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Samizdata quote of the day – the need for an actual liberal party edition

“I am under no illusion that even the most passionate and articulate defence of classically liberal values would be an enormous vote winner. But in an election likely to return a Labour government who will, by their nature, proselytise about the good the state can do, and with a Conservative Party which has in recent years shown a frankly alarming tendency towards illiberalism, implementing sugar taxes and attempting to ban smoking forever. The country desperately needs a counterweight to slow our seemingly inevitable slide towards an ever expanding state. Even if the Tories don’t get completely annihilated at the ballot box they are likely to spend at least the next six months tearing themselves apart in a leadership election. The Lib Dems will be providing the real opposition for a while and they need to stand for something.”

Emma Revell, in CityAM.

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – the need for an actual liberal party edition

  • WindyPants

    Perhaps the Conservatives could learn a salutary lesson here. Around the time of the 2010 election, the Lib Dem party was a happy coalition between the ‘Orange Book’ liberal wing and the ‘student politics/protest vote’ (for want of a better description) wing of the party.

    As a self-identifying Libertarian, the Orange Bookers were as close to my own beliefs as I have ever seen, or am ever likely to see again, in a mainstream political party.

    Unfortunately, like a Smeagol with an orange rosette, they couldn’t resist the invitation to govern that the Tories offered them and, as night followed day, the Tories took the credit for everything good that the coalition achieved, whilst the hapless Lib Dems carried the can for any failures.

    Needless to say, the Lib Dems were hacked down at the following election and have been struggling to find a voice and a purpose ever since. The Orange Bookers took the blame for the coalition and, effectively, abandoned the party to the student politics and protest group blob.

    A Tory party, with its Thatcherite tendency removed, is just a blob of one nation wets. There will be precious little worth rebuilding the party around, and their time in the doldrums will be as long as it will be well deserved.

  • Discovered Joys

    From Wikipedia:

    Classical liberalism is a political tradition and a branch of liberalism that advocates free market and laissez-faire economics and civil liberties under the rule of law, with special emphasis on individual autonomy, limited government, economic freedom, political freedom and freedom of speech.

    No main modern party in the UK seems to be a close fit for these traditions. The Conservatives used to be the closest fit but the special emphasis on individual autonomy, limited government, economic freedom, political freedom and freedom of speech has been slowly frittered away. I’m not sure that Reform is ‘classically liberal’ but it might be away of escaping from all the other parties, and the Establishment, who are comfortable with the current gravy train.

  • Paul Marks

    The coup against Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and the coup against Liz Truss (whose name has been made a curse – “Liz Truss is an idiot” say people who should know better) suggests that the establishment has ways of dealing with people who want a more limited government.

    As long ago as the 19th century, as his biographer John Morley sadly related, Prime Minister Gladstone whose desire was to abolish Income Tax (as Lord Liverpool had done when Gladstone was a young man) lived to see Income Tax be made “Progressive” (graduated) – and to hear the gloating Chancellor, Sir William Harcourt, say “we are all socialists now”. By the way Harcourt lied about the resignation of Gladstone – there were no emotional scenes of fellowship (because there was no fellowship), Gladstone left office with a-few-cold-words.

    However, Prime Minister Sunak is saying that he will deliver dramatically lower taxes, continuing his policy of reducing “National Insurance” tax – I make no comment upon this.

    As for setting up a new political party – political parties are made up of people on the ground in local areas, they are very much a social, even tribal, thing. I suspect that London based research bodies and media do not really grasp this.

    In my home town the local Liberals had gone rotten even in the 19th century – campaigning for state education (in spite of there being plenty of “National Schools”, Church of England, and “British Schools” for Dissenters) and for prohibition, and even for land nationalisation.

    This was pointed out to me many years ago – when I said to a local historian (long dead now) “I am a 19th century liberal” – “no you are not” came the reply, in terms of this town if you had been around in the 19th century you would have been exactly what you are now – a Kettering Tory. Talk of new parties ignores history and local customs and traditions, in families, all over the country.

