Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Liberal Democracy in Britain — now is the hour

     I spent my life assuming that the Liberal Party (becoming in time the LibDems) was my natural political home. But I was thinking of Gladstone, Asquith, and Lloyd George; thinking of a liberalism that extended the franchise, gave home rule to Ireland, massively taxed the landed magnates, introduced pensions and a heath service, and weakened the privileges of the House of Lords. I was taken with the idea that Liberals commanded the moral high-ground, unique in British politics and perhaps in world politics in that they fought not for their own pockets, but for other people's welfare, people less privileged than themselves. Liberalism was much more than laissez-faire free markets. 
     I trusted that Liberal policies would be well considered, and costed; by philosophers and economists. As I have grown older I have begun to doubt that superior moral and intellectual underpinning, and realise now that I have to do some radical thinking myself. I cannot rely on the Party line, but must shoulder my share of responsibility in forming the Party line. We must not let the LibDem label signify an empty reluctance to hold an opinion.
     I was brought up to the typically British notion that we have little or nothing to learn from other countries. It was a shock to find that, back in the seventies and early eighties, Germany and Scandinavia had already legislated for worker participation (Mitbestimmung, q.v.). More recently I came across the concept of Ordoliberalismus (q.v.), which emphasises the role of the state in actively ensuring that the free market produces results close to its theoretical potential. Germany evolved this vision back in the fifties; we seem not to have fully grasped it yet. 
     We have become mesmerized by the USA. There is the facile and lazy assumption that whatever works in the USA will work here, so we build shopping malls and BurgerKings, and watch Hollywood films, and abandon the adverb. But the USA has as maniacal a fear of socialism and trade unions as it has a love of firearms. Have we not yet grasped that we are different? We (I speak for myself and surely for many millions) are nearer to Europe than to the USA, geographically, climatically, emotionally, historically. 
     I think Capitalism is too rampant, in the UK. Are the current LibDems going to do anything about super-tax, wealth tax, off-shore accounts, money laundering, green energy, worker participation on boards of large and medium companies, curbing director salaries, reviewing student fees, and local government funding? If we stay in Europe have the LibDems got any policies to ameliorate real defects of the Europe project or to improve the way Europe is?
     In the history of the LibDem party this is a crucial 15 days. If we want to vote against the chaos of Brexit, we may have to vote with Labour in certain marginal constituencies. It would be an absurd vanity to expect a labour candidate to stand aside for a LibDem candidate if they are polling far more strongly. (In some few constituencies it should be the labour that steps aside.) 
     There will never be any future for the LibDems, and no proportional representation, till that is grasped. But absurd vanity seems to exist. Oh dear!
--
Ian West, 9 Thenford road, Middleton Cheney, Banbury, 

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