Gavin Webb quits Lib Dems, joins Libertarian Party

A little less than a year ago, Lib Dem Voice welcomed Stoke-on-Trent city councillor and Burton parliamentary candidate Gavin Webb back to the party after a protracted and controversial internal party inquiry suspended then un-suspended him.

Now it’s time to bid him farewell again, with news today that Gavin has quit the Lib Dems and joined the Libertarian Party (LPUK). Gavin’s full statement follows:

I have made a good many friends in my fourteen years of activism in the Liberal Democrats and I hope that those friendships will continue, but regretfully I have decided to resign from the Liberal Democrats.

“The party, like the Conservative and Labour parties, has become a party of the establishment. It has unfortunately firmly wedded itself to the belief that there are primarily government solutions to the problems facing our country, and in the process, they are adopting policies that undermine our rights and freedoms as individuals.

“As far as I can see, most political parties in the UK appear to trust individuals when it comes to voting for councillors, MPs and MEPs, but once comfortably in power they are reluctant to trust individuals when it comes to them making choices about their own lives.

“There is however one political party – the Libertarian Party – that believes in giving responsibility back to individuals over their own lives and their own finances; and it is this party that I have now decided to join.

“We are on the road of authoritarianism, where government is our ruler rather than us being the ruler of our government. It is time for each and every single one of us to make a stand against government and those who feed off it, and demand the reduction of its size and scope.

“From what I’ve seen from many Lib Dem parliamentarians and councillors I don’t believe the Liberal Democrat Party has the inclination to argue for smaller government in defence of our individual rights.

“Though there are some good classical liberal and libertarian types in the party, with whom I hope to continue to have a good relationship, their voices are crowded out by people who believe it perfectly okay to dictate to people how they should live their lives. I don’t wish any longer to be a part of that.

“As an active member of the Libertarian Party, I will campaign to inform people that there are more voluntary, rather than coercive ways in which to influence positive outcomes for themselves, their families and the wider community. I hope to impress upon people that though there may be a need for government of some sort, it doesn’t have to be government of the size and expense we see today.

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  • Great news. Please can he take the rest of “Liberal Vison” with him too.

    It’s not often that it’s good to welcome someone leaving the party, but this is an exception. Clearly some people will be happier in a party they can support rather than one they continually have to criticise.

    One of the problems I have with Libertarians is that they are quite happy to dicate to people how they live their lives
    via economic policy. They don’t seem to see this contracdiction, despite viewing “the free market” as pretty much the be all and end of of freedom and individual decision making.

    Classcial Liberalism – (which I would argue they misunderstand) died a long time ago.

  • Mouse, what would you say is the difference between classical liberalism and libertarianism?

  • Dominic Hannigan 9th Sep '09 - 10:42am

    As a Liberal I am perfectly comfortable with our party. It is clear that the extremist part of the Libertarian wing are not. Maybe the remaining ones should follow Gavin Webb.

  • Grammar Police 9th Sep '09 - 11:24am

    It’s always a shame when people defect, but I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner given all the earlier stuff.

  • I’m personally very pleased to see the back of him.
    He caused nothing but trouble for the Newcastle-under-Lyme local party, and then he did the same in Stoke-on-Trent, and now he has left the Burton local party in the lurch.
    I think that Gavin will find his ego far too big for his new party, but at least he’ll be a very big fish in a very small pond, something, no doubt, he’ll love.
    Now lets get on with winning seats and promoting liberal ideasd of wasting time on self-obsessed individuals that we’re better off without.

  • Paul Griffiths 9th Sep '09 - 12:37pm

    I think it is refreshing and admirable when someone changes their party political allegiance on the basis of philosophical differences rather than because (as is so often the case) they’ve merely fallen out with the rest of the group or not been selected for their favoured seat.

  • I wasn’t happy with what happened over the suspension, but I’m not sorry to see him go as his political beliefs are the sort I’d campaign against, being very illiberal from my point of view, and damaging to society & individuals. I’m not sure how he ever squared his views with the words on his membership card.

  • I’m just curious what it is about our party policy and philosophy that has changed so much in a year that he feels the need to leave now and not a year ago?

  • Martin Land 9th Sep '09 - 2:19pm

    This raises two key questions in my mind:

    1. Who is Gavin Webb?
    2. Who are the Libertarian Party?

    The response? Who cares. Back out leafleting this afternoon.

  • “Rich: I find it hard to see how you can not hold similar views to Gavin if you approve of the words on the membership card… Why do you think they are incompatible?”

    Because of the “next ten words” about balancing the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community. AIUI Libertarians of the purest water would place the first above the other two.

