Daniel Pryor appeals for the politically committed to get involved.
‘In essence, what I say is this: campaign for your ideology, fight for it, put in the research, convince people, but with no libertarian involvement within political parties, it becomes that little bit harder.’ – Richard Lowe (Former UKIP PPC, removed due to support for equal marriage)
RARE is the individual that wholeheartedly supports their party’s entire manifesto. Rarer still is the individual that considers total agreement with said manifesto to be essential when considering whether to join that party.
This author is neither of the above. The real impact of politics is only felt by real progress towards a conceptual goal. This is the essence of pragmatism. Whilst personal position upon the political spectrum is significant, much more important is the direction in which you face. In the case of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, this direction is towards an ever more leviathan state. Minor disagreements about minor details mask what is truly fundamental; the most effective way of advancing libertarian ideas is to actually implement them through the apparatus of government. That is only possible by ensuring that Westminster is dominated by like-minded individuals. If you class yourself as libertarian, conservative or even vaguely right-wing but aren’t yet a member of a comparable political party, then I have one simple question – why not?
Rather than bickering about trivial differences like the left-wing parties of Weimar Germany, is it perhaps time to stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and commit to catalysing tangible change? As the dominant party in government, the majority of the Conservative Party’s actions have been unashamedly right-wing. What were these actions? To name a few: significantly reducing corporation and income tax, cutting the budget deficit by a quarter, capping benefits at £26,000 per year, decentralising education through academies legislation, and saving billions in unnecessary bureaucracy by introducing the Red Tape Challenge.
Some elements of the Tory’s policy platform may not chime well with the average conservative or libertarian, but is it rational to reject any party on this basis? Among other things, I find myself at odds with the party’s commitment to increasing NHS spending and our continued involvement in Afghanistan. Yet the Tory approach to these issues is not a sufficient basis with which to dismiss them (in fact, you may well agree with their position). Though vehemently opposed to so-called ‘liberal interventionism’ and socialised medicine, this author accepts that there are issues such as the economy, taxation and welfare that sit markedly higher on the list of achievable legislation.
A strong radical undercurrent exists among both the party membership and Conservative MPs. Active libertarian voices within the party are pushing for various free-market reforms, most recently with Education Secretary Michael Gove announcing plans to allow private companies to run state schools. An In/Out EU referendum in the next parliament is now looking inevitable. Wasting a vote or refusing to join a party on the basis of disagreement with one policy in a hundred may feel more ‘philosophically sound’, but it was Margaret Thatcher, not Milton Friedman, who slashed income tax in the 1980s.
The interests of those who believe in economic and personal freedom are best served by the party that most strongly and successfully advances them. The Conservative Party ought to unite those who believe in free markets, free people and a smaller state. The Thatcherite, classical liberal, and anarcho-capitalist can all find agreement with the aims of the majority of Conservative policies.
However, you may disagree entirely with the assertion that the Conservative Party is a home for pragmatic right-wingers, instead placing false hope in the future electoral successes of UKIP. If so, it may be wise to consider the possibility of forging right-wing consensus by fighting for an electoral pact with the Conservatives. It will take courage from members of both parties to avoid splitting the right-wing vote at the next General Election. Murray Rothbard neatly surmised the importance of consensus when referring to the concept of the ‘freedom train’; the destination is freedom and the choice of when to get off is entirely your own.
The message of the importance of joining a party also resonates with those on the other side of politics. Those of all persuasions ought to be able to agree that increasing involvement with the political process is a desirable outcome. Lively ideological debate within and between parties is the best way of discovering the right way forward. The most effective way of advancing any ideology is to actually implement it. That is only possible by ensuring that Westminster is dominated by like-minded individuals. If you class yourself as a left-libertarian, a social democrat or even a communist but aren’t yet a member of a comparable political party, then I ask you the same simple question – why not?
Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielPryorr