I am on the other side of this argument to David Boyle. I am not looking back to 40 years of membership, only 12. I have been in the crossfire of active politics and while I believe I am a true liberal – and with all the frustration during the coalition government, I am still convinced that the Lib Dems are my political home – I am not nostalgic about the past and find a lot of that sentiment stops us from becoming a modern progressive party.
I believe firmly in nailing my colours to the mast. The fence thing – if I understand the quote correctly – is not what we must do. We are living through extraordinary times where our very democracy is under threat from illiberal forces. They always make the most of chaos when people come to the point of asking for a strong leader. Giving in rather than fighting to the last, is a mistake.
That is the lesson from German liberals during the 1920s and 30s. Thinking that, by co-operating, one can contain the disease of extremism is not how it worked. They got an illiberal leader in through the backdoor and that was the end of democracy.
We shouldn’t be naive about what is going on. The genie is out of the box: 30 per cent of people will probably support a right-wing party now. That is frightening, but it is not a majority. Let them come out of the shadows of the Tory party and we can fight them on the open stage.
We are not a big party and are struggling to be recognised for what we stand for by the general public. It is not for us to be the honest brokers of some shoddy compromise on the EU. To do the national interest thing nearly destroyed us as a party. What is in the national interest is that we survive, as the only true force for tolerance and liberal values.
We have always been passionate pro-Europeans. There is a fundamental difference between membership and non- membership. Britain must be at the heart of the European project not just follow some economic rules. Anybody who thinks some soft Brexit is acceptable must have misunderstood why we are pro-European in the first place . Why should we sell our grandmother in order to help the two major parties?
The two main parties have to make a Brexit compromise happen; both want to deliver Brexit. The reason we haven’t got Brexit is because they fiercely protect their party interests. We should do that to, or we disappear. The national interest is that there is a tolerant liberal party in British politics but not a pushover-party. We are fighting for EU membership. not a shoddy soft Brexit.
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James Skinner says
You are absolutely right. If anyone doubts it, they should listen to this morning’s broadcast on Radio 4, with survivors of the French Resistance who did not follow Petain during the invasion of France but bravely refused to collaborate.. The principles are exactly the same as now. Hitler started small and few people believed he would ever cause an event like the Second World War and the Holocaust. The opportunistic populists are mostly a similar breed, intent on spreading hatred.
nigel hunter says
Yes ,giving in to Hitler was a mistake. The 60s 70s were a progressive era for liberalism.Illiberal forces hide within the chaos waiting for their time to strike. It is sad that the national interest comes secondary to party politics. However we could still be vocal in stirring the debate that WE are for the National interest as the party for the 70% Lets face it ,the 2 big boys campaign for vested interests not the majority that we must aim for. . The national interest must be fought for.Tolerance has to be fought for and allies have to be found for these values. We can fight for these in the EU. Right wing nationalism won in the 30s leading to war. That must not happen now.
David Boyle says
To be fair to myself – the quotation by an unnamed Tory aroudn 1904 that he was “sticking his colours firmly to the fence” was not quoted with approval, but as a reminder that the Conservatives get themselves in a big muddle about trade approx once a century!
Stephen Gwynne says
Funny but from my perspective, it is the metropolitan (neo)liberal middle classes who seem hell bent on degrading national democracy in order to protect EU Privatisation and EU Marketisation with Neoliberal Corporate shareholders and the metropolitan (neo)liberal middle class professionals who similar prosper from EU Privatisation and EU Marketisation.
What is worrying from a liberal Brexiteer point of view is the insidious campaign #ProjectFear. It would seem the two strongest weapons that #ProjectFear has in its arsenal is plausible denialism and targeted othering which of course is how Hilter and other fascists rose to power.
The irony of course is that during the rise of national socialism, it was the metropolitan liberal middle classes and Jews that were targeted and denied political representation. It would now seem that the roles are now being reversed with anyone who isn’t a supporter of the fundamentally unsustainable Neoliberal EU system is deemed the evil other and denied a fair and liberal hearing. Instead, Brexiteers are subjected to liberal hate, liberal smears, a liberal take down of democracy and a liberal denial of representation into the potentially constitutionally unsound Withdrawal Agreement.
To suppose that the enemy of British democracy is an array of authoritarian leaders who simply want to bring back democratic controls over our economy, our ecology and our relationship with the EU in the face of the EU Corporate takeover of British public services, British public infrastructure and Britain’s capacity to be nationally sufficient is simply another manifestion of #ProjectFear.
The real enemy of British democracy is the EU Treaties in which EU Privatisation and EU Marketisation are sucking public taxes and public wealth into the private sector which benefits EU Corporate shareholders and benefits metropolitan neoliberal middle class professionals.
Liberalism has under the tutelage of the EU become an ideological identity from which to deny open debate, deny opposing points of view and deny meaningful political representation without the fear of liberalised bigotry.
This is not liberalism but illiberalism masquerading as liberalism. In other words, ideological liberalism is now a weapon in which to demonise others and deny political freedom.
Ideological liberalism is the new fascism which may well be driven by the sustained persecution liberal middle classes were subjected to under national socialism. But this is not an excuse to become like your enemy.