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What Is The Point Of Theresa May?

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Right now, Britain needs a leader, not a placeholder – Theresa May needs to step up and set some ambitious national goals, or else be swept aside to make room for a real conservative leader

David Mellor doesn’t know what Theresa May stands for. And as Christopher Hope writes in the Telegraph, Mellor has good reason to be confused:

Theresa May is proving as Prime Minister that she is no Margaret Thatcher, a former Thatcherite minister has said, because she is not “seizing the initiative”.

David Mellor, who served under Baroness Thatcher for three years, said “the description of Theresa May as the new Margaret Thatcher is as wide of the mark as it could possibly be”.

Mr Mellor urged Mrs May to call a general election next year and win a larger House of Commons majority. The Tories have a consistently strong polling lead over Labour.

Mr Mellor was a minister in Lady Thatcher’s last government in four departments from 1987 to her resignation in November 1990.

He said Mrs May had shown herself “infirm of purpose”, most recently over the Christmas strikes at post offices, Southern Rail and Heathrow airport, where action will take place later this week.

He told Sky News’ Murnaghan: “When I was a minister for four years she treated me with even more disrespect than my mother did, but Margaret Thatcher knew what she wanted do and did it.

“I don’t think Theresa May knows what she wants to do. Her advisers appear to be the ones that create the headlines. I think she is sitting there and she is infirm of purpose, and she needs to seize the initiative.

“The main initiative she needs to seize is to have an election and get herself a mandate.”

This blog has never joined the calls for an early general election, not least because the laudable idea of having fixed term parliaments is rather undermined if we suspend the rule on the first occasion it becomes politically inconvenient. But if triggering a general election is what it takes to force Theresa May to really think about what kind of prime minister she wants to be (and hopefully give the British people a clue as well) then maybe we should just get on with it. Because right now Britain is idling in neutral at a time when we should be setting a firm course and all striving to pull in the same direction.

The underlying problem is that having succeeded to the office of prime minister unexpectedly in the most turbulent of times (in the wake of David Cameron’s resignation and Andrea Leadsom’s surprise departure from the following Conservative Party leadership contest), Theresa May evidently took office without ever having clearly thought about what it is that she wanted to achieve through her leadership of Britain (the recent Sunday Times interview is heavy on temperament and almost completely lacking in vision).

And it shows. Mellor cites Theresa May’s supposed “infirmity of purpose” when it comes to things like tackling the strikes on Southern Rail, but those are side issues. More troubling than May’s failure to get tough with striking railway workers is the fact that she used her first party conference speech as prime minister to declare war not on Labour and the vested interests of the Left, but on the libertarian Right.

What’s worrying is that Theresa May’s government has passed the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, dynamite for privacy and civil liberties, and is still toying with the idea of enforcing section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act and Part 2 of the Leveson Report, further curtailing freedom of the press. It is not just that we do not know enough about Theresa May’s agenda for Britain – what little we do no should give small government conservatives everywhere cause for concern.

Contrast this to the last great transformative Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who had four years behind her as Leader of the Opposition in which to solidify her worldview and flesh it out with policy (notably from the Stepping Stones Report and Centre for Policy Studies think tank) before taking office. By the time Thatcher entered 10 Downing Street in May 1979, she had not only diagnosed Britain’s ailments but formed a fairly clear idea of how she intended to tackle them, even though the road ahead was inevitably marked by missteps and challenges.

Theresa May appears to have no such plan. If she has a burning ambition to change Britain from an X type of country to a Y type of country then she is keeping her cards very close to her chest, for there is no evidence of such a goal. All we have is her reputation of flinty-eyed authoritarianism and aversion to publicity, earned during six years at the Home Office, a grammar school fetish and some woolly words about focusing her government’s attention on helping the JAMs (people who are Just About Managing).

The danger, therefore, is that with Brexit on her plate, a populist rebellion afoot in the country and challenges abroad, Theresa May’s government will become so preoccupied with fighting fires and engaging in daily damage control that the big picture vision never emerges at all. Mellor is right to say that most of the useful tidbits of information about the government’s intentions have come not from the prime minister but from public spats between rival cabinet members. And who can be surprised that such turf wars are underway when there is no clear drumbeat emanating from Number 10?

Of course, Theresa May is by no means the first politician to reach 10 Downing Street without a plan for what to do in government. Gordon Brown famously spent so long plotting his own ascension and the downfall of Tony Blair that he cut a uniquely uninspired and uninspiring figure among world leaders, at least until the global financial crisis breathed some fire into his belly (even if his “solution” was hiking the top income tax rate up to an immoral 50 percent).

There are times when a bland and uninspiring individual, a technocrat, is the right leader for the moment – primarily when times are good and the key imperative is not to rock the boat. This scenario does not describe Britain in 2016. Brexit may be foremost of our challenges, but there are others, too. And from Theresa May’s cautious and unambitious start in office, it is difficult to see how she – and we – are to best confront them.

 

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Defenders Of The Nation State Are Not The Authoritarians Here – That Would Be The Unrepentant Globalists

One does not need to be a snarling authoritarian to reject the anti nation state, globalist worldview – and if being wary about the survival of our rights and liberties in a post-patriotic world makes one a populist then so be it

During his recent Intelligence Squared debate/discussion with Nick Clegg on the causes of the populist backlash currently roiling British, European and American politics, Jonathan Haidt makes an interesting observation:

Once you have these incredibly prosperous, peaceful, progressive societies, they people there begin to do a few things. First off, not everybody has those values. Everybody in the capital city and the university towns, they have these values. So if you look at our countries, in America we’re pretty retrograde in some ways, but if you look at our bubble places they’re just like Sweden. And that means that these people now think that, you know, nation states, they’re so arbitrary. And just imagine if there were no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Imagine if there was nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too! So this is the way the values shift, and this is what I and others are calling – the new left/right is the globalists versus the nationalists.

And so the globalist ethos is “tear down the walls, tear down the borders, nation states are arbitrary, why should my government privilege the people who happen to be born here rather than people who are much poorer elsewhere?” And so you get this globalist idea, you begin to get even a denial of patriotism, the claim – there are some pictures going around right wing media now in the United States of anti-Trump protesters holding signs that say “patriotism is racism”. So you get people acting in this globalist way, inviting immigration, spitting on the nation state, spitting on the country and people who are patriotic, and very opposed to assimilation when there is integration because that, as people on the Left in America would say that’s cultural genocide.

So you get wealthy, wonderful, successful societies that are so attractive to poor people around the world you get a flood of immigration, and they are met by the globalists who say “welcome welcome welcome, don’t assimilate because we don’t want to deny you your culture”. And this triggers an incredible emotional reaction in people who have the psychological type known as authoritarianism.

Now it’s a very negative term, but there’s a lot of psychological diversity in this world; there are some people who are attracted to the Lennonist vision, the John Lennon vision and there are other people who are more parochial – I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean there are people who really care about hearth and home and God and country, and they are actually friends of order and stability, and they are friends of many good things about civic life.

But when they perceive that everybody is coming apart, that the moral world is coming apart, that’s when they get really racist, homophobic, they want to clamp down, they want to restore moral order, and if anybody here saw Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Committee that’s exactly what he said, he modelled himself after Richard Nixon’s 1968 speech, a time when cities are burning, there are riots, and Nixon came in – law and order will be restored, and that’s basically what Trump’s whole speech was.

So what I’m saying is successful democratic capitalist societies create – they change values, they generate wealth, they invite people in and then they make some of the people act in ways that trigger the other people to be furious, and those other people actually have a point because you have to have trust and social capital to have a redistributive welfare state. My point is that yes the economy matters and economic changes matter, but they matter in ways which always run through psychology.

I follow Haidt’s argument, but I do not see myself or many others of my acquaintance in the binary model he describes. For a start, I see nothing particularly liberal about the starry-eyed EU-supporting globalists, particularly when one examines the full palette of their typical political opinions. And there is certainly nothing inherently authoritarian about being a small-c conservative and fearing the jettisoning of the nation state in favour of an ill-defined globalism built upon the foundation of supranational institutions which are flawed, remote from the people and totally lacking in democratic legitimacy.

I and this blog are about as far from authoritarianism as it is possible to get, despite being staunchly pro-Brexit and anti-elite. I alternately use the labels conservatarian and libertarian to describe this blog’s desire for a much smaller state and greatly enhanced personal liberty – give me classical liberalism or give me death! The difference is that I see a strong and healthy nation state as being essential to the defence of these personal liberties, while the globalists (as described by Haidt) seem to lazily imagine that these liberties will automatically continue to endure beyond the era of the nation state.

Our experience with supranational governance – whether the United Nations or, more viscerally, the European Union, has not been a pleasant one in terms of democracy, accountability or the amount of control that ordinary people feel they have over their lives. Perhaps there are ways to reform those institutions in theory, but in practice they are loath to change and almost allergic to close scrutiny. Recall, even the prospect of losing its second largest economy and most powerful military member could not persuade the EU to consider the smallest of meaningful reforms.

Thus the European Union plods blindly onward towards a federal destination set decades ago by grey old men who presumed to decide for us how we ought to govern ourselves in the years following the Second World War, but who never thought to ask our permission. And the result is a remote and unloved supranational government whose “founding fathers” are unheralded and whose true leaders lack all accountability.

More worryingly, the ability of organic popular movements to influence the direction of supranational juggernauts like the EU is almost non-existent. Whether it is anti-austerity movements in Greece or the need for domestic industries to influence vital global trading rules in forums at which the EU speaks for all of us while really representing none of us, it is almost impossible to get the attention of EU leaders or encourage them to change direction. Just ask Greece’s Alexis Tsipras, or anybody who used to work in Britain’s beleaguered fishing industry.

I am patriotic because I love my country and consider it special and exceptional, yes. But I am also patriotic because I believe that the basic unit of the nation state remains a crucial building block in the world order, essential to the defence of our rights and liberties, and will remain so until humanity finds a way to make the various supranational institutions now undermining nation states more democratically legitimate and more responsive to popular opinion.

And so when confronted with a movement full of people who talk eagerly about being post-patriotic, who revel in being “more European than British” and who want to dissolve our democracy into a remote and dysfunctional supranational government of Europe without a second thought for our own distinct history and culture, I oppose them. Because however well-intentioned they may be, they are actively undermining the one institution (imperfect though it may be) which has thus far kept us relatively free and prosperous for centuries – our own nation state, the United Kingdom.

Does this make me an “authoritarian”? I hardly see how. While Britain has its share of authoritarian tendencies (which I despise and frequently campaign against), these tend to be even stronger on the continent. If hate speech laws seem draconian here, they would only become stricter if we were to harmonise our laws with those of much of mainland Europe. Want the police to regularly use water cannon to break up public protests? Again, look to Europe, not Britain. Much of Europe is ambivalent about property rights, to the extent that no watertight right to property is truly enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

And putting all that aside, the vast majority of people in this and other European countries, when asked, do not want their countries to become dissolved into a federal European government and assume the subordinate rank of American states. Maybe rejecting this Utopian vision is backward and foolish, but a fully federal Europe is not what people want (which is why the EU has been forced to move in this direction by unapologetic stealth and deception for over half a century). So since the majority of people in the countries of Europe are not yet post-patriotic, how does opposing an institution which seeks to covertly undermine their wishes make me an authoritarian? And how does it make the people who know the truth but still support this vision enlightened “liberals”?

So much as I admire Jonathan Haidt, hail his work in exposing the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics and agree with most of his diagnosis of the reasons behind the current populist backlash, I cannot support his conclusion because it totally fails to take into account people like me and other liberal Leavers and Brexiteers.

Indeed, Haidt’s usual perceptiveness appears to desert him when he suggests that something simply snaps and makes people “get really racist, homophobic” when confronted with pro-globalism policies and sentiments. That is simply not how it works. All racists may be anti-globalist almost by definition, but that does not mean that everybody with reservations about globalism (as it currently exists) is remotely prone to racism.

Clearly there are other reasons for opposing globalist projects (or the current state of globalism, at least) that have nothing to do with authoritarianism, including those I have outlined here, which Haidt fails to take into consideration.

The full picture behind 2016’s populist backlash has yet to be fully understood.

 

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Donald Trump’s Inexcusable Loyalists Deserve To Be Betrayed As He Chooses His Cabinet

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Donald Trump loyalists betrayed conservatism by supporting the president-elect during the campaign; if they are now betrayed by Trump and frozen out of his administration it will be sweet justice

As Donald Trump’s cabinet takes shape, some of those who sacrificed the most reputationally and ideologically to get on board the Trump train are angry that the president-elect is giving consideration to other people who refused to campaign with him, even those who may not have voted for him.

Sarah Palin (who, to be fair, didn’t have much of a reputation to sacrifice) has now belatedly rediscovered her commitment to small government after apparently finding out that there will be no place for her in the Trump administration. In response to this slight, Palin took to the newspapers accusing Donald Trump of promoting “crony capitalism” for offering incentives to business to keep production in the United States.

That’s not quite what she was saying a month ago when she was praising and supporting Trump, and it is slightly jarring to see her pivot effortlessly back to Tea Party talking points having previously embraced Trump so strongly.

But nothing has made the Trump loyalists as angry as the gnawing possibility that Donald Trump might pick Mitt Romney to be his Secretary of State over his dedicated henchman Rudy Giuliani, one of the only people to publicly defend Trump after the leaked ‘p*ssygate’ recordings made the news. Why should Rudy be overlooked, the thinking goes, when he did everything for Trump while Mitt Romney looked on distastefully from the sidelines?

The Trump loyalists deserve absolutely no sympathy in this regard – though Jonah Goldberg does an excellent job of summarising their predicament in this week’s G-file:

Consider the following thought experiment. A very rich guy makes you an offer: “If you eat this bowl of sh**, I will grant you a wish.” You think about it for a minute or two, and then you grab a wooden spoon and start to dig in, when the rich guy says, “Hold on. You’ve got to do it publicly.”

Well, you figure, “What’s the difference? Once I get my wish it will be worth it.” So, you head on over to a television studio with your plastic bib and your spoon, and you tuck into the steaming bowl like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials.

Then the rich guy says, “Sorry, one more thing: I can only give you a coupon for your wish. But, I promise to honor it once I get the job of genie. Just keep eating.”

What to do? You’ve already acquired a reputation for coprophagia and no one else is offering wish-coupons, so you stick it out. Besides, you’re not alone. A bunch of other folks have been promised similar coupons and you’ve formed a tightknit group. You spend a lot of time talking about how smart you are for agreeing to this arrangement. You fantasize about what you’ll do with your wishes and how sorry the naysayers will be.

Then, the rich guy gets the job of genie. Woo-hoo!

Naturally, you want to redeem your coupon. But all of a sudden, the rich guy starts playing coy. He’s honoring the coupon for some people, but not you. That would be fine — one coupon at a time and all. But then you learn that the genie-elect is giving out coupons to people who didn’t partake of the fecal feast. Uh oh.

And then you see news reports that the big man is not only giving out wishes to people who never earned a coupon, but he’s considering granting a wish to the foremost guy who criticized the big man and tried to keep him from being able to grant wishes at all!

Okay, this getting belabored. But you get the point. If Trump remains the loyalist, Gingrich, Huckabee et al. have golden tickets. The last thing they want is Willie Wonka Trump letting just anybody into the chocolate factory.

This blog finds it very hard to generate sympathy for those big-name American conservatives who so comprehensively sold out their own ideology and their own party to Donald Trump.

If the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin now find themselves betrayed and left out of the Trump administration they helped to inflict on America, it is still nothing compared to the betrayal of conservatism that they committed by throwing the principles of freedom and small government out the window to worship at the feet of a thin-skinned, constitutionally illiterate big government authoritarian.

May their time in the wilderness be long and full of regrets.

 

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Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal? Part 2 – Maajid Nawaz Calls Out The Illiberal British Left

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Maajid Nawaz warns about the rise of the “Control Left”, an authoritarian tendency which has left liberalism and liberal values far behind

Recently, this blog took to task those on the authoritarian Left who have reacted to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump by falsely draping themselves in the clothes of liberalism and hysterically mourning an idealised liberal past which they did as much as anybody else to knife in the back.

In that piece, I made the point that people who only weeks ago could be found arguing for greater censorship, the expansion of “hate crime” legislation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco, national ID cards, longer pre-trial detention periods and even more intrusive government surveillance have absolutely no business calling themselves “liberal”.

Though the authoritarian Right are by no means innocent in this regard, it must be acknowledged that most of the recent assaults on liberty and liberalism have come from the Left, in America as well as Britain.

Picking up on this thread, Maajid Nawaz hits the nail on the head on his LBC talk radio show yesterday:

I suspect that the most vocal elements of the Left – and I don’t mean every single person who sympathises with left-wing views, let me make that very clear, I’m talking about the organised left, the most vocal elements of our Left, and the Left in the form of Momentum who have taken over the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – my view is that that Left, today’s Left, today’s active, organised Left is no longer liberal.