    The great question remains – how do local Conservatives, up and down the country, take their party back – take it back from the small (but powerful) group of people who betrayed such people as Margaret Thatcher and Liz Truss.

  • Paul Marks

    Perhaps the greatest British Classical Liberal of the 19th century was John Bright (of the Anti Corn League and so on) – he ended up a Unionist (a Conservative by another name) – his opinions had not changed.

    To use the old line (which is true) John Bright had not left the Liberals – they had left him.

  • The great question remains – how do local Conservatives, up and down the country, take their party back – take it back from the small (but powerful) group of people who betrayed such people as Margaret Thatcher and Liz Truss.

    They do it by purging the wets, crushing “one nation Tories” into the earth and salting it, as was (apocryphally) done with ancient Carthage.

    One Nation Toryism has no significant demos and if the Tory wets want a home, they should phuq off to the Lib Dems.

    The only way the Tories might restore themselves is by self-reform, cutting out the cancer within and remembering that if they do not serve as a foil against tax-and-spend Labour then they are as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

    Tories delenda est!

    Vote Reform!

  • Stuart Noyes

    What’s the difference between liberal and conservative?

  • Roué le Jour

    I’ve probably said this before but I think what the Tories want is to be what the Democrats are in the US, the party of the state. Unfortunately for them, neither the bureaucrats nor conservative voters want that.

  • Paul Marks

    Roue le Jour – no, most Conservatives (Tories) do not want what you say they want.

    Although there may indeed be a small group of people who DO want this.

    John Galt – the difficulty is that “One Nation”, really No Nation, types tend to be parachuted in to seats with large majorities – parachuted in by my dear friends at Central Office, an organisation beloved by Conservative Party members (sarcasm alert).

    Sadly many of the better Conservative Members of Parliament have much smaller majorities.

    As for the Reform Party – it is standing everywhere, even against “Spartans” in the Conservative ranks, and even against the Independent Andrew Bridgen in North West Leicestershire.

    Baffling behaviour by the Reform Party.

    As for me – I find myself day dreaming (even I deliver leaflets and so on), I am young again (or at least not old), Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister, Ronald Reagan is President of the United States, William Casey is Director of the Agency (he was the last patriot to be Director of the CIA – he died in 1987, which I find that I remember better than yesterday).

  • Paul Marks

    I missed the bit in the post that mentioned the Liberal Democratic Party – the “Lib Dems”.

    They do “stand for something” – they stand for ever more government spending and regulations and for “Woke” (Frankfurt School) social policies (denouncing everyone who opposes these policies as “ists” and “phobes”, just as the Labour Party does.

    In local government this is obvious – just as it is in national politics.

    In the Conservative Party there is some opposition to the dominant ideology of our times (not very much resistance in practice – but some), but not in the “Lib Dems”.

    They are the party of Sir William Harcourt “we are all socialists now” and David Lloyd-George – only vastly more so.

    I have now read the article – and the author of the article seems to understand what the Lib Dems are, ultra statist “Woke” types.

  • jgh

    The LibDems’s political philosophy is shown by the need for a 117-page manifesto. 😉

  • Martin

    Hoping the Lib Dems become ‘classical liberals’ is a real triumph of hope over experience. Delusional really. The Liberals largely ceased being this over 120 years ago.

    I will admit bias as I am overall much more sympathetic to the 19th century Tories than the Whigs or Liberals but when reading the history that had Gladstone not survived in politics so long, the Liberals may well have ditched what is now deemed classical liberalism much sooner, as the actual party was always a motley crew of Peelites, Whigs and various types of radicals and quasi socialists. And Gladstone’s own actions alienated many of the more conservative liberals from the party.

  • GregWA

    Every time I see this trope “to slow our seemingly inevitable slide towards an ever expanding state”, I nearly vomit.

    The only reason the State may slow in its expansion is that it has nearly consumed everything!

    Gas expands to fill a container but once filled, the expansion stops. That’s the only sense in which the State will stop expanding.

