The UK Liberal Democrats are NOT a Libertarian Party


Not libertarian

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced an early election last week to help her with Brexit negotiations. She currently has a slim majority from David Camerons 2015 victory and polls show she would go from 330 seats to over 430 seats, out of 650. This will ensure more flexibility in negotiations and getting the withdrawal approved. Additionally, many remainer MPs could be ousted by voters who wanted Out, which means it will be smoother sailing. Conservative candidates will have to say they support the Prime Minister and leaving the European Union.

The United Kingdom is a bit different than the United States in how elections are run. For starters, despite being a smaller country, there are over 200 more seats, meaning each Member of Parliament represents about 100,000 people, as opposed to around 700,000 here. Furthermore, the upper house is not elected, and there are no state races. Thus, elections are generally one-race affairs, making things simple. Historically, there were no parties, but factions developed after the English Civil War, namely the Whigs and the Tories. The former wanted more power for Parliament and less monarchy. The latter were more conservative and supported the King.

Towards the 1800s, the factions formally became the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, and were the main groups in Parliament until the 1920s, when the Labour Party arose (minor parties, such as Irish secessionists, had been prevalent thruout). Labour soon came to overtake the Liberals and became the dominant leftwing party. In the 1980s, facing decades of failure, they merged with the Social Democratic party to become the Liberal Democrats. The former Whigs would not see government again until an strange coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.

For some reason, among American libertarians there is a belief that the Liberal Democrats are a libertarian party, when they are absolutely nothing of the sort. Hearing this from one person seemed like an honest error of ignorance. Hearing it a second time merits a correction. I am not sure where this misconception arose, but it must be put to rest. The Liberal Democrats are essentially a Bernie Sanders party. While Labour is popular among the working class, the Lib Dems are more popular with urban youth and old hippies. Incidentally, Bernie Sanders brother, Larry, is a Green Party member, which is even more extreme and suggests Bernie is not as “moderate” as he pretends. There is nothing libertarian about the Lib Dem platform, and they oversaw an expansion in the UK police state in the 2010 government.

But is there anything remotely libertarian in the UK? The Conservative Party is everything the name suggests, albeit a bit softer than our Republicans. However, they are not immune from being besmirched as the party of the rich, and a bunch of fascists (never mind the British National Party). Libertarians have filled their ranks, such as Douglas Carswell, who switched to UKIP, and sadly wont be running again. If anything is libertarian, its UKIP. Nigel Farage is a nationalist, but undeniably libertarian in economics. Its been a tough sell, and especially now with Brexit in the works, UKIP has to evolve. A niche clearly appeared merging libertarians with working class right-wing Labour voters, not unlike the Trump coalition, as much as many libertarians refuse to admit it. Farage stepped down from party leadership and after a bunch of missteps, a somewhat plain Paul Nuttall took the reins. The direction he will take is not fully clear, but for UKIP it is important to pick off Labour Leave voters and state a clear libertarian nationalist agenda (yes, that is a thing). Will Britons ever be able to own guns and keep more of their money from the government? There certainly is the Anglo spirit of freedom, but liberty has consistently been a uniquely American motif.

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