What do I mean by that? Well let’s look at a few things that I don’t consider to be liberal. Let’s look at censorship, let’s look at being “post-factual”, let’s look at violence being seen as an option, let’s look at prioritising group identity over individual rights. None of these four traits are liberal.

Censorship is not liberal, so when today’s organised Left begins organising in campuses and across colleges across the nation, across the world, and says things like “you cannot say that here, this is a safe space, we will exclude you from speaking because your views offend us”, when they choose to take offence, when they become more sensitive, and so sensitive in fact that they want to shut debate down simply because they don’t like what somebody is saying, that’s not a liberal approach. A liberal will always prioritise free speech over offence.

What about being post-factual? Well I remember – and I hope many of you remember – at the beginning of this year, the way in which mass sex attacks were reported in the German city of Cologne. And what was known then as the liberal press actively conspired to cover up that news. Facts were known and they were not reported because they didn’t want to be accused of being racist. The German state television station had to come out and openly apologise, days later, when they realised that this story was not one that they could cover up. So being post-factual is also not being liberal.

What about considering violence as an option? When you have the Shadow Chancellor of the UK Labour Party, John McDonnell, being caught on video saying that it’s okay to riot, it’s okay to destroy property and to ruin people’s lives and their private property, that’s not liberal. That may be anarchist, it may be revolutionary hard-left socialist, as John McTernan suggested, but it isn’t liberal.

When people are prioritising group identity over individual rights, saying things like “kill all white men”, saying things like “black people can’t be racist because racism is about power and only white men have power” – Diane Abbott says that. Well I’m sorry Diane Abbott MP, go and walk into any council estate and speak to a white working class lad and try and have a rational, reasonable conversation with that young white working class lad and tell him that he has more power than you, and that’s why you can’t be racist towards him. Complete and utter rubbish. But when group identity is prioritised over individual rights in that way, when leftist activists think it’s okay to say “kill all white men” and that that’s somehow an empowering statement, when they think it’s okay to be racist to all white people as a group, and think somehow that’s what it means to be progressive, erasing the individual, stereotyping entire groups, that is not liberal.

So I have taken the view that this behaviour – censorship on the organised Left, post-factual behaviour, violence being seen as an option and prioritising group identity over individual rights, that isn’t liberal. And like the alt-right has emerged, we’ve now got this new group – it’s called the Control Left. They want to control our lives, control what we think, control how we behave, control how we even feel. And control what we think. That is not liberal. That is the Control Left.

So my message to you, Control Left, is stop telling us you are liberal. My message to the press: stop describing them as the liberal Left, they are no longer liberal. Call them for what they are – Control Left.

A devastating excoriation of the modern Left. And while I’m not sure that Nawaz’s preferred phrase “the Control Left” will catch on, it does describe quite plainly their new strategy of bringing about change not through persuasion but by coercion and force.

Maajid Nawaz has cause to be particularly aware of the new illiberalism gripping the Left, having recently been singled out by the fabled Southern Poverty Law Center in America for supposedly promoting anti-Islamic extremism, a ludicrous accusation given that Nawaz is himself a Muslim. (Nawaz’s real sin was to call for moderate Islam to take more responsibility for its violent, fundamentalist offshoots at a time when much of the Left is furiously pretending that “there is nothing Islamic about ISIS”).

We now need many more people to summon the courage and willingness to tell truth to power exhibited by Maajid Nawaz. It’s all very well having dyed-in-the-wool conservative, libertarian or conservatarian journalists and bloggers such as myself ranting on about the many ways that the modern Left has left liberalism behind. But we can only carry the message so far – since it is we who are most often the targets of this censorship and identity politics, it is too easy for the Control Left to accuse us of acting in our own self-interest rather than the national interest.

Therefore it is vital that more left-wing liberals like Maajid Nawaz stand up and call out these authoritarian tendencies, declaring “not in my name” to the censorship, bullying and control freakery of the modern Left. This is in their interest as much as anyone else’s – with the election of Donald Trump in America, we have seen that peddling a constant diet of authoritarian identity politics eventually provokes a similar identity politics backlash among those groups not marked out for special favour by the Left.

So for the country’s sake as much as their own, those on the Left must learn to renounce authoritarianism and seek to achieve their political agenda through persuasion rather than coercion. To continue on their present course is to plant the seeds of their own destruction, as well as ours.

