Friday 21 November 2014

Liberalism redivivus: UKIP are liberals

The Liberal Democrats got 0.87% of the vote in the Rochester by-election in the UK - some 349 votes. But they are not liberals - UKIP, who won the seat, are. Real, classical liberals.

The Lib Dems scored a lower percentage than any major party in a British by-election since 1918. Lower than any Liberal in the 1950s or 60s. Anywhere in the UK. 
I have three times as many Facebook friends as there were Lib Dem voters in Rochester. Isn't that absolutely wonderful? 

It restores ones faith in human nature.

What are liberals? Sir William Harcourt in 1872 gave the best definition, forty years before the Liberal Party decided to embrace the state.
Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world.
Admittedly, the Gladstonian liberals were internationalists, not isolationists, but it would be anachronistic to decide that this would therefore make Gladstone or his followers admirers of the EU, which seems to me to interfere with everything it can. Nor would John Stuart Mill have favoured mass immigration. He said in his Essay on Representative Government:
Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state.
I am not a liberal but esteem liberals - true 19th century ones like UKIP - and there is very little difference nowadays between them and true conservatives. Single-sex marriage might have appealed to John Stuart Mill but not to the Protestant strain in liberalism exemplified by Gladstone and it does not to UKIP. But there are very few liberal or conservative politicians these days. Some people in England are still interested in freedom, the liberal idea, or tradition, the conservative idea - but very many of the English are not very interested in either. This is especially true in the universities, as the very estimable Brendan O'Neill, who is a Trotskyite, reports here. 

In place of freedom, more and more the British are concerned by money, the welfare state and avoiding discrimination. For many these things are not only more important than freedom but have taken the place of the sacred

By the way, I have no idea why Emily Thornberry MP's tweet of a photograph of a white van in front of a house garlanded with St. George's flags should be a 'gaffe'. Her photograph was not mocking in any way. What a fool Ed Miliband is to have sacked her for it and to have said that he felt a sense of “respect” whenever he saw a white van. Mr. Miliband is a nerd and the press are bullies who see he is afraid of them. He is also an ass and too small a man to lead his party.

He managed to turn a news story about a Conservative defeat into a defeat for him. It all seems to have taken leave of reality and moved into an alternative time-space continuum. The writer Jeremy Duns tweeted:
I tried to explain Thornberry to my wife (Swedish-Finn). Got to point Ed said he respected white vans and she asked if it was a real story.

On this subject one last, elegaic point. I liked it when - twenty years ago - the English flag was only seen flying on the towers of country churches and was redolent of rural calm.


  1. You are mistaken. Liberals/liberalism have/has evolved since the 19th century. That's why you are under the impression that the Lib Dems are not liberals.

    A liberal

    1. They evolved towards authoritarianism or statism. Now they want to ban things. They even want to ban funfairs giving goldfish away as prizes. The Liberal Democrats want statutory press regulation and privacy laws. On the continent liberals still exist.

    2. You only think it's authoritarianism because you happen to not like the rules they propose. For instance, unlike most conservatives, I don't feel that my freedom is being restricted and that the world is coming to and end because it's no longer socially acceptable to use racial slurs or because we're trying to be more mindful of animal welfare.

    3. Not true. I do not want racial slurs to be acceptable and want us to be mindful of animal welfare. I do like freedom. Like Sir William Harcourt.

    4. Well then don't moan about them...

    5. I had no idea what you were talking about but now I see. You think goldfish should not be given away at funfairs. Actually I borrowed that example from Boris Johnson and could have mentioned many others - worst of all after press regulation might be Vince Cable's absolutely shocking desire to force companies to appoint a certain number of women directors. But I could go on for years.