  • Hywel,

    Libertarians of the purest water shouldn’t join the Lib Dems. The problem is that libertarian leaning Liberals are being told by a vocal minority of the party that they should leave.

    I have never heard people on the right/libertarian wing of the party arguing for throwing out an entire section of Liberal opinion but I am hearing it distressingly more often from the left/soggy wing!

  • There is a saying, “never argue with an idiot, for they are doing likewise.”

    However, to give one example – the minimum wage, which the Libertarian Party would abolish.
    But the issue Libertarians have is not so much the minimum wage as any attempt to tamper with “market forces”.

    As Liberal Vision put it, they have no problem with any level of income differential. So no problem with Roman Abramovich (wealth £12 billion) and millions of people in the third world on less than £150 a year.

    The Libertarian party wants a system where “the overwhelming majority of welfare is provided by the voluntary sector funded directly by individuals.”

    Now, I know Libertarians will argue that under their Utopia everyone will be better off and everything will be wonderful but, the rest of us live in the real word, not utopia.

    I believe that Government intervention can increase individual liberty and personal responsibility. In fact I would argue Government Intervention it is entirely necessary for many people to have individual liberty and personal responsibility. Not withstanding the fact that I am sympathetic to the idea of less and better government.

    As Hywel points out, Liberal Democrats are about balancing liberty, equality and community.

    I’m happy to ask Libertarians to leave the party, if they had more presence in the party, then I would be leaving the Lib Dems.

    At the Norwich North By-election the Libertarian Party UK polled 36 votes. 0.1% of those cast.

    The Pro-Euro Conservative Party polled 1.4% in the Euro elections before disbanding all 500 members.

    I may have quibbles and more about some Lib Dem policies and campaigns, but even I can spot that Libertarianism is a march into the electoral wilderness.

  • Max Andronichuk 9th Sep '09 - 4:24pm

    I am a member of the UK Libertarian Party and wish to say that we are very pleased that Gavin has joined us, I am disappointed to see so many people here damning him for leaving. Gavin attempted to get the debate going within the party and its members, he proposed an alternative to the largely “social democrat” philosophy the Liberal Democrats have embraced, and for this decent he is cast aside? The party did not treat him liberally or democratically, and perhaps there are lessons to be learnt.

    Gavin has taken a step that should be praised regardless who would have done it. How many people/councillors/mps do you know that would turn down a mainstream political opportunity to stay true to the principles he believes in?

    I hope that other Libertarian Liberal Democrats look at how Gavin was treated after he left and make their own conclusions about what the LibDems truly represent.

  • I would be very interested to know what policies that undermine our rights and freedoms as individuals this person is talking about, so I can determine whether or not he’s got a point – his statement comes across as ad-hominem ranting otherwise.

  • Max Andronichuk 9th Sep '09 - 7:05pm

    Dave Page – One recent example I can think of that stunned me was when Chris Huhne announced that the Liberal Democrats would support the Government in banning Gurt Wilders from entering the UK for a debate on his anti-Islamic film “Fitna”. What ever happened to free speech?

    I do not support or agree with Gurt Wilders, but the fact that the so called Liberals would not permit him to be debated out of “fear of insult” makes me think about what is more important to them, Liberty or Political correctness? Is this the Liberalism you believe in?

  • Max, did Chris Huhne state that the entire Liberal Democrat party were behind that decision? I know that he personally opposed Gurt Wilders’ entrance – I disagreed with him on that, and I believe many Lib Dems contacted him over the matter.

    I don’t think that’s an example of the party adopting a policy that undermines our rights and freedoms as individuals, however.

  • Max Andronichuk 9th Sep '09 - 8:08pm

    Dave Page – Take a look at the link that IanPJ has posted, one example of foolish social tinkering.

    Look at the economic policies – biggest supporters of the EU, and with it such great creations as the Common Agricultural Policy, limiting the choice of the consumers to “stabilise the market” (one of the policy’s apparent objectives).

    Are the Liberal Democrats talking about radical banking reform? No, they like the other two seem to be slipping into this populist chant that “the bankers need to be brought to heal…and the best way to do it is with government”.
    Our monetary policy reforms would bring return sound money and banking to this country. This idea that centralised government can prevent bubbles by regulation is nonsense.

    The “green economy”, well to move towards this is to accept another populist agenda “the earth is overheating like wildfire and its all our fault!” I am not one to get into the global warming argument, but to speculate that green energy and “the green economy” is the way of the future is like playing number 34 at the roulette table with taxpayers’ money. Green energy is not cheaper (not yet at least), but the LDs enthusiastically move towards it with big government projects. Why not let market forces and people decide what energy they prefer? When the cost of Oil is so high that green energy is an economic alternative, the market will move towards it naturally.

