Friday, May 14, 2010

Lesson 1: Liberal Conservatism

I had a minor spat on Twitter yesterday trying to explain that being a conservative in terms of economic policy and the constitutional future of the nation is in no ways incompatible with also being a social liberal. Unfortunately, it seems to be a concept particularly hard to grasp for those capable of seeing the nuances of the wider political UK scene only through their own prejudiced and parochial green/orange prism.

Not to worry, those that matter get it. Anthony Barnett, at Open Democracy, is most certainly not someone you would classify a right-wing reactionary; this is what he said:
The centerpiece of what has happened, however, is the transformation of the Tory Party. All those cheap and lazy jibes about toffs taking us back to Thatcher-style polarisation have been shown to be so much vapour. On the contrary, what Cameron has done is to return Toryism to its one-nation Whig tradition. He has broken the spell that Thatcherism and its conviction politics has had over his party since the coup that ousted her in 1990. And his combining with Nick Clegg could break the grip of Thatcher’s wider political culture over British politics as a whole. Her sense of principle and belief in British institutions had long been eviscerated by New Labour, leaving behind only her legacy of macho bullying and devious cunning personified by Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell. Now they too have been swept away.
What he's talking about, in essence, is the section of the coalition agreement where the Conservatives are promising, with their partners, the following:

•A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.

•The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

•Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

•The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

•Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.

•The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.

•The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.

•The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.

•Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

•Further regulation of CCTV.

•Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.

•A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

After surely the most authoritarian peacetime government this nation has ever seen, any liberal worth his salt will surely proclaim "Hallelujah" in delight at reading the above.

Yet the UK's Human Rights Industry and civil liberties groups have, by and large, only delivered up a stony silence in response.

Couple of reasons for that: first, due to their own political prejudices, an instinctive and visceral antagonism of anything emanating from a British Conservative pen or mouth (a big shout goes out to this blog's very own favourite HR Oligarch, Prof McWilliams, in that regard). Second, an increase in personal and societal civil liberties means, inevitably, a retreat from interfering in our private lives by the state and its agents. For a democratic society, that, despite what the New Labour busybodies and their lackies in the quangos and certain NGOs may tell you, is a *good thing*. It will mean, again inevitably, individuals having to take more personal responsibility for their actions, not relying on Nanny to live their lives for them. But it will also mean, inevitably, us taxpayers having to cough up less to the State's Little Helpers for the privilege of being informed that 60 fags/10 pints/7000 calories etc etc a day is no longer permitted.

A win-win for all true liberals, surely?


andrewg said...

Yes, indeed. I'm still worried about some lingering nanny-stating in the Lib/Con agenda - tax breaks for "traditional" families for example - but overall the progress in the last couple of days has been refreshing. Let's hope it lasts.

O'Neill said...

On a slightly more abstract front, that 55% worries me...but overall the temperament of this government is most definitely different and better in this far.

thedissenter said...

Let's hope we are not disappointed by the promise this forced reality has provided.