Letter From Britain – Tories Embrace Brussels 270

Despite their good chances to win the general election, there is a great deal of discontentment with the Conservatives in Britain. The old and mostly false image of uncaring snobs was recently revived by Gordon Brown after he stated that Tory tax plans were ‘dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton’. But while this author certainly has no problems with old Etonians, he finds that a somewhat snobbish stupidity exists in the Conservative Party, and it certainly does not appeal to all.

I am a student, I am a libertarian, and I define myself as right wing insofar as the political spectrum actually makes sense. The spectrum exists – it is congested, confusing and mixed up, but it is there – and I have found a spot to stand on and to defend.

It is then remarkable how disappointing, how saddening and so how very depressing it is that when I meet a Tory, he can be so very different to everything that I believe in.

I have said ‘he’ because the example I am about to use includes a bunch of male thirty-somethings, who all reminded me how unfortunate it appears the British people might be after the next election.

It was a dinner in the fortified city of York, in a cosy, warm, ale-saturated inn. Conservative party members from all over the country – party activists, parliamentary candidates and councillors – flocked to this inn to engage in drunken nostalgia of their University of York Conservative Society days. I was there discretely, a guest and no more.

Now the old stereotype that is pertained to the Tories is that of an eccentric, snobbish, uncaring, vain twit. I have never liked or much believed this stereotype, and to look at the achievements and personalities of great Conservative politicians one can rarely find any truth in this image.

This particular notion of mine was not holding up particularly well at the inn, where the eccentric, snobbish, uncaring, vain twits were screaming, shouting, drinking, reminiscing of the food fight at the previous year’s event and gleefully hoarding Brussels sprouts in case of another such incident.

They were crass, vulgar individuals who enjoyed the vanity of riches and demonstrated the decadence of those who could not truthfully attain something without the help of others.

One of my few talents is my ability to get myself into trouble. Before I was asked to leave for telling these persons what I thought of them, I did – perhaps in hindsight unwisely – tell them that they were “not the thinkers of the party.” There is a great deal of truth to this. Of the many I spoke to, most appeared to have never had a real job, but had immediately stood for some form of office and had lived off parents’ money. Are these to be our politicians – persons with no experience, no achievements, and not one example of worthiness?

Such persons present who indulged in such vulgar activity included Frank Young, the Conservative Campaign Director for London; Iain Lindley, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Worsley and Eccles South; Gareth Knight, Director of Conservatives for International Travel; Duncan Flynn; Richard Price; and Nick Reeves.

There has come into existence a path for such like-minded people: Firstly, one joins the Conservative Party at University and gets involved locally. Secondly, one starts to perfect the image by learning of which port to drink at parties, which pinstripe suit to always wear – no matter how informal the occasion – and which public persons might be cheered and which persons might be booed. Very occasionally they might discuss politics – recycled titbits from the Times’ comment page. Finally, the slightly more intelligent ones will join the civil service while the more boorish, obtuse ones attempt to become Conservative Politicians.

The people present had followed that path’s instructions to the letter. It was noticeable that other expected guests – Chloe Smith MP and Jonathan Isaby to name but two – were not present, perhaps because they had achieved something: it would be best to call it, well, actual success.

Now I believe that the left wing is wrong; usually well-intentioned, but wrong. I take issue with the premises of their ethics and the consequences of their politics. However, I can accept and even encourage their existence because they are politically engaged, and they contribute to the academic and ethical wrangling that makes the United Kingdom a democracy. Among the people I met in that inn, there was no such engagement; instead there was a determination to become part of an ideal and all its frivolities rather than an attempt to actually discuss and achieve the ideal itself.

I must stress that these appalling persons did not represent the entire room; there were other people there that I count as my friends and I believe to be far more interesting and involved than I might ever be. And just as the vainglorious persons did not represent all those in the room, it must be said that they did also not represent the entire Conservative Party.

