Posted by David Davis
The late Chris Tame often used to say, in the early days of the Libertarian Alliance, that “we ought to capture the Tory party”. Some of us saw his point: for several years while living in Bedford I tried to influence the local Tories, and even got into trouble for publishing too-liberal stuff in the local newsletter (which I for a time controlled.) At the time, the advantages were obvious; socialism was moribund in the UK and in the Soviet Empire, the prevailing mood was one of Thatcherite optimism and deregulation, freedom was just around the corner for all, and Taki had held a great megabash to celebrate the “End of Communism” (a bit premature, with hindsight, just look at the EU.)
To a far-seeing planner like Chris, a major (no pun intended) remaining obstacle to the triumph of Liberty in the land that gave birth to it was the Tory party itself. Chris also thought that by influencing academics, writers and thinkers, the natural process of libertarianizing Western Politics would go apace……in time. Libertarians knew where they were going and where the world ought to go, and the Tories did not, well, not really: there was no danger of concentration camps any more (we thought?) from British Stalinists, and libertarianism had by then already captured the few intelligent socialists that existed out there in the darkness of the world.
Look at the situation today: a triumphant socialist administration that has stolen all the clothes of the soft-left-Tories, and that correctly anticipates on an almost daily basis what to steal next! This outfit has been in power for 10+ years, looks set to win the next election whether it be now or in say 2010, and may win again after that. The surviving parliamentary Tories themselves, vainly trying to secure their incomes until retirement and beyond, have now no more thoughts of even trying to pretend to adhere to conservative values (that is to say, liberal ones,) they continuously traduce Tory (that is to say, conservative) values and philosphy in an effort to fight the “last war”…..but the political horse has already bolted.
The Tories have indeed been out of power for generational-length times in the past – such as 130+ years ago – but that was when The Nation was substantially Tory for other non-political reasons. To be British was to be broadly conservative:
(1) You rose or fell by your own efforts,
(2) You agreed that poverty, deprivation and ingnorance were hideous because your civilisation and its free institutions were busy showing the nation and the world what was going to be achieved instead,
(3) You distrusted new-fangled philosphies and nostrums, mainly originating in Europe and Russia, both tortured and tormented lands in which (as in the 20th century and also now) no people except the Swiss have been spared all the horrors which Dante would have reserved for the damned.
(4) You saw that the policies able to be carried out by a minimalist state, whose staff then are now outnumbered by today’s staff of say, three of Liverpool’s Soviets, were bringing and would bring comfort, education and some alleviation of suffering to masses of people here and overseas, who had not previously known this level of security.
Poor Karl Marx got it so wrong; he could not understand why the British masses did not revolt. He was a European – specifially a German, and therefore institutionally unable to comprehend what had happened here, and that he had “missed the bus”. Paul Johnson’s chapter on him in “Intellectuals” – “Howling Gigantic Curses” – is illuminating.
The results of conservatism in Britain ought to give comfort then, to modern Libertarians seeking a political role, now that we are so close to a New Dark Age. Brown is no liberal conservative; you have only to read between the lines of his positively anodyne statements of his beliefs, to reveal, er……..nothing at all, other than that he’s going to do stuff to us. He’s a Great Planning Prime Minister, that’s all. That’s why he’s so good at shearing the legs away from the poor Tories every time they propose something, about an hour after he’s said it. Simon Heffer (for Prime Minister – in default of Boris Johnson….) in today’s quisling-graph, analyses what’s now even more wrong with the way the Tories are conducting themselves.
So what’s left? The skull if a formerly-major party that once stood for people being better at taking their own decisions that the state can for them, and er, ummm……….that’s it. Is it worth taking it over? I don’t think so, but in the meantime there is no party that represents a still large although falling number of real people with real decided opinions that are broadly liberal.
“liberals” I take to include; people who want to leave the EU; people who think citizens ought to be able to retaliate against burgulators and robbers; people who think the “national curriculum” is a load of pretentious boring socialist crap, and especially damaging – deliberately - to poorer boys; people who think the idea of a DNA database is fundametally evil a-priori; people who think that one’s personal energy consumption patterns (“carbon footprint?”) are private matters, to be determined in a free market for energy by one’s own preferences and personal budget; people who think there are too many statutory crimes which are nothing to do with protecting Life, Liberty and Property, and the enforcement of whose laws give rise to volumes of other more damaging crime, such as “drug-related” robberies, murders and the like.
There ought still to be a sufficient number of such people, once such a position has been explained to them, to make a substantial franchise base for a new party. I don’t think it’s possible to resurrect the “Conservative” brand any more, now that it has been so tarnished both by Blair’s assaults on it directly and by its reprehensible stewardship under Cameron in particular. (Hague going to the State-Authorised-Notting-Hill-Race-Riot in a baseball cap didn’t help much either.)
So…the party? No. But its natural “core” voters? Yes. Cameron has, by his actions and statements let it be known that he doesn’t want them any more; he’s more interested in reducing Labour’s majority than in supporting views that might (or might not) get him one of his own. Quisling.
So…let’s put the Conservative Party out of its misery finally, and get these electors for ourselves. It will of course not be long before the smear-campaigns start, so we would (or whoever led it) have to be careful how we all (have) behaved, since we were about three-and-a-half.
I think it’s time for British libertarians to go political.