If you vote Liberal in Australia, you’re choosing the conservative option: liberal in economics and on freedom from state control, tougher on immigration and crime. In the USA, by contrast, ‘liberal’ is the Republicans’ term of abuse for leftist Democrats and their angry identity politics. In Great Britain, our political establishment and institutions are said to be immersed in ‘liberal-left’ ideology, despite their decidedly illiberal rejection of the democratic verdict in the EU referendum. So does ‘liberal’ mean anything nowadays?
Consider this flawed interpretation by Jane Moore, in her Sun column: –
‘Amal Clooney is a well-regarded human rights lawyer who uses her platform to highlight various liberal causes. So I was rather perplexed to hear that in 2012 she reportedly gave legal advice to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on how to potentially sabotage the British government’s bid to arrest him. Whether you think Assange’s role in leaking 750,000 classified US documents was espionage or heroism, it remains that he was also trying to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faced charges of sexual assault. How, pray tell, does that fit with liberal values?’
This writer rather lazily seems to assume that certain causes are ‘liberal’, regardless of how they are pursued. It would be justifiable to extradite Assange to answer the charge, but this is a matter of criminal justice – not liberal values. A true (albeit extreme) liberal position on crime and punishment was taken by one of my lecturers in mental health nurse training, who argued that prisons should be abolished.
‘Liberal’ seems to mean whatever anybody wants it to mean. Communists could claim to be ultimately liberal, because their oppressive practices are intended to propel society to the sunny uplands of Marxism, where men and women shall be free for ever more. Calling for increased stop-and-search to curtail knife crime would seem sensible to many people, but it is hardly liberal to do this, unless one takes a long-term view of the mantra that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
The emancipatory movements that erupted in the 1960s are more accurately described as liberal: the civil rights campaign by black Americans, gay activism, feminism, and anti-Apartheid protests. Freedom and equal rights were pursued against conservative opposition, but campaigners continued beyond justice to demand special rights. As a result quotas and ‘protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act have distorted the meaning of liberalism, leading us from a permissive to a puritanical society.
The lack of insight of those who define themselves as liberal is a feature of our hypocritical society. The freedom to be gay, for example, has progressed to LGBT propaganda pervading every public space. The freedom to observe the Muslim faith has led to the silencing of any criticism of Islam, and the prospect of a selective blasphemy law. Debate, which should be promoted in universities, is quashed by ‘no-platforming’ and ‘safe spaces’ to protect the sensitivities of supposedly vulnerable groups. In wider society, calling out the madness of transgenderism is criminalised as ‘hate speech’. Instead, free speech has been reinterpreted as a pernicious medium for right-wing bigots. Libertarianism, once part of the liberal family, has been orphaned.
The EU is assumed by Remainers to be a liberal project. Leave voters, by contrast, see a remote bureaucratic fiefdom that suppresses national autonomy. Political theorist Steve Hilton, in his book More Human (2015), acknowledged that ‘as an expression of the liberal values of democracy and freedom, it was a beacon to the subjugated peoples of Europe’. But Brussels now stifles democracy and liberty to chase a collectivist Utopian dream: ‘the whole point of the EU is to take power out of people’s hands, in pursuit of a greater good.’
The pages of progressive literature are filled with alarm at the threat to ‘liberal democracy’, whether on the anti-Trump and anti-Brexit diatribes on Waterstone’s shelves or in current affairs magazines such as the Economist, Prospect, Time or Foreign Affairs on the racks at WH Smith. The culprit is ‘populism’. But populism is democracy in practice: the people voted for Trump, Bolsonaro, Brexit and La Liga because they were exasperated by duplicitous politicians’ subservience to a new world order that sacrifices jobs and security for open borders and global capitalism.
The self-serving political class in Western societies is refusing to listen to the electorate, repudiating their votes as ignorant or the result of malevolent forces (typically Russian, with Putin playing the role of Emmanuel Goldstein in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four). Police brutality against the gilets jaunes in France, and the prosecution of protestors for coarse language outside Westminster (James Goddard got a suspended prison sentence for calling Anna Soubry MP a ‘Nazi’) show the determination of those with power and privilege to suppress the great unwashed.
As a lecturer I am keenly aware of the failings of liberal teaching in our education system. Reform is needed urgently, as we are in danger of losing the values of the Enlightenment and our Judaeo – Christian heritage. The educated younger generations have been hardwired to worship the EU, Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist fantasies and multiculturalism, have little identification or pride in their country despite its wonderful contribution to the world’s past, present and future. Few really respect democracy or uncensored debate.
Things may get worse before they get better, but hope has been renewed by our new prime minister, the swashbuckling Boris Johnson. Like his hero Winston Churchill, Boris is an impassioned champion of liberty. Churchill was for many years a Liberal MP, until he saw the Conservative Party as the vehicle for maintaining the civic order on which the practice of liberal principles depends. Today, the Liberal Democrat Party is a double misnomer, being anti-democratic in its headline policy to ‘stop Brexit’, and illiberal in its censorial attitudes (for example, relatively likeable leader Tim Farron resigned after his embarrassingly normal Christian beliefs were exposed).
A free marketer and slayer of political correctness, Boris is considerably more liberal than the party he leads and most occupants of the opposition benches. In his controversial Telegraph column on the burka, he defended the right of women to wear this alien garb, while exercising licence to satire. But now Boris has more important priorities than his weekly preaching to the already-converted. His singular resolve is to get us out of the EU and defeat the trenchant Remain miserabalists. Freedom from foreign oppression, as he sees the Brussels regime, is a liberal venture. In the hysteria of the BBC and Guardian, he is castigated as the British Trump or worse, but he puts a spring in the step of the ordinary people, who are sick and tired of contrived doom and gloom.
‘Liberal’ has been hijacked as a virtue of progressive ideology, but the backlash against mean-spirited and subversive identity politics is growing. Without democracy and freedom of expression, what is liberal in society – apart from the special rights afforded to favoured groups? At last we have a leader of true liberal outlook, who realises that tough decisions must be made to ensure that liberty is revived. Let us pray that his irrepressible energy frees us from the shackles.
Liked this Blog ? Why not post it to a friend ?