A Few Words on the General Election

NB – This essay does not constitute an endorsement or condemnation by the Libertarian Alliance of any candidate in the present General Election. SIG

A Few Words on the General Election
by Sean Gabb
(29th April 2017)

Unless I fall under a bus before polling day, this will be the tenth General Election in which I have voted. It may be long-term electoral fatigue that leaves me so unexcited by and uninterested in the process. Or it may be that the process in itself is dreary beyond belief. Whatever the case, I do not feel inclined to discuss it. But I do feel obliged to say something.

I will vote Conservative. This is not because I approve of what the Conservatives have done since they won an overall majority in 2015. They have continued making the country less free and less British. It is not because I like Theresa May. As Home Secretary, her agenda was to give us even more of a police state than Michael Howard had in mind. She was on the Remain side in the Referendum. She found herself Leader of the Conservative Party because she had better friends than the other candidates, and because she was probably the least awful of the candidates. But I will vote Conservative, even so. I will do this for two reasons.

First, this election is effectively a rerun of the Referendum. If the Cameron Government had shown the slightest decency or forethought, it would have included in the Referendum Act a clause to the effect that a No vote would oblige and empower the Ministers to take all necessary action to leave the European Union. Instead, the Prime Minister resigned in a fit of pique, and the courts insisted on a separate Enabling Act. This gave us a new Prime Minister with a dubious mandate. So we are voting to give her that mandate. Let us suppose she fails to get a working majority – there would most likely be a coalition of Labour and the Scottish Nationalists. Labour is weakly-committed to leave the European Union, The Scottish Nationalists do not wish to leave. One way or the other, the Referendum would be overturned by any but a Conservative victory – perhaps by any but a big Conservative victory. Therefore, anyone who wants to leave should vote Conservative. I will pinch my nose and do so. I commend this decision to my friends.

Second, we are entering an age of rapid ideological change. Questions of whether we should have identity cards, or if the authorities should be able to censor the media, are becoming less important than the questions of who makes these decisions, and how they are made. There is not – and probably, in my lifetime, never has been – a libertarian option in British politics. The choice has always been so far which elements of a broadly leftist-authoritarian agenda should be pushed hardest. The choice now is between a Conservative Government that has no electoral interest in leftism, and limited inclination to uphold its hegemony, and various parties that will try to keep that hegemony going till it fully shrivels away. The Conservative Party is an organisation of frauds and liars. Its directors are in the pocket of any interest group with money to spend. Though split on exactly what it believes, however, Labour is a party of true believers. The Conservatives will do evil by inertia, Labour by choice. Without hope of immediate improvement, I will vote Conservative.

Give her a decent majority, and Theresa May will take us out of the European Union on acceptable terms. These terms will be available almost for the asking. The European Union is little more than the agent of twenty seven governments, all with conflicting interests. The British Government will have a fresh mandate to act on behalf of a unitary state. Mrs May is no fool, and she must understand that her hold on power and her place in the history books are both contingent on how she manages our disengagement. Her lack of principle is beside the point – or may be an advantage.

And then?

We can leave aside the idea of a libertarian revival. No one in or near government wants less control by the State. Hardly any of the electors want it. This is probably for the best. I have been an insider on the British free market movement for about forty years. Those who run it are willing to nod approvingly whenever freedom of speech is mentioned, or due process of law. The mainstream utopia, though, involves full speed ahead for the City banking casinos, and an immigration policy that will stuff the rest of us into sixty-storey tower blocks of bedsitting rooms. What we can more likely expect – and hope for – is what I will delicately call a revival of national identity. This will eventually involve some regard for historic liberties. It will also involve a degree of directed reindustrialisation, and even a pretty generous welfare system.

On this latter point, I will observe that there is nothing specifically leftist or socialist about welfare. From the Greeks onward, every European state has taken some responsibility for the welfare of the poor and of the not-so-poor. Until the Reformation, the English State contracted out these duties to the Roman Church. In the last years of Elizabeth, the authorities took direct responsibility. The 1834 Act did not seek to abolish welfare, but standardised it, and made sure it included basic medical services. The 1911 Act and the Attlee Government’s welfare laws were less than ideal for their stated purpose. But they are part of a system we have inherited; and more welfare of whatever kind was the inevitable product of greater wealth to pay for it. Unless certain present trends continue to the point where the social contract breaks down in chaos or tyranny, we can expect a long-term settlement on welfare that will reconcile economy and self-help with humanity and security. If Theresa May can start work on this – and perhaps some start has already been made since 2010 – we shall be in her debt.

