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Why Jack Powell and 1828 are not wasting their time trying to influence the Conservative Party – despite what Steve Davies says

Tomorrow evening, I am hosting a talk at my home which will be given by Jack Powell. Here’s the short biographical note that Powell sent me, to send out to my email list of potential attenders:

Jack Powell founded 1828, which is a new neoliberal news and opinion website, to champion freedom, especially within British Conservative politics. He is the editor of the website as well as being in his final year at King’s College London, studying Spanish and Portuguese.

Interesting guy. Here is the link to the 1828 website.

In the spiel about his talk that followed, Powell goes on to say that 1828 is especially trying to champion freedom in British universities. What this actually means is that he’ll be operating in the territory where politicians and students come together, to think about the bigger picture. An important spot in the political landscape, I think.

In general, Powell’s blurb for his talk abounds with ambition, energy, enthusiasm, attention to detail, and also with the names of Conservative Party politicians (Liz Truss, Priti Patel) and Media organisations (CapX, Guido, Quillette, New Statesman) with whom 1828 has had dealings and who have said good things about the efforts that Powell and the rest of the 1828 team have been making.

I have spent my libertarian life so far trying to spread libertarianism way beyond the merely party political arena, an approach which paid off big time when the internet arrived, in the form of such wonders as, well, Samizdata. But part of the reason I did that was that when I started out being a libertarian activist, it seemed to me that too many people were doing only party politics, and not enough people were trumpetting broader and undiluted libertarian principles to the wider world. There was not nearly enough proclaiming of the libertarian “metacontext”, as we here like to put it. But ever since that earlier time, the last two decades of the previous century basically, the Conservative Party, and in particular its youth membership, has moved away from those freedom-oriented principles and towards the as-much-government-as-we-can-afford-and-then-some position. I am very glad that people like Jack Powell are now trying to reverse that trend.

Recently, and I’m not changing the subject, I attended a talk given by Steve Davies, in which he talked, as he frequently does these days, about political realignment. In particular, Davies has long been noticing a definite shift by the Conservative Party away from free market policies and towards economic dirigisme. This shift, he says, is no mere whim of the people who happen to have been leading the party. He sees a deeper trend in action. So, does that mean that Jack Powell and his fellow 1828-ers are wasting their time talking to and listening to Conservative politicians?

My short answer is: No, they are not.

I say this not because I assume that Davies is wrong about where he sees the Conservatives going. I now suspect that he exaggerates this shift somewhat, but the policy direction he sees is the direction I also see, as, now, do many others. But that doesn’t mean that 1828-ers communing with Truss, Patel and also with the likes of the recently resigned Chancellor Sajid Javid and with the likes of Steve Baker won’t count for anything. When politics goes through upheavals of the sort that Davies now observes, this doesn’t mean that all the politicians who lose internal battles within their parties just vanish. Some do, but others often hang around and find new party settings to operate in, new allies to collaborate with. Davies himself said this in his talk, and offered historical examples of just such behaviour, by William Gladstone for example. Therefore, any time and effort that the 1828-ers spend talking to, listening to and generally cheering on freedom-sympathetic politicians could end up being very significant, no matter what happens to the broader political landscape.

You can never be entirely sure, but neither Sajid Javid nor Steve Baker seem to me like they are about to just fade away without any more fight.

Baker in particular, fresh from his Brexit agonies and ecstasies, is now making all sorts of promising noises. Scroll down, for instance, to the bottom of this piece, where it says:

The outgoing ERG chair has said he wanted to focus more on constituents and that it was time for him to “return to certain economic issues which I consider as least as important to the future of the country as exiting the EU”.

The writer of the piece, David Scullion, adds:

The Wycombe MP is known to be critical of the current system of global finance and what he sees as the problems of Keynesian ‘easy money’.

If you doubt Baker’s continuing commitment to such ideas, just listen to what he starts saying about two thirds of the way through this very recent interview with Scullion. That’s the same link twice, but that’s not the half of what it deserves. Really, seriously. As I believe they say on American battleships: Now hear this! Now hear this! Not many politicians have major impact on two huge issues in one career and in one lifetime, but if I had to pick someone who might be about to score two out of two, I’d now bet on Baker.