 

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Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal?

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The vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidential election victory seems to have wrongly convinced an entire army of snarling, leftist authoritarians that they are actually the virtuous defenders of liberalism

Is anybody else getting mighty sick of the constant parade of left-wing, Big Government-supporting authoritarians suddenly rushing to cloak themselves in the veil of “liberalism” as they struggle to process what they see as successive defeats in the EU referendum and the US presidential election?

I can’t think of a word that has been more overused by pundits since everybody got together a couple of years ago and decided that the related N-word (neoliberalism) was this season’s hottest fashion statement, and started accusing everybody whose views they dislike of being an Evil Neoliberal, as though it were some devastatingly intellectual insult.

Here’s the FT, weeping into their cornflakes about the supposed death-throes of liberalism:

Mr Trump’s victory, coming after the Brexit referendum vote in Britain, looks like another grievous blow to the liberal international order. Mr Trump must decide, by his actions and words, whether he intends to contribute to the great unravelling, at incalculable cost to the west.

And the Independent:

Democracy is changing, and not for the better, but those who believe in liberal values, tolerance and protecting the environment can learn from this setback and fight back.

The Independent, of course, promotes liberal tolerance through its courteous and magnanimous treatment of those who dare to dissent from its positions on social issues, climate change and global governance.

Here’s the Spectator:

In her concession speech, Clinton said her goal had been ‘breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams‘. This is the dream of liberalism, which seeks freedom from any social or economic constraint. Elites like Clinton feel confident that they can navigate a deregulated society in which class, gender, and race are all fluid. They support deregulated markets as well, confident that free trade and open borders will serve their own interests in the near term and the whole country’s in the longer term.

Freedom from any social constraint? Only if one happens to agree with the elite.

And the Spectator again, covering itself in even more glory:

The challenge to liberalism is still seen as an argument to be won rather than an irreversible sea-change. But, if anything, the scale of the problem has been understated. The core tenets of liberalism are freedom and equality, ideas that are under siege.

Oh, and let’s not forget the prime minister herself, Theresa May, speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on Monday evening:

Change is in the air. And when people demand change, it is the job of politicians to respond.

But it’s also the job of all those in positions of influence and power – politicians, business leaders and others – to understand the drivers of that demand too.

And I think that if we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.

Let’s be clear: those forces have had – and continue to have – an overwhelmingly positive impact on our world.

It really has come to something quite strange when Theresa May – a flinty eyed authoritarian who gives me pause any time I check a book out of the library, lest her government use my borrowing history as a pretext for throwing me in jail next week – seeks to wrap herself in the mantle of small-L liberalism.

But now everyone seems to be at it, suddenly claiming that they are terribly “liberal” while the people they dislike are not. Politicians and pundits who only months ago could be found calling for people to be banned from entering the country due to their political beliefs are now rending their garments at the election of a man who suggested that people should be banned because of their religious ones. And in so doing, they declare themselves to be the defenders of liberalism, while utterly oblivious to the irony of it all.

People who wanted to usher in national ID cards, strengthen the surveillance state, extend pre-charge detention, ban UKIP voters from fostering or adopting children, throw people in jail for their Facebook and Twitter posts, arrest people for singing the wrong songs at a football match, ban advertisements for being offensive, hike taxes even higher on cigarettes or alcohol or ban them altogether, levy regressive taxes on soft drinks, erect safe spaces on university campuses, slap trigger warnings on academic syllabuses, shame or punish people for the Halloween costumes that they choose to wear, get people fired from their jobs for holding or expressing the wrong opinion, strangle religious freedom and force people to violate their faiths by positively affirming the actions and lifestyle choices of others – these people are suddenly all over the airwaves, lamenting that it is actually those Evil Brexiteers and Donald Trump supporters who have supposedly brought our previously-idyllic liberal age crashing down in flames.

Well sorry, but this pious, self-aggrandising argument is complete baloney. I can’t speak for Donald Trump supporters, not being one myself, but I am very adamant that my vote for Brexit was a liberal vote for strong, globally-engaged nation state democracy. I and millions of others voted to leave the European Union because it sought to impose a degree of supranational government upon us which far outweighs the limited extent to which most Britons consider themselves European and consent to such governance. I did so because I judged that my inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are to this day best defended by a strong nation state with a reinvigorated national democracy, and not a remote supranational union with some of the superficial trappings – but none of the spirit – of democratic accountability. Voting for Brexit was perhaps the most profoundly liberal thing I have done on my thirty-three years on this good Earth.

