Nick Timms

    I have never understood the argument that libertarians should not get involved in politics because it means being part of a system to which they are opposed.

    We are all travelling on a runaway train with a nuclear bomb on board. We do not say lets wait for the mad train driver and his bomb wielding assistants to come to their senses?

    We chuck them off the train, stop it and then dismantle the bomb. We then make sure that the train’s brakes work really well and that only sane, well trained drivers are employed in future.

  • I have never understood the argument that libertarians should not get involved in politics because it means being part of a system to which they are opposed.

    That is not really the argument however. It is more ‘can you roll back the state working within a statist system?’ Certainly working within the existing parties is an utter waste of time as the institutional imperatives of both is utterly statist to the point it is sheer arrogance to think they can be salvaged if just shown the error of their ways. That may change one day but that day ain’t today or any time soon. I am all for the Long Game but I see no value working within the Tory Party or LibDems whatsoever.

    But see nothing wrong with trying to implement the politics of anti-politics, which is why I wish the LPUK all the best and who know, maybe they can make a dent somewhere eventually by getting the message out that there really is life beyond the current political realities.

  • Jacob

    Slightly OT. About Ron Paul, the former USLP candidate to the presidency:

    Congressman Ron Paul has endorsed The John Birch Society in a statement received from his office this week.

    I hope the UKLP stays saner than it’s pathetic US counterpart.

  • Sunfish

    That is not really the argument however. It is more ‘can you roll back the state working within a statist system?’

    Maybe and maybe not.

    What’s the alternative, short of moving to a tent somewhere in the Never Summer or Wind River?

  • Dale Amon

    I am gratified to hear it. As I have said before, if you walk off the playing field, someone else takes your place and the same game goes on.

    There is really no other way but a combination of the battle of ideas and the dirty job of politics if you want change… unless you are like the old commies for whom all of this was just a prelude to killing your fellow citizens in mass quantities. Which libertarians decidely are not.

  • “So, would a Libertarian Party seek mainly to keep power away from the grasp of others?”

    “Your problem is that you’re trying to change the whorehouse and keep the business.”

    (Robert LeFevre, quoting Frank Chodorov when commenting on the institution of the Libertarian Party in America, 1971)

    Principles really matter.

  • Laird

    As an active Libertarian (capital “L”), my viewpoint is that given the realities of the US two-party system, the function of the Libertarian Party is to keep reminding people that there are political alternatives, to encourage at least a few brave souls to start thinking for themselves, and to support libertarian-oriented politicians in the major parties when the appear. Sort of half way between the Cato Institute and the Republicrats.

    No one running for office with an “L” beside his name really expects to win. We’re making a statement, hoping (perhaps naively) that if we draw 10% of 15% of the vote someone will take notice. To use Nick’s analogy, we’re trying to slow down the train.

    Quixotic? Probably. But what’s the alternative?

  • Jacob

    Quixotic? Probably. But what’s the alternative?

    I’m all for Quixotic gestures, did quite a few myself.

    But stay away from nuts. Associating with nuts you are making the wrong statement, and you gesture turns really Quixotic – i.e. dumb, rather than noble.

  • Laird

    This calls to mind those immortal words from one of the greatest movies of all time, “Animal House”:

    Otter: I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.
    Bluto: And we’re just the guys to do it.

  • What we need is to spread the ideas. If the Libertarian Party manages to do that then it is a good thing. If it doesn’t it isn’t. So, the fewer compromises the better.

    See The Purpose and Strategy of the Libertarian Alliance for why spreading ideas is good and trying to win elections bad.

  • smallwit

    1) What a pity I left the meeting before 6, or I could have met two of my favourite bloggers on the same day.

    2) You will find that photo-editing software can sort out red-eye problems.

    3) Idea for a T-Shirt: “God is a Trinity man; the Devil went to Eton”.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Best of luck for this venture. At least you guys are having a go.

    Jacob: yes, I read the Reason link. Ron Paul really is damaged goods now.

  • Sam

    Brian, it was a pleasure to meet you. I’m grateful to Samizdata for setting me on the road to thinking about and understanding libertarian issues.

    Whilst I respect and admire the LA’s efforts, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Personally, helping LPUK makes me feel like I’m actually doing something to defer my emigration!

    Let’s hope we surprise everyone (in a good way obviously!)