Ukip is not the home for true libertarians

Libertarians – it’s time to jump ship to a party which can take criticism and will not bend to popular opinion in a desperate bid for unachievable electoral goals

James Snell
On 25 January 2013 17:21

With Ukip now polling in third, and for the first time ever appearing to be a party with a sustainable political future, much has been said of their radical elements.

The party is known to be attracting voters from Labour and the Conservatives, but no one seems to be quite sure why; young converts tend to point the party’s supposed social-libertarian ideology, while the ex-Tory right align with the genuine conservative message which the centrist ‘Cameroon’ Tories have ‘betrayed’.

Analysts seemingly divide their time between predicting an upsurge from the hard- right on one hand, and forecasting a new tide of libertarianism on the other.

UKIP has transformed itself into a semi-mainstream party, and this has led to libertarians the country over getting excited about the prospect of a new politics, where the ideas of free trade and personal freedom are not reliant on a state machine, especially not the sort of quasi super-state which the EU has become.

This is an incorrect assumption. This is wrong because Ukip is now more closely aligned with the protectionist and nationalist elements within Britain. We can see this in its newfound favour with the socially conservative Daily Mail crowd. As its rhetoric becomes less about personal freedom from the state, and more about Right-wing bugbears like immigration and equal marriage, it appears it is selling its classically liberal credentials down the river for a shot at a new group of disenchanted former Conservatives.

As demonstrated by the treatment of my fellow Backbencher columnist Olly Neville, (formerly Chairman of Young Independence, the Ukip youth movement) who was sacked simply for failing to endorse the party’s line on gay marriage, the party is not living up to its leader Nigel Farage’s view that it should be a party of ‘free thinkers’. As an aside, Farage’s indication that members would be free to campaign for the legalisation of cannabis is a move which now looks like a deliberate scheme to woo younger voters.

Of course, Ukip was not begun as a Libertarian party, originally fitting the remark David Cameron made in 2006, decrying them as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. Back then, Ukip was more a slicker reincarnation of Goldsmith’s Referendum Party, and the current leadership is keen to distance itself from the party’s less than illustrious past.

But now Ukip seems to be edging closer to that ground, into positions similar to the stance the old party would have taken, which begs the question: was the Libertarian guise it had adopted so recently merely a ruse to gain popularity and appear more credible?

It is not a surprise that Libertarians are looking for a legitimate political entity to support, since the rest of the political class is not interested in what they have to say. Trying to give all things to all people (like David Cameron’s attempts at limiting state power over schooling with new academies and free schools, but imposing deeply statist caps on immigration) and an unfailingly populist approach from all parties means that few people now stand up for the classical liberals amongst us.

Nigel Farage is especially good at pushing all of the buttons he knows will whip up Middle England, but since he is close enough to their views, Libertarians seem to support him regardless of his views on immigration and free movement of capital.

Ukip has descended into the compromise drudgery of mainstream politics; it has become more of a broad church like the three other main parties, which inevitably means that one view is going to become more prevalent, and this will irritate those who happen to disagree.

But, the only objective Ukip seems to be attempting to achieve by stealing the votes of Middle England is the defeat of the Conservatives in 2015, which would be more disastrous to Libertarians than any other political event (seeing as Labour has cynically denounced immigration too).

True Libertarians need to understand that Ukip, in its current form, cannot sustain the freewheeling ideologies of the past; it has to become part of the political system now, rather than relying on the vague ‘anti-politics’ votes which see it doing so well in European elections. As it grows, Ukip will become more authoritarian and politically streamlined, which is a targeted move to appease little Englanders.

Libertarians – it’s time to jump ship to a party which can take criticism and will not bend to popular opinion in a desperate bid for unachievable electoral goals.

James Snell is a columnist for the Backbencher

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