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The Liberal Democrats: Not liberal, not democratic


EIGHTY years ago in 1941, the future of the world looked bleak. All of Europe was under the sway of dictatorship, most countries directly through occupation by Germany and the USSR, and others indirectly, such as Sweden and Switzerland, by having to come to an accommodation with fascism. Even Britain was in effect a socialist one-party dictatorship, with all life, capital, and property having the potential to be appropriated by the state for the prosecution of the war against Hitler.

Britain, its forces having been ejected from the European mainland, stood as the only European power opposing Nazism. Night after night the Luftwaffe came over to destroy our people and our buildings in indiscriminate aid raids, sowing the wind that would ripen into our whirlwind of devastation reaped on German soil by Bomber Command. Axis Submarine packs sank an increasing tonnage of shipping carrying vital supplies for our war effort. The Germans expected that this country would, as result of attrition and shortage, collapse into disorder and fear, if not national bankruptcy, unable to meet the demands of a total war.

Life was miserable and dangerous. Hope seemed distant. The United States of America, while sympathetic, was neutral, and this neutrality extended to refusing Britain any credit for armaments purchases. 1940 had been an election year, and both presidential candidates had to be circumspect about risking capital and lives on overseas military ventures lest they alienate the isolationist element of the American electorate. This changed after Franklin D Roosevelt’s record third election victory. In his State of the Union address on January 6, 1941, Roosevelt outlined the ‘Four Freedoms’ that should be enjoyed by everyone:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

‘The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

 ‘The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

‘The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

‘The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour – anywhere in the world.’

In March of 1941, Roosevelt put his money where his mouth was through the passing of the Lend-Lease Acts, releasing American industry to help Britain fight dictatorship by providing a form of credit rather than cash-and-carry, just as we were on the verge of running out of money to pay for weapons. Our island nation would not be defeated. Hitler would lose the war.

The Four Freedoms are the bedrock of modern Western civilisation. The first is the most important and is the one from which all the others flow. Freedom of worship is impossible under a regime of compelled speech. Freedom from want cannot be achieved if this is administered without comment or critique: corruption is inevitable. Fears that cannot be expressed cannot be guarded against. If injustice is concealed, as it was in the grooming scandals in Rotherham and elsewhere, there is no freedom from an unexpressed fear.

It is in this context that the remarks on BBC TV’s Question Time last weekby Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran are utterly indefensible. Asked whether the government’s policy of defending free speech in universities was a priority, Moran answered ‘absolutely not’ and attacked the policy as ‘divisive’. 

Both students and tutors are under attack should they express differences from the ‘woke’ orthodoxies that infest higher education. Guest speakers have been ‘uninvited’ or spurious procedural obstacles placed in their way. Being able to express conservative opinions on campus has been a taboo for years, if not decades. Left-leaning academics have been vocal in expressing their hatred of opposing ideas to the point of acting in an irrational fashion. 

Laws protecting freedom of speech on campus have actually been on the statute book for some time., However, the means for their enforcement, short of private legal intervention by Toby Young’s Free Speech Union or others, has been lacking. This is to change. Universities will now be financially liable for the speech-limiting conduct by their staff, students, or on their premises. It is this to which Moran objects.

The second half of the 2010s have not been good for the Liberal Democrats. Stepping up in 2010 to join a coalition in the national interest in a time of fiscal crisis, they were severely punished by an electorate in 2015 who seems to previously have been using them as a tactical anti-Conservative vote in seats where Labour was the third party. Going into the 2020s, the Liberal Democrats have compounded their misfortune through the policy of trying to reverse the once-in-a-generation referendum vote by ignoring the clear democratic wish of the majority of the UK populace to leave the European Union. Although their support rose by over 4 per cent to 11 per cent, the uneven distribution of this rise meant the party suffered a net loss of one seat from 2017, that of leader Jo Swinson, despite being bolstered during 2019 by numerous MPs defecting from other parties, all of whom lost their seats.

Not liberal enough to champion freedom of speech on university campuses, not democratic enough to respect a clear referendum result, time may be up for the Liberal Democrats. The party decided to tweet a video containing Moran’s own exercise of freedom of speech from their Twitter account, officially endorsing her key quote attacking freedom of speech. Then the tweet was deleted.  

Obviously someone in the party came to a horrific realisation and censored Moran’s attack on a fundamental of Western civilisation.

The Liberal Democrats are now back to the ghetto of the Thorpe years, a handful of MPs and with little of significance to say over the major issues of the day. They last had a change of name over three decades ago, and on their current form seem to need a new name as they are not living up to their existing one. Suggestions (clean) in the comments. Attachments area

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan worked in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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