And yet now I am supposed to sit back while every two-bit authoritarian with a newspaper column publishes tedious identikit dirges alleging that I, a staunch libertarian conservative, am supposedly at the vanguard of a dystopian new illiberal movement sweeping across the world and shrouding humanity in darkness and uncertainty? Hell no.

If liberalism is so great – and by and large, it is – then it would be nice if some of liberalism’s new fair-weather friends tried to remember the ideology’s core principles once they have finished weeping about Trump and Brexit and turned their attention back to more mundane political events. Perhaps they might care to remember the term they so glibly appropriated next time they call for something they disagree with to be banned, or for somebody who offends them to be punished by the criminal justice system. What do you think are the chances that this will happen?

After a week of this incessant, tedious refrain about the “death of liberalism” from the commentariat, I have just about had enough of my liberalism being culturally appropriated by the snarlingly authoritarian Regressive Left. It is only in the reflection of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage’s wildest rhetoric that their own paternalistic, control-freakish, coercive instincts can be even semi-plausibly pitched as being remotely liberal, and those of us with long memories and functioning brains know these pearl-clutchers for what they really are – persistent, deadly enemies to true liberalism.

 

Postscript: In this excellent piece, Pete North slaps down the idea that the West is somehow turning its back on liberalism, drawing a crucial distinction between genuine small-L liberalism which is as popular as ever and its decadent, identity politics and victimhood culture-infused cousin which has indeed been rejected by the electorate.

Money quote:

In a liberal society we appreciate that we all have our distinctions and limitations and we recognise that nobody should endure discrimination or punishment for those facets which cannot be changed. Gender, sexual preference, skin colour. But it goes further than that. We try to open doors for people os that people can break out of predetermined roles and destinies. That to me is social progress, where nobody is limited by class and physical attributes.

But when liberals begin to attack the very foundation of our morality and our values and seek to replace them with an ultra-permissive, anything goes morality we lose any kind of cohesion and moral authority. Moral relativism takes hold to such an extent that we can no longer defend those things we value.

What the left have done is to identify all social norms as inherently evil – which has given rise to the cult of the self which in turn has spawned the now toxic brand of feminism we see on the internet and the perverse social justice movement which processes everything through the prism of identity. It centres around a certain narcissism whereby individual rights become entitlements on the basis of one’s sense of victimhood. From this is born the right not to be offended or triggered – and with that goes the death of free speech. Opposition is inherently oppression it seems.

And this is why the culture war of the last decade goes so heavily with what is happening on a more visible level in politics. In what is now seen as a backlash against political correctness, there is something more seismic happening.

And North’s conclusion:

But then this tyranny of what is laughingly known as progressivism is on borrowed time. It always was a moral and intellectual perversion and it was always a minority view. How it came to be one of the most powerful ideas of a century is for the historians but now it seems the majority have finally lost patience and stood up to the left. In this we are not turning our backs on liberalism. We are merely putting an end to the gradual erosion of those, dare I say it, traditional values on which our modern and open society is built. I think this is what makes Theresa May, herself a church and shires Conservative, the right lady at the right time.

The sad part of this is that there will inevitably be a tiny minority who think we are going back to the old days where rampant and open homophobia is acceptable and we will no doubt see an unfortunate spike in racist incidents. But it is a typical left wing lie to say that mainstream society has suddenly become intolerant and racist. That trick might have worked for the last twenty years but the election of Trump tells you that the majority no longer care what you call them. The more offensive to the left the better.

And it is so telling that across the USA we now see the left spitting venom. We now see the true face of the “tolerant” left in all its bile. We can see that it was never about advancing a better society for all. It was about the minority wielding power over the majority – to impose a twisted morality on society without its consent – from the United Nations to the local primary school.

I repeat: genuine, small-L liberalism has not been rejected by the people, and is only under marginally more serious threat from ignorant authoritarians like Donald Trump than it has been over the past decades from highly learned progressives who sought to impose their “progressive” worldview on an uncertain population while actively criminalising dissent.

Those weeping most loudly today about the supposed death of liberalism have often themselves done as much as anyone to damage liberalism themselves through their decidedly illiberal and intolerant past behaviour.

 

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