We need a new Liberal Party

What we need is a new Liberal Party - a real one

by Robin Mitchinson on 24 June 2013 11:03

What we need is a new Liberal Party.

I don’t mean the rabble of middle-class lefties who call themselves the Lib Dems; the party of tofu, muesli, sandals and no principles, distinguished only by their taste for bizarre sexual practices and alcohol.

I mean the Liberal Party of the 19th century, the party of William Gladstone and John Bright whose philosophy was driven by Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham and others of the times.

It was first and foremost the party of free trade. With globalization its hour has come. FTAs are springing up all over. The US/EU talks are beginning, and there seems to be a strong consensus in Europe to get an agreement quickly despite characteristic French attempts to throw a spanner in the works at the beginning.

It is globalization, not foreign aid, that has lifted more than 200 million out of poverty and is creating a whole new consumer-class. And we need to be out front.

The Liberal Party of the 19th century was a party of both social and economic liberalism. It was the party of small government; what John Stuart Mill called ‘the night-watchman state’. It is a major disservice, then, that in America ‘liberalism’ is synonymous with ‘big government’ when in fact it should mean the very opposite.

This was a party that believed in letting business get on with business without the over-regulation that is a curse and fetter on today’s economy, especially when emanating from Brussels. What is it about Eurocrats that makes them micro-meddle, as with the short-lived proposal to ban olive oil bottled on restaurant tables?

Do we really wonder why Switzerland is prosperous, peaceful, and hugely wealthy? It is not because of government. It is because of the lack of it. Central government in that country is miniscule compared with the bloated states of the EU27. Governance is mostly in the hands of subordinate bodies, and decisions are taken at the lowest appropriate level – always a good management principle.

All this would fit nicely with the attitudes of the younger generation, according to a recent survey that has had a lot of traction in the press.

It tells us that the young are socially liberal when it comes to sexual attitudes (no surprise there, then) and race, and rather wish that politicians wouldn’t keep banging on about immigration. They don’t think much of the welfare state, and have little sympathy with benefit scroungers and those who won’t stand on their own two feet. The subject of homosexual marriage only induces yawns.

The Labour Party represents the opposite of many of these attitudes. The Tory Party is missing the trend, too busy trying to show it can be what it believes people think it should be.

And so opens up a gap for a real Liberal Party. And there may well lie the future.

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