While the Conservatives appear to have embraced Brussels just as much as in the Conservatives in that inn, Cameron, as well as Blair, has at least helped to achieve something, that is, the end of tribal politics. Both have attempted to embrace the middle ground – they have attempted to make sure that their parties no longer exist to appeal to a particular type of person but have room for voters from a variety of backgrounds. This is laudable, but it does not endear me to Cameron.

I will not vote for Cameron because I do not trust him. Whether or not his promises speak from the heart or are a political ploy I do not care, because both lead me to disagree with him. The former I find mostly unappealing and the latter I find phoney and thus dangerous.

It was in that inn, among the Conservative Party’s foot-soldiers and political socialites, that I encountered the attitude that sickens me. The general topic of speeches during the evening ran on the line, ‘When we get into power…” This is what I find frightening: the yearning to be ‘in power’. To be a politician should be a duty and not a job; it is to be a servant and not a ruler; and it is to be an honour and not a prerogative.

So I despise the snobbish Tory and I do not trust the new Tory, and this leaves me with few places to go.

It is hopeful to note that it is unlikely we shall see the persons of that inn in the future, because having failed so hopelessly now, it is unlikely they shall succeed in years to come. But it is with caution that we should look upon the Conservative party, which appears to be either false or divided – and so neither appeal to me.

A free market in ideas 152

One of our readers, Nietrick, has raised a very important question: who are acceptable political fellow travelers ? The US has a two party system, so if power to make law is desired, we are left with a choice between the GOP and the Democratic Party.   I would guess that many atheists are Democrat, because they associate Republicans, or conservatives generally,  with the religious.  And statistically they would be right. But they must also have an ideological leaning towards collectivism, and an anti-free-market, authoritarian government. (Perhaps the bias is inspired by the wish to squash religion.)  For an atheist to consider himself a Republican, the free-market, individual freedom and  small (federal) government principles must be of paramount importance. If the religious vote Republican because they want government either to legislate religious values, or because it is more likely to support values that are traditionally in line with religious beliefs (heterosexual marriage, pro-life, creationism), does the GOP become a hostile place for a rational, free-market atheist?  No.  Leaving out the extreme religious agenda (establishing a state upon a constitution based on fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible),  political policies attached to marriage and abortion should be decided at the State level. The GOP has been a strong supporter of States’ rights precisely because it allows local majorities to decide social issues – and therefore allows for the most self-determination, and diversity. Should Kansas decide to demand creationism be taught in schools, foolish as it is, it has only local effect, and individuals are still free to work around it. Meanwhile, other states will ban creationism from science class to another forum, or altogether. Given the need for qualified scientists, I believe that the creationist jurisdictions will fade away.  Indeed,  I believe that the free market permits the free market of ideas, and backward leaning ideas will be crowded out as they always eventually have been, by innovation and progress, which occur only under free-market and individual liberty systems. For these reasons, I believe that for atheists who want rationality to flourish and individuals to arrange their lives as they will (within the law),  the GOP is the right choice, although there are more atheists on the other side. I would also add that the left desires a uniformity of opinion, which we are seeing propagandized nationwide in schools, whereas the right likes  genuine diversity of ideas.

C. Gee  September 2009

Prime Minister’s Questions 213

Well, a group of English Classical Liberal students are going to be contributing to this blog for the next few weeks. I’ll start off by stating that Prime Minister’s Questions is occurring now. The topic of debate is reform of the Houses, separation of power of the legislature and executive, and the creation of a written constitution.

If you’re a British reader, you can watch PMQs live here.

But Mr Brown does not plan to allow the people their say on reform. Both Iain Duncan Smith MP (Con) and Bob Wareing MP (Independent) have demanded that the executive become accountable to the Commons.

Mr Brown leads a fragile government, and after a year of continuous scandal for the Labour Party, he knows that to leave any decision to the people will be just another disaster for his drowning Party’s attempt to survive.