  2. Paul - in many ways UKIP is a Gladstonian liberal party. George Callaghan

  3. I don't think you could have looked particularly closely at UKIP recently. They are a long way off being liberals. Socialists of the 1950s British variety is the nearest I can think of. The Liberal Democrats are not liberals either, of course. There is, actually, still a Liberal Party but I don't know if they ever put up candidates in national elections.
    Helen Szamuely

  4. The other parties had a conspiracy of silence about the European Union. Now they have all agreed to an in-out referendum and they want to renegotiate the terms of membership. Why are they even talking about it? It is because UKIP has put the frighteners on them. There was an elite consensus that ever more power must be pooled with the European Union and this was in the teeth of public opinion. I am glad that UKIP has burst in on this complacent coterie in Westminster.
    Dennis Skinner's rant was his usual demagogic drivel. He pretends as though the NHS belongs to Labour. In 2010 more doctors voted Conservative than Labour. Skinner would have us believe that no Britishers work in the NHS. Does every immigrant work in the NHS? UKIP does not want to forbid all immigration. It wants highly skilled immigrants as he has said. Skinner's dishonest screed appeals to simpletons and bigots. Without the NHS he would not be alive he said. For that I do not thank the NHS.

  5. That is hilarious. I wish the Liberal Democrats would rebrand themselves: they are, after all, the SDP in exile. They are social-democrats, far detached from any notion of liberalism in the "classical" sense. There is nothing liberal about them. I'm sceptical about UKIP, though. A lot of their public spokespeople, on the BBC and other popular media outlets, have, of late, been pushing a vague level of appeasement towards left-leaning "Old Labour" types in the North of England. I can understand why, but I don't think it is mere strategy. I think there is a contingent within that party which supports statist economics, which is hardly libertarian. I don't believe an overnight dissolution of the state would help in any way, because the general public opinion in this country would not permit it, but some of these people don't seem to think it's a desirable long-term project either.

    All that written, I have voted for UKIP in the last two elections and will do again in 2015. Even if they are not exactly what I would like them to be, they are still better than the grim alternatives!

  6. It may seem abrupt, but after reading the title I didn’t even bother reading the content.

    For us Romanians, UKIP is that extremist political party which fomented and lead the abominable hate and dirt anti-Romanian smear campaign during 2013.
    UKIP is a nomine horribilis in Romania.

    1. UKIP is not against any foreigners, but against uncontrolled immigration because we are a small island, now bursting at its seams. I have followed the debate and Nigel Farage took out an ad in the broadsheets because he was misquoted and he got some facts about the Romanian crime gangs operating in London around ATMs. Those facts were backed up by crime statistics, he wasn't making it up. Romanian's have nothing to fear from UKIP, the EU certainly has though.

    2. Thank you for illustrating my point about the toxicity of the dirty propaganda perpetrated by UKIP against Romanians, which led to disinformating and manipulating people.


    3. I just dug up this from my email archive. It’s from a Romanian woman acquaintance who moved to London about 4 or 5 years ago, has a good job and lives in style there. I should say that I do not agree with this lady's comment and think if immigrants are needed in the UK - a big if - Romanians make good ones. But it is worth publishing in the light of the antipathy of Romanians towards UKIP and British people who oppose immigration from Romania.

      'When I see gypsies and sluttish Romanian waitresses in London it makes me want to vomit. I saw Romanian gypsies being disgusting around London and felt ill- like puking. So dirty and uncivilized! Defecating near Marble Arch! I felt pure disgust! I am not religious but I pray God that Britain does not open the gates to them. The good quality ones have already come.'

  7. They got 0.87% of the vote because people finally realised that the Ljb Dems are leftist fascist Nazis. It did take rather a while, but individual people are not stupid moronic cretins, and the truth sank in, finally. It did take a while, but we got there.
    As many Lib Dem fiends were telling me in the 1980s and 1990s - "LOOK, if people won't see reason, then WE WILL JUST HAVE TO RULE BY DECREE!" (They meant it also. They would have done so. - and admitted it cheerfully.)
    David D

  8. This is a very good article by the great Charles Moore: