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Things That Are Not Going To Happen (SDP Edition)

By Sara Scarlett
September 19th, 2015 at 11:39 am | 1 Comment | Posted in Labour, Liberal Philosophy

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1. Labour MPs are not going to defect enmasse to the LibDems.

  • One does not leave Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party because he’s unelectable and improve ones electability by joining the Liberal Democrats.

2. The Labour Party is not going to split.

  • And even if it did, so what? It did before and that didn’t hinder the Labour party in any way nor did it thrust the SDP into power…

3. The LibDems are not going to rebrand or restructure.

  • After the 55th committee meeting on a night when the moon is full, Sal Brinton will decide that she does not have the authority to do anything because nobody in the LibDems takes responsibility for anything, ever. The LibDems will continue to be woeful guardians of both Social Liberalism and Classical Liberalism alike.

The Illiberal Left

By Sara Scarlett
September 18th, 2015 at 7:30 am | Comments Off on The Illiberal Left | Posted in Labour, Liberal Democrats, Libertarians

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…


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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.


Politics Has Destroyed Your Soul (Mine Too)

By Sara Scarlett
September 16th, 2015 at 9:00 am | Comments Off on Politics Has Destroyed Your Soul (Mine Too) | Posted in Politics, Twitter

In the past few days the comments on this thread on LDV have steadily built up in the predicatable fashion they always seem to do. As someone who used to be a frequent commentator on LDV, this thread seems completely typical to me. What has surprised me is that other commentators on LDV seem to be surprised at the tone of the comments. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that this thread is not typical of the Liberal Democrats.

Oh, but it is…

It is not only typical of LibDems but of all people who are intensely political. Cybernats, Corbynistas, Cameroons etc. All of them.

Only a few days ago Caron Lindsay was prompted by something or someone to post this article. Indeed, in the past I have repeatedly sent the Mods on LDV angry emails and tweets about myself being bullied and outright libelled, seemingly for fun, on the LDV comments thread. I actually regret directing my anger at the Mods over at LDV. I used to believe they were evil but now I genuinely think they are doing the best job they can.

The problem is this – politics destroys your soul.

As my former colleague, Aaron Ross Powell, writes:

Politics is nothing to be proud of. We shouldn’t believe in it, shouldn’t get excited about it. Shouldn’t think it’s noble or, worse, fun. On a good day, politics is a silly game with negative externalities. A waste of countless hours and countless minds—hours and minds that could’ve gone to productive, radical, world-changing, and life-improving pursuits. Politics, on a good day, is lost opportunities. On a bad day, it’s livelihoods and sometimes lives destroyed. It’s violence and ignorance and fear.

Politics inculcates pettiness, short-sightedness, Manichean thinking, tribal feuds, selfishness, and rage. It discourages reason and respect and a basic appreciation of the dignity of others, especially those who seek lives different from our own. It makes us less likely to find virtuous mentors or learn from the virtuous actions of others, because everyone we encounter will themselves suffer from its corrosive influence. Politics encourages extreme reactions instead of careful seeking of the proper, measured response. Politics distances decisions from local knowledge and so limits moral wisdom by making it less likely we will act to bring about virtuous outcomes even when motivated by virtuous impulses.

Nothing I have experienced in my time in politics has disproved this.

That includes the fairly minor stuff ranges from – being repeatedly libelled and bullied on LDV and on this site, being chewed out on twitter and had fights picked with me just because of what I am/what I believe umprompted by people I’ve never met/heard of, to the usual aggressive anonymous briefings/ emails/comments like the one below. Unpleasant but normal.


Then there’s the more serious level of threats/inappropriate behaviour.

I have experienced more violent and sinister anonymous emails, comments and facebook messages. A bit more rapey and personally unnerving but nothing a block button couldn’t fix.

When I was an unpaid campaigns intern for a LibDem MP, I was bullied by the Campaigns Manager who had hired me so badly that I eventually walk out on the job.

I have also been accosted for sex, unprompted, on Facebook by virtual strangers (LibDems/Politicos I have met briefly only once or twice at Conferences) no less than three times. Sometimes subtle. Sometimes not. I’ll spare you *those* screen caps…

Then there’s the borderline criminal/unforgivably aggressive stuff.

In my time in politics, several grown men (and, occasionally, a grown woman or two) have “joked” about violently assaulting me on Facebook and Twitter.


I have several screencaps just like this and my collection includes one where two LibDems on twitter joke about violently assaulting me with a fire extinguisher.

I was once groped in a Westminster pub after a free-market think tank Christmas party. The individual in question grabbed my breast so hard that it hurt for two days after. The next day this person was utterly indignant as to why I was not responding to his texts.

When people ask why there aren’t more women in politics, I often find myself wondering why there are any at all. The behaviour that exists in politics is the type of behaviour that would get most other people sacked from their place of work and/or a strong dressing down from any competent HR department.

But… I did once called a female Labour MP, “too thick to be an MP” on twitter for no reason. That is something I would have never done in real life. Some may say that is because the Internet makes it easy to do things you wouldn’t ever do in person and that is true. But I wouldn’t have done that to anyone else in my non-political life on the internet or otherwise.

In a political context, I have committed all the minor offences that I have outlined above. I have sent bitchy, unprovoked tweets and emails. I have been petty, short-sighted, guilty of Manichean thinking, tribalism, selfishness, and full of rage. I have left aggressive anonymous comments on other blogs. I have felt bitterness and anger at being overtly manipulated and used by other bullies. Oh and there was that time I heckled someone in a fit of anxious outrage… I am, at a least, delighted to say that I have never sexually/violently assaulted anyone, or joked about violently/sexually assaulting anyone. Well done, me!

The times in my life I have been the worst version of myself have been almost exclusively episodes in my political life and with people I have met through politics. You get little in return for selling your soul. When I think back as to why I got involved, it was because I was passionate about justice, freedom, and policy. When I look back as to how much I have achieved in politics policy wise, I can tell you, without a shred of a doubt, that what I have achieved amounts to very little, indeed.

My experiences are no way unique. This is true of 99.9% of political activists, even people senior enough to be high ranking members of staff, PPCs and even MPs. The activists who spent 20 years campaigning against the Tories only to see their party go into coalition with them. To get elected you have to wade through a sewer of shit for decades thickening your skin, tolerating dull local constituency events, parroting the party line whether you agree with it or not, being patient with your educationally subnormal constituents and fellow party members to get anywhere near to changing policy. Then your precious, rare, once in a lifetime Private Member’s Bill gets talked out. Next you’re turfed out of the job you’ve always wanted because of factors beyond your control.

For those saddened by this, I strongly recommend Aaron Ross Powell’s series of essays on this. You can find them here:

Politics Makes Us Worse 1Politics Makes Us Worse 2And this Thisand finally this.

The moral of this story is – expect less from politics and you’re less likely to be disappointed:

Politics is, at best, a blunt instrument, though perhaps an occasionally necessary one. But its use has costs, including, I believe, degradation of our character. We should resort to politics only when we have no other options, and then only reluctantly. At the very least, it should never be cause for celebration or held up as the ideal of civic virtue. In short, politics makes us worse. We’d be better people without it. Better off if we rejected the political as a means to flex our will in the world and instead made more effort to live up to our potential as rational, discoursive beings. The good life is not the life of politics and politics is, at a fundamental level, incompatible with the good life.


Does Britain need a Liberal Movement?

By Editor
September 15th, 2015 at 2:26 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

This is not a good year to be a British liberal. The Conservatives are putting up fences on the borders. The hard left have taken over the Labour Party, the soft left are running the Liberal Democrats, the Greens remain shrill and extreme, and the SNP/Plaid use left-populism as a rhetorical device for having a pop at Westminster.

If you are live-and-let-live on personal matters, internationalist, think markets work better than state planning, that devolution means empowering individuals as much as communities, and want more democracy, you don’t have an obvious home. You are though a liberal.

Not an economic-liberal… classical liberal… Orange-booker… New Labour… Notting Hill Tory… radical centrist… or any of the other micro-strains of labelling that are largely about what you are not…

You are a liberal.

And it’s a good thing, whichever way you happen to vote.

The desire of liberals in all the various tribes to own a narrow part of that tradition, or relabel themselves in the context of their tribes however makes the huge coalition of interests in the liberal coalition very hard to see. What is possibly the most successful political movement in British political history. A strand of thinking that has dominated the Leaderships and lasting reforms of Government for century is largely invisible. For example:

The Conservatives are currently the most liberal Party available on the economy, but they fail to impress on a range of issues around the constitution and civil liberties. The party’s instincts remain patrician and unsurprisingly… conservative. They have still not adapted to the logic of federal Britain, they doggedly defend and entrench privilege in the House of Lords. Their tendency to be seduced by grand schemes and vested interests is every bit as severe as that of Labour. They have though a very strong liberal tradition, and it’s currently running the Party.

