Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The need for British Liberalism

Simon Jenkins attack on the Liberal Democrats in The Guardian is a bleat of pain from that section of the British establishment that no longer understands the modern world. Comfortable at home with his knighthood and his directorships, his occasional ventures out into the real world leave him confused and baffled.

For him politics is a binary choice: everyone is either a little Labourite or a little Conservative, and these two should take turns in power. Though the labels change, the perquisites of Sir Simon and the other soi-disant "great and good"will therefore remain unchallenged.

He does not understand that politics has changed- and that the British will no longer accept the cosy cabal of these two. The major trend over the past thirty years has been the consistent growth of the power of Liberalism. This growth has come despite repeated crises: the near disaster of the Thorpe trial, the rise and fall of the SDP, the near death of the merged Social and Liberal Democrats and the crisis of the last two years. Although disappointed by our failure to make more progress last week, the Liberal Democrats are within 1% of their highest vote ever.

There are two reasons why this is so, and why Simon Jenkins absurd critique is simply wrong headed. Firstly Liberalism is a set of clear principles based upon a philosophy of freedom. In many ways it is fair to call the Liberal Democrats the most ideological party- our policies, such as opposition to ID cards, are based upon setting limits to state power. Though we have not been so ideological about economics, increasingly we are developing Liberal ideas on taxation and administration based upon greater transparency, accountability and fiscal limits. We are the heirs to the sceptical intellectual tradition of J.S. Mill, and as such we hold to principle and not the convenient pragmatism that establishment figures like Sir Simon prefer to regard as the root of good governance.

To that end, of course Sir Simon hates the Liberal Democrats: we are revolutionaries.
We are determined to create a modern, liberal society from the rag bag of convention and compromise that big wigs like the former Times editor fails to notice has dragged down our country. He hates us because we believe in principles which do not necessarily give advantage to party, but which are the right thing for our country.

The fact that Simon Jenkins rant was published in the The Guardian- the most consistently anti-Liberal newspaper in the UK- simply reminds us that revolutionaries have few friends amongst the self-appointed philosopher kings of the left, or right.


Peter Mc said...

...simply reminds us that revolutionaries have few friends amongst the self-appointed philosopher kings of the left, or right.

Very good.

Anonymous said...


Tom Papworth said...

I've never seen you so riled. You're practically having to wipe the foam from your lips.

Now you know why I don't read The Guardian.

Cicero said...

I increasingly loathe the Grauniad- the sanctimonious garbage of La Toynbee, the "we know better" Rusbridger Smugness, the whole Socialist arrogance of it.

So Let us no longer pretend that this is the Liberal "Manchester Guardian" of old- it has become the Morning Star without a moral compass.

And even the Torygraph gives us fairer coverage