I turn to one other matter. I did hope that the election of Donald Trump would make it less essential to resent American control over our affairs. I never believed that he would keep all his promises. But I failed to expect that he would turn out so quickly to be a weak-minded charlatan. I may be wrong here. He may be playing a clever game with all the unfinished business of the Cold War. Let China be bullied into switching off North Korea, and perhaps the Americans can revise their military commitments in East Asia. Give him a big triumph in foreign policy, and he may be able to make other changes. But the simplest explanation for the past month or so is that Mr Trump is a big-business neoconservative who lied his way into office, and should now be shunned by every other civilised government.

This being so, the first victims of her Cabinet reshuffle should be Boris Johnson and Liam Fox. The first is an intellectual and moral disgrace who should never be let into Parliament even to clean the toilets there. The second is an American agent. Their continuation in government is inconsistent with our national self-determination. We shall leave the European Union. The fewer the dealings we have with the Americans after that, the better it will be for all of us.

This is a dreary election. I can barely make myself look at the newspaper headlines. For the reasons I have given, even so, it may be the most important in which I shall have voted. Assuming a large Conservative majority, it may set an agenda for the next fifty years – a better agenda than we have had in the past fifty. I just wish it were over, and, unless something unexpectedly interesting happens, I have no wish to write any more about it.


  1. Sean,

    I agree with your first point. The tactical vote is Tory. If a May landslide gives her a platform to say “fuck off” to the EU, that’s good. But living where I do, I can’t vote for Jeremy Hunt.

    I agree with the thrust of your second point too. But you are too kind to the Tories. They don’t do evil just by inertia; they do evil on their own account too. I wrote, not briefly, on that in my recent post “Diesel Fumes.”

    None of the major parties is electable. Except, perhaps, UKIP. But UKIP have their own problems.

    The answer is not “more of the same.” It’s fresh thinking which is required. Is it not the function of the Libertarian Alliance to provide fresh thinking? I’m doing my bit; where are the rest of you?

    Oh, and for your own “safety,” stay away from buses. Their front ends can kill. And their rear ends kill also, by emitting diesel fumes.

  2. Of course, when you vote for any political PARTY you hand over power to them without any guarantee of anything in return.That is the “democratic” trick which they play upon us. so, Sean, in his resignation mood thinks it is better to give the most likely winner his support even though she is a nasty bitch who kept Melanie Shaw banged up illlegally in prison. I fail to follow his logic.
    The system which they operate destroys the separation of powers and with it our liberty. In the first instance it is nothing to do with POLICY of Party A B or C. It is to do with the constituional separation of powers. The party system is the “revolution against that separation of powers.” No matter which PARTY the result is the same right up to UKIP BNP or uncle Tom Cobbley’s party. That vital separation of powers and aLl the legal protection we once enjoyed BY THAT SEPARATION is destroyed by our voting for a party. As i say in my website http://www.camrecon.demon.co.uk “we are our own executioners” we could stop it tomorrow if enough of us refused to vote for party and vote Independent. That is what I intend to do. I was nearly that Independent at the last election and there was one other. He will get my vote this time. I hope you will all ignore Sean’s moans and do likewise. It is START IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

  3. I can’t bring myself to vote Tory. I just can’t do it. If you offered me a million pounds, I’d need time to think it over. Anyway, both names, ‘Conservative’ and ‘Tory’, are misnomers for most of these people. They would be better-named the Business Party. It is those interests that they defend on the whole, and have always defended since at least the 1832 Reform Act. I maintain my view that the main role of the Conservative Party is to minimise, and where possible prevent or discourage, radical social reform. I could cite many examples in support, but one only need look at the Conservatives now and the hard line they are affecting to take on Brexit. This is completely unrealistic as they do not have the slightest intention of leaving the Single Market. Rather, their aim is to destroy UKIP. That is the main reason for this general election.

    I am also rather tired of unethical Tory behaviour. This is from a Party that likes to talk tough on law and order, but seems to harbour within its parliamentary ranks some of the country’s most unscrupulous criminal elements. Mr Cameron, before the Brexit vote, promised clearly and unequivocally that in the event of a vote for Leave, an Article 50(2) notification would be served immediately (he said it would be done within a matter of days). This had no bearing on the status of the referendum, which was always pre-legislative, but by making that promise Cameron was clearly committing the government to take the necessary steps to enshrine a vote for Leave into law, which he then failed to do. Instead we had months of drift while the Conservatives took the temperature of the country, no doubt in a vain effort to see if they could resile on the referendum result and get away with it.

    The Labour Party are no better, and for that reason, I do think Theresa May is the best person to make Brexit a reality under the current dispensation. She is an utterly ruthless, unprincipled, psychopathic bitch – and therefore amply suited for the role.

    Granted, June 8th. is still more than a month away, and ‘a week is a long time in politics’, but it looks like she has played a blinder here. UKIP are in a mess. Labour are all over the place, and may even come third in Wales behind Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives. The SNP will take Labour, just like last time, further neutralising Labour. May’s own Party has more than the usual interest in winning decisively, given the impending possibility of criminal prosecutions for electoral offences. She’ll win handily, stitch up a deal with the EU that involves remaining in the Single Market (I still don’t think we will actually leave it), and she’ll be home in time in cornflakes.

  4. I am not qualified to speak on the British election. I do have two OTP (“over the pond”) observations, though:

    But the simplest explanation for the past month or so is that Mr. Trump is a big-business neoconservative who lied his way into office, and should now be shunned by every other civilised government. This is indeed the Occam’s Razor principle writ large (yuge!?). Until he proves himself to be the greatest political strategist since Chanakya, I will go with “weak-minded charlatan”.

    The fewer the dealings we have with the Americans after that, the better it will be for all of us. Britain must immediately, if not sooner, disengage herself from the U.S. This is not a comment on the election as much as it is a more general recommendation of an action that is long long overdue. The difference now is that the black hole that is the Amerikan Empire will all too soon inexorably draw Britain in, and spit her out as an incoherent collection of radio waves.

  5. “On this latter point, I will observe that there is nothing specifically leftist or socialist about welfare.”

    What happened to the libertarian idea of everyone being so wealthy that welfare becomes a non-issue?
    How to do you take from the productive to give to the non-productive without using violence?
    Why should I support people I don’t like (often to the point of would rather see them dead)?

  6. well said Tom. When a politician says “we have no plans” – watch out. I can’t understand why any of you learned gents want to continue playing the party game. The rules of the game are decided by the main players. To consider that Tory is better than Labour is like saying “I prefer the dictatorship to be run better by Tory”.
    Aside,that reminds me that after the war the Tories said that Socialism is inevitable but they would manage it better than Labour.
    Further aside, it was Oswald Spengler who wrote “there is no proletarian, not even a Communist movement which has not operated in the interests of money, in the direction indicated by money and for the time permitted by money and that without the idealists amongst its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.” Not forgetting that the Russian revolution had to have huge amounts of money to invest in the take-over the Russian real -estate., in my opinion the post-war nationalisation of British industry and the current privatisation were/are all part of the same programme. Capital and Socialism are two sides of the same coin.

    Returning to the election.- I repeat, a vote for any party is a transfer of power from you to them, in that every party manifesto is a “package” and when you vote you consent to the whole package. That is the nature of the “elective dictatorship”. You can have package A,B or C but package you MUST have. By your vote for a PARTY you consent to that government having power over you for the next five years and there is nothing you can do to change it. your party MP is THE government and any letters of complaint to him/her will get the party line in return.
    The full meaning of this is that you have agreed in advance to the dictatorship doing just as it pleases for the next 5 years. Instead of every issue being examined on its merits by a free House of Commons, staffed by Independents whose sole role is to represent you the voter and to protect your liberty from overmighty government, you are all going to vote for one arm or other of the dictatorship. It matters not the label of the party, they are all the “revolution against the English constitution” since they ALL destroy the separation of powers when you elect them to govern INSIDE the House of Commons. Paul Nuttall says he want to destroy the monopoly of the political class- no he doesn’t. He wants to join it, because the party system IS the political class. Enjoy which ever version of the dictatorship you prefer.
    In contrast, a vote cast for an Independent stays in the safe custody of the person to be exercised with judgement and discretion. I know which I prefer.

    • I think what leads us to engage with party politics is pragmatism. On the larger point made, I would argue that most revolutionary change is in fact the result of smaller reforms within the existing system and revolutions are the culmination of these.

  7. Always nice to see one of your contributions. These days, sadly, it’s rather a rare pleasure.

    However, the conclusions you draw makes it all feel rather like a counsel of despair. Personally, confronted by this selection of more or less socialist parties, all of whom are certain to black out a few more freedoms over the next few years given the chance, I would not choose to support any of them.

    For it is important to remember that the corollary of supporting “the lesser of two evils” is that one is still, nevertheless, supporting an evil of some kind.

    • James. There IS an alternative. Independents are the remedy to the “democratic” dictatorship. Granted you have to have one to vote for. Why not be that Indy yourself? Why is explained on my website http://www.camrecon.demon.co.uk and I can send you other relevant material if you want via martin.cruttwell@orange.fr “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke.(former MP for my home town of Malton) ( I quote him also on my website). “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do the wrong thing,(i.e vote for a party) when they know there is a moral alternative”

  8. To call the present set-up a democratic dictatorship is entirely wrong, those who control us won’t be on the ballot paper. In reality nothing will change whoever we vote for. All the disillusion and playing with words here is little more than an acknowledgement of that simple fact. May is no more than a puppet, and those pulling her strings are now just trying to work out which way to steer her to get us all back on course. The referendum last year was a severe jolt to their plans, and now all must be directed towards nullifying that result. All this talk of ‘deals’ and ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Brexit, and the ‘single market’, etc, is just pure bollocks. Purely designed to confuse and dismay the gullible and simple-minded. The people voted to leave the whole set-up, pure and simple – all of it!

    Don’t vote, it only encourages them. If you must, on some misguided principle of ‘democracy’, then don’t fall for the shagged-out Lib-Lab-Con gang – ‘none of the above’, would be a good start.

  9. There are two kinds of politics, Sean, theoretical principled politics and practical politics. Most in the House of Commons will always be practical politicians. The two are not mutually exclusive, so we may get one man in the Commons who part-takes of both, such as Edmund Burke did. But most of the theoreticians, like Hobbes or Marx, will never go in for practical politics. In the 1960s, Enoch Powell and Michael Foot went in for both; though they were both mainly practical MPs.

    I think it is inept to ever expect a main political party to be principled, though ideologues like Powell or Foot may well lead us to expect the two main parties, and it will, basically be two, to be roughly opposed to each other, even though most practical politics will be seen as being, roughly, the same in any case.

    Any anarcho-liberal may well think anything a state does is illiberal but if he wants to use elections to roll back the state, by tax cuts, then he needs to use the elections instrumentally to get nearer to having no government i.e. to have a more limited government.

    The complete statist might use them for tax increases.

    Common sense would hold that both extremes are not possible, but most ideologues would hold that common sense errs on the basic facts. The practical politicians will most likely think that common sense is right. In any case, the ideologue should not expect the practical politician to agree with him, unless he puts his case to him at length, and then he might well expect eventual agreement; but then he would expect that from almost anyone.

    There never will be a pure liberal option in British politics. Liberalism and statism runs over both the main parties. It did even before the decline of classical liberalism, from 1860 onwards, for most MPs, even in the nominal Liberal Party in its heyday, were not ideologues or theoretical politicians. Pure liberals would not be satisfied by the liberal side in the 1850s. The use to be made of elections always will be instrumental, but real tax cuts can roll back the state. Social liberty will be a matter of degree whilst the state still exists.

    The Labour Party is not a party of ideologues; and it never was such, nor will it ever be. Moreover, socialism is basically just the court party or the Tory party. It was still a fairly new word in the 1860s, when it became the fashion, [Robert Owen used it in the 1830s] and it stood for old statist ideas. However, the true believer idea is a muddle in any case.

    This is still the “libertarian revival” or even near the liberal acme so far. It never is going to be all liberal anarchists in the Commons but rather MPs will always practical politicians there but there is still the need to get the general public to realise how very wasteful as well as how illiberal the state is bound to be. In the more liberal future, we can expect state welfare to be very unpopular amongst the public and that there will be a big demand for tax cuts. But the MPs will still want to defend politics. Practical politicians will hardly ever want less state control.

    There is a lot statist about welfare and it is certainly illiberal. It erodes individual responsibility that needs liberty to allow it to flourish. The state is anti-liberty and so is history, that just eulogies the state for the most part. So to look back in history is to look back at what is best statist.

    The USA remains, somewhat, a British nation and that is the main reason there will always be talk of the special relationship in the future, as there was in the past.

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