The Liberal Democrats are reliable reformists and civil libertarians (unless you smoke, drive or drink), but are retreating into ‘not them’ opportunism on the really big questions that used to trouble their former leadership. They are happier today talking about 1 hour bus tickets, and the rights of BBC millionaires to claim rent for Strictly Come Dancing, than deficit reduction or public service reform. They are currently publishing articles about how great Jeremy Corbyn is going to be, and celebrating winning Parish Council by-elections. It is a liberal Party, but an increasingly narrow one with a very uncertain future.

Labour’s liberals are regrouping. They’ve had 5 years of Miliband’s brand of parochial populism to prepare for obscurity. They’ve now got another 5 years to prepare for a comeback tour. They are though lacking any obvious leadership or central purpose beyond an appeal to pragmatism and electability… both of which… require good leadership to be convincing. It’s a paradoxical mess. One that opened the door to Corbyn. And may cost them years in the wilderness. A new SDP looks very unlikely. There is no gang of four. There is every reason to believe that a membership that votes for rebels will not punish them for doing a Corbyn to Corbyn over the Parliament.

The SNP has liberal elements. The People’s Front of Caledonia they are not. Nor is Scotland a 1970s parody of Scandinavia. They are though somewhat diluted amongst the populists. They are like the nationalist Scottish right prepared to operate under the left umbrella for the greater goals of separation. Should that ever happen, the first victim of it, would be the unity of the SNP. The parrot of Scottish liberalism then is resting, not deceased. It may yet express itself more strongly in this rampantly successful election-winning machine.

So what should liberals do?

I’m fairly sure the answer isn’t to try and start a new Party. Tribalism isn’t a liberal value. Parties are principally vehicles for achieving power, not the battle of ideas. It shouldn’t matter greatly to liberals which coalition of interests, in which wrapper, are forming the Government provided their instincts and leadership are broadly liberal. The competition between groups within Parties as to owns the liberal tradition, one wider and deeper than any of them, does not I think serve that tradition well.

A cross-party Liberal Movement conversely, bringing together liberal talents, reminding each other that there are common causes, and coordinating resistance to the illiberal extremes, has some appeal. There is a vast pool of liberal minded think tanks, campaigns and other groups that already form the basis for such a network. There are groups within all the Parties that represent the liberal view. They just don’t talk to each other, nearly enough.

Perhaps they should.

Crying Over Milk

By Editor
August 8th, 2015 at 11:50 am | Comments Off on Crying Over Milk | Posted in Economics

A reminder that this year’s milk price crisis is principally the result of the ending of previous market rigging. Harsh as it is on the dairy farmers, there are simply too many of them producing too much milk, too expensively, in relation to demand for milk from consumers. They are not inefficient, or at least most are not. There are just too many.

A ‘consumer’ campaign to raise prices, in that regard, is pointless. The idea behind it is that retailers, their margins protected would then pay local farmers more. That is unlikely other than on premium speciality products that already command higher prices. Principally retailers would just enjoy higher profits. Competition for the provision of milk from across the EU would remain unchanged.

There’s no reason to think that combatting that with a ‘buy British’ or ‘save our farmers’ campaign would be any more successful for milk than any of the other attempts for similar products. Do you care if the cod in your fish finger was caught by a British trawler?

It could additionally turn nasty with retailers and importers being bullied, a tactic familiar to the agricultural sector in France. Some of the MP and candidate tactics clearing shelves in shops at the moment, are some distance from les moutons enflammé. But the principle is the same, to intimidate free trade into submission. Bugger the customers. It is largely criminal and nasty producer racketeering, not a glorious expression of public concern.

What has to happen, and is going to happen, is that a large number of dairy farms need to close or consolidate. That is going to be very brutal and unpleasant for the failed businesses, but it is no kindness to pretend otherwise with ‘look at me I’m campaigning’ faux-empathy.

Nor is it any worse for farmers than any other changing industry. Bar the exception that European Governments, including our own, have made the transition more jarring than it needed to be by rigging the market for so long. Something familiar to former miners, dockers, and soon postal workers. Thanks politicians… good job.

Politicians today then might then consider more emphasis on the transition support for those leaving the market. And a little less histrionic poujadism, which will leave those who will need to get out far less ready to change. Beware of politicians bearing campaigns. They are not always your friends.