By Sara Scarlett
The election of Jeremy Corbyn has obviously increased the chatter about the positioning of parties on the left/right spectrum. Tim Farron has flaunted the somewhat incredulous claim that Labour MPs will defect to the LibDems…
I am amused by the suggestion that the Blairites would find a happy home in the LibDems. It would probably be like being a Libertarian in the Tories… Tony Blair’s New Labour was not liberal in any sense of the word. Nanny statist, warmongering and prone to top-down diktats; civil libertarians despaired.
The zeitgeist has changed and a too many political activists and commentators, overwhelmingly on the Left, have not caught on. In the 1980s the dichotomy was clear. Thatcher represented the authoritarian right and all who opposed her amounted to a broad and diverse liberal left.
The authoritarian right versus the libertarian left set play no longer applies. Blair’s administration turned the left into authoritarians, different from the right-wing authoritarians, but authoritarians nonetheless. This new left felt/feels justified in increasing the erosions of our civil liberties and deeper policing of thought, speach and lifetstyle. This is not only enforced by little Hitlers in town councils but in offices, schools and more private places (like cars and homes) not to mention on social media!
In the 80s the Right’s authoritarianism was anti-gay and racist but now if you are perceived to be anti-gay and/or racist, the full wrath of the authoritarian left will chew you up and spit you out.
This is most noticeably seen on issues such as smoking tobacco versus smoking cannabis. Almost every LibDem I’ve met, with a few exceptions, would legalise smoking cannabis tomorrow. Almost every LibDem I’ve met, with a few exceptions, would ban cigarettes off the face of the earth today. I struggle to understand this fundamentally contradictory set of beliefs despite the fact that they are held simultaneously by so many.
The only way I can assume that this is justified in their minds is because cigarettes are manufactured by companies and cannabis is not. (Surely they must realise that once cannabis is legalised, ‘Big Cannabis’ would become a thing instantly?) The anti-capitalism/evil tobacco companies rhetoric comes before the small matter of personal liberty/lifestyle choices. The left-wingness comes before the liberalism.
I believe this is why Jeremy Corbyn et al. are comfortable talking talking to the undesireables he talks to. The capitalist ‘West’ is the big bad guy and anyone who opposes them are underdogs. I believe in the back of Corbyn’s mind he knows that those folks throw homosexuals off buildings and beat their wives but I strongly suspect that it just matters to Corbyn so much less than the anti-Western capitalist imperialist thing.
This is one of the reasons I’ve never been a fan of the ‘enemy of your enemy is your friend’ schtick.
Liberals are scattered and disjointed and remain dhimmis in all parties despite attempts to define left-wing populism as ‘Liberalism.‘ Attemts to portray Cameron as an arch-Thatcherite also make little sense as he is a moderate above all else. Cameron has been made more authoritarian by power but that’s typical. He’s not a liberal but he’s never called himself one either. It’s not just the gone-to-seed activists that populate the increasingly tragic comment threads on LDV who are willfully unaware of this; activists my age define themselves by a dominant school of thought that hasn’t been true in Britain since the 80s.
The left simply don’t realise that they are not the liberals anymore. Or, worse, they don’t care.