    Unless, as Kirk says, we devise a way to rid ourselves of the “Karen gene”. Of course that’s not going to happen so how do we suppress the expression of that gene?

  • Mr Ed

    I have just read that Sinn Fein have launched their UK general election manifesto. At least this manifesto has the feature of being ‘honest’ in that the party promoting it guarantees NEVER to implement its promises, due to its abstentionist stance, which they were commendably loyal due during the Theresa May minority government nonsense. Their purpose in standing would appear to be to keep their opponents out of office, thereby reducing their influence in Westminster.

    So now we have an inadvertently honest party as an example, we just need to get honestly and libertarianism at the same time in the same party.

  • Paul Marks

    With the benefit of hindsight (yes in know 20/20 vision) the death warrant of the United Kingdom may have been signed as long ago as 1945 – when almost half the population voted for a party that wanted the state to control everything (it was written on every Labour Party Membership card – Clause Four).

    The Conservative Party was already half hearted in its support for liberty – even leaving aside the Earl of Derby and Disraeli in the 19th century (both men were statists – J.S. Mill correctly said that Derby’s political philosophy could be summed up in one word “liberticide”, and Disraeli forced local government to provide about 40 different services whether local taxpayers wanted councils to do this or not, and pushed British industry into relative decline, and started structural UNEMPLOYMENT, with his Trade Union Act – legalising “picketing” and putting unions at least partly above the Civil Law – a process that was completed by the insane Liberal Party Trade Union Act of 1906) party leader and Prime Minister Balfour in the early 1900s had declared that “Social Reform” (by which he meant ever more government spending and regulations) was the “opposite of socialism” because it supposedly prevented socialism – the economic and philosophical confusion that that such a statement reveals is obvious.

    However, in 1945 the Conservative Party went into shock – surely the war hero Winston Churchill could not lose, but he did lose, and surely the people would not support the state domination of everything, the destruction of civil society, but half the people did support that.

    “There is a lot of ruin in a great nation” – yes indeed, but many decades have passed, including the cultural (societal) destruction that became obvious in the 1960s.

    The election of 2024 may well be the end of what Winston Churchill called “this island story”, for the commitment to Civil Liberties, the right to express dissent, that such Labour Prime Ministers as Clement Atlee had (yes they really did believe in Freedom of Speech and so on – they did not grasp that this was not really compatible with their economic collectivism, although Professor Harold Laski, Chairman of the Labour Party in the 1940s, did understand that economic collectivism is not compatible with Freedom of Speech and wished to get rid of Freedom of Speech and the right of the people to vote to REVERSE “Progressive” policies) is totally absent from the modern “Woke” establishment – of which Sir Keir Starmer is very much a part. It does not matter how much Progressive policies fail if no one is allowed to openly express dissent – without being punished as a “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobe”, “transphobe”, “Islamophobe” and-so-on.

    With dissent outlawed, as it de facto will be, there is nothing much people can do – other than leave (if they can) or stay and watch the country collapse around them.

  • Paul Marks

    It was not just Harold Laski who wanted to de facto outlaw dissent- outlaw the right of people to oppose “Progressive” (read Collectivist) policies and to vote to REVERSE (roll back) this statism. Professor Pigou (Cambridge) de facto wanted to do this as well – it was “scientific” to support higher taxes you see, and people must not be allowed to roll back this “science”.

    It was one of the in-jokes in J.M. Keynes “General Theory” (1936) that Pigou is presented as a free market economist – he was nothing of the kind, but generations of students assume (because they do not check) that Pigou was a conservative who “reformer” Keynes was rebelling against.

    Soon the dream of Professors Laski and Pigou will be upon us – the de facto outlawing of dissent, but by a means they did not think of.

    Screaming “racist, sexist, homophobe, transphobe, Islamophobe” (and so on) at anyone the regime wants to silence and punish.

    A trick thought up by the late Herbert Marcuse (who argued that “reactionary” speech should not be allowed – because it “harmed” “disadvantaged” and “marginalised” groups who were “exploited and oppressed” under capitalism) – and which now is coming to dominate the Western world.

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