So, whatever Jack Powell and his 1828 mates manage to accomplish in the years to come, it is likely to do some good. Listening to him talk about that tomorrow evening will be very interesting.

8 comments to Why Jack Powell and 1828 are not wasting their time trying to influence the Conservative Party – despite what Steve Davies says

  • Patrick Crozier

    Fascinating but why do they call themselves 1828? I have scoured their website in vain for an answer. I cannot think of anything special that happened that year (assuming it’s a year). Liverpool-Manchester? 1829. Great Reform Bill? 1832. Industrial Revolution? Before, during and after.

  • IIRC, 1828 was the year a libel case caused a massive constitutional challenge between parliament and the courts.

    (From memory) a nearing-bankruptcy pornographer, desperate to get some cash, sued Hansard for libel, because they had reported on parliamentary debates of MPs denouncing his vile depraved publications, etc. MPs were exempted but he’d spotted the loophole that Hansard’s reporting of them was not at that time protected. Hansard asked parliament to defend them and parliament took a very high line on its privileges – so high that the law lords found for the publisher on a demurrer. The Sherriff of Middlesex (the office was held conjointly by two old men at that time) obeyed the court’s order to seize goods of Hansard, who had refused to pay. For this, parliament arrested them on an open warrant (a warrant that did not say why, which by a prior court ruling meant the court was not supposed to ask). Since the court stood by that ruling, this meant the court could legally order the Sherriff to distrain Hansard, and punish them if they did not do so, but parliament could legally arrest the Sherriff for obeying the court, and provided they did not explicitly say on the warrant that that was why they were doing it, the court could not rule the arrest illegal.

    The two guys who were the poor old Sherriff of Middlesex had a lousy time for while. One fell ill in jail and was let out on compassionate grounds but the other stayed there for months while the furious quarrel between the judges and the MPs over where parliament’s privileges ended was pursued. Eventually a special bill protecting Hansard resolved the issue.

    This is remembering stuff I studied decades ago but I think it was in 1828.

    Not immediately noting a strong relevance to modern libertarians.

    So commenters, what else happened in 1828?

  • Myno

    It’s a perfect 10!
    1 + 8 + 2 + 8 = 19, 1 + 9 = 10
    18 + 28 = 46, 4 + 6 = 10
    182 + 8 = 190, 1 + 9 + 0 = 10
    1 + 828 = 829, 8 + 2 + 9 = 19, 1 + 9 = 10

  • I have some recollection of reading that the 1828 website was named for it being the year starting the first period as prime minister by the (first) Duke of Wellington.

    Best regards

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    What Nigel Sedgwick said. I recall Powell telling me something like this. What I don’t get is why the Duke of Wellington is relevant to neoliberalism, classical liberalism,libertarianism and so on. Maybe we’ll ask Powell this evening.

    Or then again, maybe we’ll ignore that and concentrate more on what he and 1828 are actually doing.

  • djc

    King’s College London was founded in 1828-9?

    1828 in the United Kingdom

    22 January – the Duke of Wellington succeeds Lord Goderich as Prime Minister with a reforming Tory government.
    17 April – Royal Free Hospital, established as the London General Institution for the Gratuitous Care of Malignant Diseases by surgeon William Marsden, opens.
    27 April – London Zoo opens.[1]
    9 May – Sacramental Test Act removes most prohibitions on nonconformists and Catholics holding public office.
    21 June – King’s College London founded.[2]
    1 July – Offences against the Person Act 1828 (“Lord Lansdowne’s Act”) comes into force in England and Wales as one of “Peel’s Acts”, consolidating and simplifying the law related to cases of violent offence against the person, repealing clause XXXVI of Magna Carta and abolishing the crime of petty treason.
    8 August – William Howley elected as Archbishop of Canterbury (enthroned by proxy 28 August) in succession to Charles Manners-Sutton.[3]
    11 August – William Corder is hanged at Bury St. Edmunds for the murder of Maria Marten at the Red Barn a year ago.
    1 October – James Beaumont Neilson patents the hot blast process for ironmaking.[4]
    25 October – St Katharine Docks opened in London.
    17 December – trial of the case of the murderers and body snatchers William Burke and William Hare begins in Edinburgh.[5]
    December – Mary Anning discovers Britain’s first pterosaur fossil at Lyme Regis on the south coast.

