In Limited Praise of Charlie Elphicke

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

In Limited Praise of Charlie Elphicke
by Sean Gabb
19th May 2017

Last Sunday, my daughter assisting, I delivered about three hundred leaflets in North Deal for Charlie Elphicke, my Conservative candidate in the General Election. This was the first time in thirty years I had lifted a finger for the Conservative Party. I explained the electoral system to my daughter. I canvassed a dog who tried to eat one of the leaflets. I got into a kerbside debate that may have brought over a few Labour households. It brought back memories of my youth.

When I mentioned this on Facebook, one of my friends responded that Mr Elphicke had not been a Conservative Member of Parliament of the kind I would once have let myself support. I will not quote this response. It seems to be both accurate and damning. For his lack of commitment on the European issue, Mr Elphicke would, at the beginning of the present century, have been one of the easier targets of my Candidlist project. Now, I am willing to vote and even to campaign for him. I defend my choice with these observations:

First, Mr Elphicke has been a decent constituency MP. In 2010, I approached the British Council in Slovakia, to ask for its assistance in promoting my books. I was told that the officials there were too busy lobbying for action on “global warming” to find time for the promotion of English literature. I wrote to Mr Elphicke, who wrote sharply and at once to the relevant funding agency. Ever since then, the British Council has helped me pay my gas bills from the Slovak translations of my novels. I know other people with similar tales.

Second, and following from the above, he has been willing to put up with me for seven years. He gets an e-mail of denunciation from me on average once a fortnight. He usually answers these at length, and sometimes with confidential admissions that make it impossible for me to publish the correspondence. Indeed, after the Referendum, in which he had campaigned on the wrong side, I wrote him a nasty open letter of denunciation. He joined in the Facebook debate over this, and entered into another confidential e-mail exchange. He has not since then visibly avoided my company. The last time we met, he spoke to me in Greek.

These two are important observations, particularly the second. There are countries – I think of America – where parliamentary representatives are hardly ever accessible to their electors. I am lucky to live in a country where I can see my Member of Parliament walking about the streets without armed guards. I once bumped into Mr Elphicke while he was at my daughter’s school. One of my students once made fun of him in the local Tesco. Everyone knows where he lives.

You can, of course, say this about most Members of Parliament. England is a country with a limited record of political murder, and even Cabinet Ministers are expected to show themselves in public. Mr Elphicke, though, steps somewhat beyond the minimal custom. You can ask him for help. You can make a nuisance of yourself, and have some chance of being tolerated. The Labour man he replaced in 2010 answered about one in three of my letters, and always with an unsigned postcard.

Most Members of Parliament are less than ideal guardians of the public interest. So far as I can tell, about half of them are nasty pieces of work. There is nothing to be done in the short term about this first. When you find yourself represented by a reasonable human being, you are under some obligation to re-elect him.

But I come to my third observation. Let us agree that Mr Elphicke is a man without any principled view of the European Union. When the Conservative leadership was in favour of staying in, so was he. Now the leadership is of a different view, so is he. I do not blame him for this. It does not in itself make him a bad man. It does not hold me from voting for him with a clean conscience.

The European issue appears to be settled in all but its details. Theresa May – herself a woman of no fixed principle – has committed herself to leaving. Her present peace of mind and her place in the history books both depend on how well she extricates us from the European Union. She seems clever enough to know this. She looks the sort who can bully or blackmail her way to an advantageous deal. Whatever else she has said or done, whatever else she may stand for, is not presently important. All that matters is that she should get the biggest possible mandate next month, and that the men we elect to sit behind her should be reliable. Mr Elphicke strikes me as completely reliable, and he therefore gets my support.

All this being said, I move of one of the more absurd wisdoms of British politics, which is that Conservatives are sentimental loyalists, and Labour is a party of hard-faced ideologues. The truth is exactly the opposite. Labour stopped being recognisably the party of ordinary working people at the end of the 1970s. After a fifteen year struggle, during which it split, the party was taken over by a charismatic liar fronting a generation of apparatchiks who proceeded to do well for themselves and for nobody else. During these thirty five years, Labour hung on to its core voters. It did badly in 1983 because of the Falklands War. It did badly in 1987 mainly because of the electoral system. It is only now that ordinary working people are responding to Mrs May’s revised brand of One Nation Conservatism.

The Conservatives core cote, on the other hand, has been far more volatile. We abstained in large numbers in 1997, because of Europe. If all of us who abstained or voted UKIP in 2001 and 2005 had voted Conservative, Labour would have at least lost its majority. The Conservatives could have got an overall majority in 2010, and could have won a big majority in 2015. The main reason Mrs May seems headed now for a crushing majority is because almost none of us will vote UKIP. Large numbers of conservatives take a purely instrumental view of the Conservative Party. There is little brand loyalty. When it seems likely to do something conservative, it gets support. When it seems a lost cause, it is dumped.

About twenty years ago, I listened to Peter Tatchell’s explanation of why he could no longer support the Labour Party. I forget what had upset him, but I do recall that he was almost in tears at the thought of no longer being a member of the Labour Party. It was a reaction I found hard to understand. Conservatives abstain, or vote UKIP, or come back to the Conservative Party, without a twinge of guilt; and returners are generally welcomed without recrimination.

In 2010, I voted Conservative for the first time this century because I feared Labour more than I despised the Conservatives. It was the same in 2015 – and because, in spite of all else to be said against him at the time, I rather liked Charlie Elphicke. Because the present election is effectively a rerun of the Referendum, I will vote for him again. However, a big win for the Conservatives this time may leave the political landscape so altered that other options will emerge.

Until then, Mr Elphicke, and through him Mrs May, will have my support. I may even accept his invitation, come polling day, to sit as a Conservative teller….


