“Fed Up with Politicians?”
By Duncan Whitmore
Such was the title of a political leaflet received through my door last week.
Readers familiar with my work on this blog will know that I place little faith in the mainstream, political process as the primary means of achieving a freer society in the UK. There is no point in trying to grab control of the system when it is the system itself that is rotten.
Nevertheless, this leaflet – from an organisation called “NotLibLabCon” – caught my eye for three reasons.
First, the leaflet is clearly written from a right-leaning, pro-freedom perspective, listing political priorities such as:
- Sensibly sized government
- Strong borders
- Individual choice
- Stopping mass surveillance
- Freedom of speech
- Balanced budget
- Low inflation
Even political outsiders in this country tend to taint otherwise agreeable ideas by making obeisance to the NHS or to enforced “fairness” in this, that and the other. No mention of either was a good reason to save this leaflet from my rubbish bin.
Second, as its name suggests, NotLibLabCon aims at rejecting the three main political parties, all of whom it accuses of “no longer [caring] about serving the people”.
Indeed, amusingly, the leaflet presents a long list of problems which the three parties need to address – with the only tick being earned by “gender neutral toilets”.
However, unlike the tiny, alternative parties vying for your vote, NotLibLabCon will be standing not a single candidate for election in its name. Instead, their primary focus is on promoting independent politicians, devoid of any party loyalty.
Thus, NotLibLabCon stands not only against the three, dominant parties, but against the party system as a whole. Such a system has largely been responsible for the “divide and conquer” strategy of embroiling the electorate in faux outrage over trivial matters while the fundamental problems are buried by unuttered consensus.
If candidates must stand on their own two feet, stripped of the support of big party branding, they are much more likely to have to address real issues in order to gain any traction with voters.
Indeed, while NotLibLabCon is happy to encourage people to vote for minor parties, they do so on the condition that the candidate possesses “honesty”, “integrity”, “passion” and “conviction”. Such a shifting of emphasis away from political parties can only be a good thing.
Third, instead of trying to elect MPs to the Westminster bubble, NotLibLabCon focusses its efforts on local elections (indeed, the campaign is timed to coincide with the elections next month). In their own words:
Local Councils have a major impact in our daily lives. Policies which are agreed in Westminster need to be implemented at a local level. Local Councillors oversee services such as schools, roads and social care.
Many people feel the Westminster political parties no longer represent them, especially at a local level. Local Lib Lab Con Councillors toe their party line, not always acting in the best interests of local residents and businesses. This has to stop!
In the same way that our national politicians seem beholden to globalised interests, local governments also tend to have “higher” priorities to which the day to day concerns of the voters must take a back seat.
For instance, controversial initiatives such as “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” are, according to the RAC, implemented by local governments, yet their funding comes from the Department for Transport. One suspects that fewer of these schemes would be appearing if councils had to ask their residents to cough up directly.
Thinking locally is certainly a step in the right direction. At the end of the day, greater, individual freedom and a shrinking of the size of the state will only be achieved from the bottom up. That starts with wresting power away from its absurd level of concentration in Westminster.
In fact, as I have argued recently, this is the next logical step following our attempt at repatriating decision making authority from Brussels. Indeed, it was the UK which largely led the populist revolt against the greening, globalising blob when we voted to leave the EU in June 2016 – more than four months before the Americans followed suit by electing Donald Trump as their president.
That revolt remained uncompromising until the 2019 election of Boris Johnson’s government upon the promise to “get Brexit done.” But while Brexit may have been done in name, the insular, remote political class which fought tooth and nail to reverse it retains a tight stranglehold over the governing institutions of this country.
Unfortunately, whereas popular American resistance has remained visibly proactive during the “Joe Biden” administration, the momentum for continued rebellion on our side of the Atlantic seemingly fizzled away during the COVID lockdowns.
NotLibLabCon clearly senses widespread discontent with both the system and the personnel of our government bubbling away underneath the surface. I have no idea whether they represent the green shoots of an effective resurgence against this system. But they are sowing the right seeds.
You can read the NotLibLabCon leaflet here. You can also order copies for distribution here.
Neil Lock on here argues that we should do away with politics (and therefore not have politicians). Of course, that would not be a society with the aims of NotLibLabCon in mind.
You would not have “sensibly sized government” or “strong borders”, it would have to be no government and no borders, and such a situation fundamentally calls for a radical transformation in social organisation because any organised social form must have ‘leaders’ or ‘politicians’ or committees or some sort of decision-making mechanism and structure or it isn’t organised. At the centre of my critique of that purist type of libertarianism (as well as pure stateless socialism) is that any such arrangements inevitably must evolve into soft statehood, perhaps rather quickly, if they are not that from the start. Hence any distinctions between, say, ‘government’ and ‘state’ or ‘political state’ and contract judicial dispute resolution mechanisms, in the end amount to distinctions without substantive differences – they are all forms of statehood, or can be reduced to such, even if the experiences under each would differ sharply.
Personally, I would go as far as saying that the ‘state’ in some form is axiomatic for any social complex, therefore any theory that cannot take account of a biologised or ontological or maybe anthropological theory of statehood would probably turn out to be flawed in any practical situation, even if it is perfectly logical from a textbook point of view. That means there has to be some sort of accommodation between what seem to be two natural urges or outgrowths of the human condition: the drive for liberty has to be checked and organised by the need for authority. The ideal solution is probably something along the lines of minarchy, with multiple layers of informal authority, and the most maximum personal liberty within a recognisable social order.
Turning away from theory, I have spoiled my ballot paper now for 20 years or more. When I first started doing this, I was aware having once been an election agent and approved candidate that anything written on the ballot paper must be read out at the count itself to the candidates or their representatives, so on some occasions I wrote ‘YOU ARE ALL TRAITORS’ or something like, ‘ALL USELESS’, if I felt strong contempt for the choices on offer. That was a bit immature on my part, but I always enjoyed the thought that the Deputy Returning Officer would have to read them it and show them what I had written.
A few years ago, I came up with the idea of a ‘None of the Above Party’, which would operate in an entirely autonomous/libertarian fashion – that is to say:
Not be a registered political party.
No leaders or officials or members.
No premises or other fixed assets other than a website.
Anybody, anywhere, would be free to participate and assist.
The mission and purpose would be to inform the public of their right to cast a protest vote by writing on the ballot paper: ‘X NONE OF THE ABOVE’.
The potential would be to intervene in important by-elections, at both local and national level, and possibly change the results or attract notice. A website would allow activists to download a leaflet, stickers and posters giving the simple message and encouraging mass protest votes.
I see that others have come to a similar idea. As well as NotLibLabCon, there is the following campaign called ‘None’:
The people in the link below argue that None of the Above protests are a symbolic gesture and therefore futile and are calling for electoral reform to include a binding None of the Above option:
I agree that there should be reform along these lines, but I disagree with the assertion that protest voting is futile. Symbolic gestures can lead to changes when they are taken up in sufficient numbers and noticed.
There is also https://holdourvote.org/ (a project of https://notourfuture.org/, for whom I went leafletting back in January: https://libertarianism.uk/2023/01/08/leafletting-for-liberty/). It’s good to see dissent starting from the grass roots.
Oh, and Tom, I recall the “Vote Nobody” campaign for the 2001 general election. What did it achieve? Nothing. It’s taken us more than 20 years to get any traction at all. I am still optimistic for the human future, but becoming resigned to not seeing any real freedom in my lifetime.
The realisation of freedom will depend on people wanting freedom. The irony of this is that individual freedom depends on co-operation with others, in fact the consent of others. Maybe Rousseau was correct?