Saturday, 24 January 2015
Notes from a blue corner: The illiberal left
When I was but a mere student of politics, studying for my A Levels back in 2005/2006 we were introduced to the heady world of ideology, the very building blocks of modern political thought. Sat in the hot, stuffy classroom on a Monday evening we listened as our teacher attempted to dazzle us with the significance of Edmund Burke, the controversy of Michael Oakeshott (the Conservative thinker, not the former Lib Dem peer), different disciplines of Socialism, Eli Kedourie and Nationalism and of course the schism in Liberalism between the Classical and the Modern, or more appropriately the nightwatchman and the interventionist. Exciting concepts indeed!
The reason that I raise this split in the first instance is that I think it importantly qualifies the silent battle that is currently being waged across the country, the struggle for survival of freedom of thought and expression, between those who believe that, however distasteful a free democracy and media means total freedom (Classical Liberals) and those who would seek to have state and legislature control what people have access to and effectively govern our moral compass (Modern Liberals). It is the latter that I want to focus on as it is a likely possibility that it is this bunch who will come to power in May.
The squeeze on freedom has crept up on us, over the last 20 years, disguised beneath words such as ‘fairness’, ‘equality’, ‘parity’ and ‘inoffensive’; stemming primarily from the principles of social democracy laid down by the Wilson Government in 60‘s, refined by Giddens’ ‘Third Way’ and put into practice by the Blair and Brown governments. I think the first inklings of the new system of being offended, on other peoples’ behalf, was the quiet death of political satire during Tony’s first two terms (except Private Eye and latterly Armando Iannucci’s Friday Night Armistice and The Thick of It) where it had run rampant during theThatcher and Major years. It’s gradually returning but perhaps that’s because Cameron has a strong enough constitution to grin and bear it, and the Tories have long been an easy target.
Of course, the liberal left notoriously have an incredibly thin skin and little sense of the ridiculous, afraid of the media they have sought over the years to impose restrictions, campaign to ban sections regarded as ‘exploitative’, censor contrarian commentators and the like. They are so quick to get offended. Look at how uncomfortable most of their front bench are with the media, look how their various interviews are so devoid of humour. Read some of their statements out aloud in the comfort of your own home (which I have done) and listen to how unhinged they sound - especially those of Harriet Harman! What’s so scary is that, in seeking to control media output they believe they are doing the nation a great service... oh dear.
The ‘Brave New World’ we entered in 1997 - and still haven’t left behind - was one which both had a (wrongly) positive view of human nature and one which sought to engineer the state to level competition, stifle aspiration and lazily churn out lowest common denominator policies, which looked good on the surface but were deeply flawed beneath the surface (like American cars). It preached the message of freedom of equality but the freedom to succeed was unattractive and should be frowned upon, even now the British public are wrongly sniffy of those who do well in life. Indeed, it would seem that to the ‘modern’ liberals who dominate the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats ‘success’ is a dirty word, never mind that it’s these ‘successful people’ who drive the economy.
It seems that we now like nothing better than seeing prosperous people dragged through the mud, or to point out the privileged background some of our stars have had, as if it were some social faux pas. The Labour Party have based the last five years of their rhetoric trying to create a culture of social envy, you only have to look at the cringeworthy Chris Bryant’s exchange with affable singer James Blunt (Hugo Rifkind writes a good analysis of this spat), but also statements made by Ed Miliband and co at the dispatch box. Impressive Conservative minister, Esther McVey, summarised it so very well in a Yorkshire Post article towards the end of last year that I don’t think I need to add to much more!
Lastly comes the unpleasant arrogance the liberal left seem to have when it comes to political parties with contrarian messages. I’m no fan of UKIP but I am sure there are plenty of level-headed, socially aware people who vote for them and I don’t think it serves any good purpose to level insults at them. However it seems to be open season and the Labour Party have branded them as ‘neanderthals’, ‘sexists’ and ‘chauvinist pigs’, stuck in the mould of 1950s small ‘c’ conservatism. For them these people are unacceptable and must be censored, insulted and put in the stocks to have rotten cabbages thrown at them. Rather than try and beat them on policies, which would be tricky for them as their’s are almost as ludicrous and UKIP’s are non-existent, they turn to the politics of the playground and seek to insight anger and outrage through insults and questions of the party membership’s moral integrity.
Perhaps its a sign of where we are going though, with more and more people ‘deeply upset’ and ‘mortally offended’ by the smallest remark, news story or criticism. It seems as the liberal left bandwagon marches on, that more and more freedom of expression disappears, avenues to success are bricked off and
I don’t think that Cameron has all the answers, no-one ever does, but he’s a far more human character. Despite holding to some of the principles of a social democracy, he places far more value in a smaller, less intrusive state in which we are able to enjoy a higher-degree of personal and collective freedom than we ever could experience under a Labour government.
It deeply worries me that come May 6th we might have a Labour government, and one which will seek to govern every aspect of our life, manage British business and make offending people (especially them) a political offence. Of course, this is a slight exaggeration, but I hope that this short article with make you take a careful look at this current opposition which seeks to govern us for the next five years.