  1. I have a Conservative MP as well, whose main distinction seems to be that he is the drummer in a parliamentary band. I can’t say much else about him, as he is (relatively-speaking) a non-entity: his background is boring and even his music is bland. I should not be too concerned if he is re-elected, which he will be at a canter, as he does at least put on a show of being a good constituency MP. But I will not vote for him. I’m instinctively anti-Tory and in point-of-fact have never voted Conservative, and probably never will. Psychologically it’s too much of a barrier, as at root I am still a socialist. More substantial reasons for my anti-Conservatism include the legacy of Thatcherism, which I think is very significant for northern England especially. In particular, I strongly oppose privatisation of public services and strategic industries.

    The UKIP candidate in my constituency looks sound enough, but I think it might be for the best now if UKIP collapses under its own weight. UKIP is philosophically confused. It’s a mixture of, on the one hand, people like Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall, who are basically free market Tories, and who lead the Party; and, on the other hand, the grassroots who are a mixture of civic patriots and national-socialists.

    The Labour Party is out-of-bounds. I note they are always careful to field a white British candidate locally, as they know anything other than that would not gone down well, but they are too tainted now. However I disagree with others who say that Labour are finished. I think this is far from the case. First and foremost,

    I think I will vote regionalist this time round: the Yorkshire Party, for devolution to Yorkshire. This is despite the fact that, in principle, I oppose regionalism in England. The notion of a Yorkshire brand of sub-nationalism is completely ridiculous. We’re not a separate ethnicity, the differences are cultural, and there is no sensible basis for devolved government here – and I certainly don’t like the idea of adding an additional layer of government, on any basis. However it might be a way of giving a platform to alternative political parties, so you could say it’s a chess move on my part.

    If we all supported regional devolution in England, then for all its sins, one of the fruits of it would be a proper ‘conservative rebellion’ up and running in England, much like the SNP have, analogously, prospered with their Marxoid neo-nationalism on the back of Scottish devolution.

    • I didn’t finish my comment about Labour, due to lack of time, but I will return to that topic now.

      I think Labour’s demise is being exaggerated. They still have a strong base among white northern English and Welsh working class people who will vote for them come Hell or high water. In some cases, this is because of ties to the public sector and trade unions, in other cases because of the continuing influence of the mainstream media. They also have strong support in Moslem areas, which when organised can deliver plenty of seats. If Labour drop below 100 seats, then I agree they’re definitely finished, but anything above 150 is a salvageable position.

      What would finish Labour for good? I think two factors need to be in place:

      (i). Labour need to have a ‘moderate’ leader who is unpopular or viewed unsympathetically for some reason. Ed Milliband’s period as Labour leader was in hindsight a huge opportunity to wound Labour fatally. This could arise again if Labour make the mistake of replacing Corbyn with somebody like Yvette Cooper or Owen Smith.

      (ii).There needs to be a credible national-socialist or patriotic alternative political party, that can appeal emotionally to the northern English and Welsh white working class, thus breaking the back of Labour forever in his hinterlands.

      One factor or another is not enough. Both factors need to be present. During the Noughties, we had factor (i) in place with the BNP, but we lacked factor (ii) because Labour were strong. Between 2010 and 2015, we had factor (ii) with Ed Milliband as a weak but ‘moderate’ Labour leader, but factor (i) was missing because the BNP was already destroyed, Nationalists had disengaged from electoral politics and UKIP could only provide a tempered alternative. However, the emerging threat of UKIP during that period gives an indication as to what might be possible.

  2. This whole abject article has the feel of a battered wife giving her reasons for continually returning to the husband who abuses her. Terribly sad.

  3. While I am tempted to dogpile you and praise James’ comment effusively, I will stick to offering the only marginally useful contribution I can make to the discussion. Here across the pond, we can no longer say — as you did in your open letter to Mr. Elphicke:

    The choice before you is to act as part of a political machine hostile to our existence as a free people in an independent country, or to act as the delegate of those who elected you. We have now spoken, and we look to you to follow our clearly-expressed instructions.

    Our choice now is merely the former of your two, colored differently as a diversion, but always the same. There are those who still insist that “Orange Julius Caesar” has a grand strategy by which he will outmaneuver his enemies (who are legion), and crush them with his mighty mandibles. I am somewhat less sanguine and continue to believe that we are merely one step closer to electing our own Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.

    That said, I envy your ability to actually interact with your representative. I wish that I could have that same relationship with an elected official at any level. (I caught a whiff of it in 1994, but it was just a tease.)

  4. ‘Hold your nose and vote Conservative again’ would make an effective billboard poster, I think.
    I have never conversed with Neil Carmichael mp, but I know he is actively hostile towards brexit. Still, he’ll get my vote.

  5. I would welcome a piece on May’s so-called ‘dementia tax’ from a libertarian perspective. Defenders of it are, perhaps without surprise, few and far between.

  6. I will be voting for Brexit.

    I hate having to support that dozy BluLabour bitch May. She is arrogant, authoritarian and useless. She has been lucky with Brexit and her innate animal cunning has carried her this far. But she is thick and the mistakes and stupidity will be constant from now on.

    I am not willing to accept her bullshit plans to take over–or try to take over– the Internet in Chi-com style after this election and it pains me that a mandate for Brexit will be taken as a mandate for all the rest of her BluLabour crap.

    About the second vital issue of our times–stopping immigration and reversing its effects she is the enemy personified. 5000 troops on the streets is not merely stupidity in action it illustrates how dangerous and deluded a stooge of cultural Marxism the woman is.

    Vote for Brexit yes–but we must then do everything possible to put our boots to this female fool, a well-off, middle-class cultural Marxist, London Bubble One-Nation clown.

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