  • Paul Marks

    The economic policy of the United Kingdom was generally good in the Conservative 1820s – Huskinsson, “Prosperity Robinson” (the Chancellor), and Canning supported a policy of lower government spending and taxes, and less regulation. Lord Liverpool himself (the Prime Minister for most of the period) has a less good press – but he promoted men who did good work.

    As for the present government – it is early days, but indications in relation to economic policy are not, so far, encouraging. I will leave the question of Stephen Davies aside – other than to say that someone of his record of beliefs is not an ideal person to make the free market case to Conservatives (fine person though he is in other ways).

    The universities?

    Well Buckingham is supposed to be good (although it is only a few miles from me I must confess I have never visited it) – but the other universities seem to be less tolerant of pro liberty ideas than they have ever been.

    It used to be the case that there was unofficial policy of having a “token Tory” in most Politics and Economics university departments, and the “Tory” might not be a “Tory (they might be a Classical Liberal). But that unofficial policy seems to have died.

    Even when I was about in universities I noticed that when Conservative academics retired (or died) they were not replaced by Conservatives – they were replaced by leftists. Even the collections of free market books (for example Jack Wiseman’s collection at the University of York) were cleared away (made hard to find – replaced by admin space or “student reserve collections” of approved “mainstream” texts).

    A few individuals, such as Mr Steve Baker M.P., may do some good – but with the great weight of the education system against them, the future does not look bright. Still we shall have to see – and the position in the education system may be much better than I think it is.

    The key is to NOT PANDER – do not try and ape the line of the left, no prattle about “diversity” and the rest of the “Critical Theory” (Frankfurt School of Marxism) stuff crushing Freedom of Speech and so on.

    What we need is actual diversity – diversity of opinion and free discussion. The temptation to say “well if we let the left have their way on cultural matters – and they might let us have tax cuts in return” must be resisted, as liberty can not be “cut up” in this way.

    Give way on the “cultural” matters and the left will end up controlling ECONOMIC policy as well – which is what “Critical Theory” is designed to do.

    “I would like deregulation” being answered by “RACIST! SEXIST! HOMOPHOBE! TRANSPHOBE! ISLAMOPHOBE!”

    Institutions, including universities, need to be liberated from “Critical Theory” (Frankfurt School Marxism and French Post Modernism – which both share the doctrines of “victim groups” and “exploitation and oppression”) before any good can come from them – including on economic policy.

    And YES the left are correct – a “capitalist” economic order (private property in the means of production and profit seeking economic activity) depends on a “conservative” society (traditional families and so on) and can not long survive without it.

    From the point of view of the socialists the fanatical devotion of, for example, modern (recent years) Hollywood to the cause of destroying traditional society is not irrational – even though it may financially destroy the television companies and film companies. It is not irrational because the people involved believe that social and economic “liberation” of society (the extermination of “capitalism”) is more important than the financial well being of the companies they work for.

    After all, should they be successful in their activities, these companies will no longer exist anyway.

    Such Corporate activists are produced (in vast numbers) by the education system.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly such Corporate Marxists (even if they do not actually understand that what they are pushing is Marxism – as they rant on about “exploitation”, “oppression”, “social justice” and-so-on) are not confined to the media companies – thanks to the education system they are Legion.

    We really do live in age where even razor companies make Frankfurt School of Marxism themed advertisements, and where almost every large corporation gives money to “Social Justice” groups controlled by Marxists.

    The corporate executives did not just wake up one morning like this – the education system made them (to a greater or lesser extent) like this.

    Some people resist the brainwashing – but a “good student” is defined as someone who accepts it. These “good students” are the people who “get on” in the world.

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