We at Conservatives for Liberty take our conservatism seriously. The clue’s in the name.
So naturally we felt somewhat put out when sometime Farage bestie Raheem Kassam launched a bizarre tirade against us, ostensibly for our lack of ideological purity.
“I got into politics because I believe in something. It’s not just “free markets” – as groups like Conservatives for Liberty subscribe to, in the hope that they can therefore call themselves “right wing”. It is ideas from across the conservative spectrum, such as support for family life, strong defences, crime and justice, and the protection of individual and religious freedoms.”
Thems’ fightin’ words.
Eimhear MacFarlane of CfL Northern Ireland delivered a stinging rebuttal yesterday. Seriously, it’s well worth reading. It’s the written equivalent of a well-aimed kick to the crotch.
“And just to be clear – there are real world examples of this that someone who barked up the anti-immigrant, anti-gay and anti-common sense tree during the General Election might recognise. If you don’t move with society and instead tie yourself to a set of values that were last seen about the time of the Suez Crisis, you lose. And UKIP lost.”
Whilst I’m certain the liberty-loving ladies of CfL are more than capable of defending their own honour, my sense of chivalry is pricked.
I’m afraid I can’t let this stand. So I’m addressing this as an open letter to any and all Kippers out there interested in the fight to preserve our nationhood and liberties.
Conservatism is perfectly capable of adapting to changing circumstances. If it did not, we would still be living in a quasi feudal, pre-capitalist society where less than a tenth of the adult population were eligible to vote.
As Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism argued; “a state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation”.
Where we differ from left liberals is in the fundamentals. We do not want change for it’s own sake.
Moreover, Britain used to be a thriving exemplar of free markets, small government and personal liberty. We spread those ideals all over the globe.
As I’ve pointed out before, to be a libertarian anywhere in the English-speaking world is to be a conservative too. Surely you guys figured that out back when you called yourselves a ‘libertarian party’?
Small-c conservatives cannot expect the wider public to take us seriously if we indulge ourselves in petty internecine feuds. Traditionalist and libertarian conservatives have far more in common than we have to argue about.
Here at CfL we are all about promoting free markets, personal liberty and the nation state. I suspect those are aims most Kippers and Bow Group types might just sympathise with.
To pick a few issues at random, I’d personally like to slash the state to at least half its present size, leave the EU, and bring back the death penalty for serial murderers. In what way am I not a conservative?
We have plenty of enemies in common too. Like the EU. Or the BBC. Or the Guardian-reading, tofu-munching, Islamist-appeasing, #jezzwecan tweeting left. We have bigger fish to fry than each other.
The Conservatives have achieved great – and very conservative – things in government. Michael Gove has begun to put our schools on the right track. Ian Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have propelled a wave of job creation across the nation. George Osborne has slashed the deficit – though not by nearly enough to actually put a dent in the national debt – and cut taxes. You can despise the Conservative Party all you want but all these things remain true.
Yet it is clear that the dominant strain of thought within the Conservative Party holds both libertarians and traditionalists in contempt. We’re the embarrassing cousins at the family Christmas gathering, the drunken friend who starts hitting on your mum at your birthday party.
Theresa May, the empress of the British security state, once described the party she wanted to change as “unchanged, unrepentant, just plain unattractive” and branded them the “nasty party”. That is what the modernisers think of the unrepentant right wingers in the ranks. The label stuck and has been used as a cudgel against the Tories ever since.
So the appeal of UKIP is perfectly understandable. I’m actually fairly sympathetic to a lot of UKIP’s aims, not least regarding our relationship with our European neighbours. Quite a few close members of my family vote UKIP and aren’t afraid to say so. I get it, I really do.
But your party has not decided what it is yet. Are you patriotic libertarians? ‘Old Labour’ socialists? Thatcherites? Nobody knows. I see no evidence before me to suggest that UKIP is any more than just another political party with its own petty factional politics.
The other problem with UKIP is the more obvious one: the electoral math just doesn’t work for you. Four million people voted UKIP at the last general election. One UKIP Member of Parliament was returned – Douglas Carswell, late of this parish.
One MP. Think about that for a minute. Feel free to spend a few moments griping about the iniquities of first-past-the-post. Then keep reading.
The Tories have always been a coalition of squabbling, contradictory interests. The whole point of groups like Conservatives for Liberty is to give them a friendly nudge in the right direction.
Britain’s voting system isn’t going anywhere. We had a referendum on this already, for Pete’s sake. You guys like referenda. We like them too.
My point is simple: the political right needs to stick together or we’ll be picked off separately. There are no shortage of people out there willing to characterise us all as ‘swivel-eyed’ nutjobs.
We need to persuade the Tory party that what we stand for is both right and popular. To do that we need as many pro-freedom conservatives taking part in the conversation as possible.
Speaking of referenda, there’s a pretty big one coming up soon on British membership of the EU. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Eurosceptic right-wingers cannot afford to pick fights with each other. We ought to stand together. If we lose, our country is lost too.
To get our way we first have to win. That’s democracy.
So join us. Join – or rejoin – the Conservative Party. Better yet, join Conservatives for Liberty.