    The NHS monopoly, are the LibDems debating the possibility of privatising it? Opening the market up for people to make the choices on how to spend their money on healthcare and where they get their medical services from?

    The reduction of the overall size of government? Well, arguably both LDs and Conservatives are paying this idea lip services, but how far would they go? Would they dare take government spending to as low as 15% of GDP or so?

    Mr. Clegg talks of tax cuts for the poorest, and this is a good start. But how about the complete abolition of Income Tax? Is this really a radical crazy policy. Allowing people to keep 100% of what they earn? Progressive taxes, this can only be stretched so far. The rich will know how to hide what they are earning to avoid paying this, (Close loop holes I hear you say) and if they can’t they would be pretty darn tempted just to move.
    We have one of the highest levels of corporation tax in the western world, why not consider reducing this to encourage business and enterprise to return to the UK and bring the jobs it creates too.

    The War on drugs? Liberalising the school system? A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty? Minimum wage (there was mention of this before, but I ask you, if minimum wages abolish poverty why not set it to £100 an hour? Surely that would solve everything?)

    The point I am trying to make is that we are not a mini Tory party, we do not all come from wealthy backgrounds and are thus unsympathetic to the needs of people who are worse off. We are arguing that the best solution are sometimes for the government to get out of the way, even though this is met with emotional disapproval from the mainstream.

    There are areas where we argue that they are not as Liberal as we would like them to be. Whether you agree with our positions or not, well this could be a long and tiresome debate. But there are increasing signs of “third way” mentality within the Lib Dems. “Government is the solution, just in the right hands” and so forth. We Libertarians are more like Hayek Liberals.
    Generally we feel that the Liberal Democrats are just Social Democrats in Liberal clothes. (but this is not a 100% condemnation)

  • I dont know Gavin & the Libertarian Party holds no attraction for me. That being said as we grow as a Party more people like Gavin will join – get elected & then ‘discover’ they are not Liberals/democrats – sad – but a fact of life.

  • Malcolm Todd 9th Sep '09 - 9:18pm

    Beware of links to Daily Mail “stories”. Are all Libertarians incapable of reading past the headline? Right there in the story IanPJ linked to (about changing from a single 240-litre bin for general rubbish to a 140- or 180-litre bin for general rubbish and a separate bin for food waste), the Council leader is quoted: “We will not have one size bin for everyone – it will be a case of varying the size to suit people’s needs.” Oh, the tyranny! And the £5,000 fine mentioned is the maximum fine for fly-tipping, not a threatened fine for anyone who “fails to use” the new bins.

    Anyway, what’s the Libertarian point here? That the Council should continue to supply everyone with the size of bin they always used to? What the hell is Libertarian, Liberal, or any other sort of principled about that? I’m afraid posting links like that with an air of “See how illiberal you are!” will just confirm the suspicion of some that “libertarians” really are just reactionaries in disguise – which will do a disservice to those libertarians in the party who actually do have some intelligent points to offer.

  • OK, so “the Liberal Democrats are adopting policies which reduce individual liberties” is explained as “the Liberal Democrats aren’t swivel-eyed Libertaronaut loonies”. No actual examples of policies which the Liberal Democrat Party has adopted, say within the last twelve months, which might provide a reasonable impetus for Gavin Webb to leave, and in several instances a complete misunderstanding of what Liberal Democrat policy is.

    It’s therefore only logical to conclude that Gavin’s statement is bitter ad-hominem ranting by another swivel-eyed Liberteronaut loonie, and disregard it.

  • Another one deserting the sinking ship.

  • Max, the way you explain elements of the Libertarian Party agenda sounds distinctly right – wing to me – certainly further right than the “official”(DC) Tory line. It is hardly surprising that people of that flavour involved for whatever reason in the Lib Dems (entryism or anything else – perhaps simple power – seeking), will feel like fish out of water, and will attract copious criticism from other members. Your agenda has very little in common with the Liberalism I have known since the 60s, and the Lib Dems since the merger. I am amazed it has come this far, although I think the Orange Book ideas have attracted such people.

  • OK, ziggy etc. Many right of centre Tories support legalisation of currently illegal recreational drugs. Not so sure about gun control, which has largely been a US obsession, relating to their history.

    I quite appreciate that many strands of anarchism are on and from “the left”, and as a Liberal, I was and am attracted by that strand of thinking. Unfortunately, as a species, we have to live within the space of other people and of other species (increasingly an issue in a world overusing its resources). My understanding of the principles of Lib Demmery, as enshrined in our preamble is that we must BALANCE the needs of individual and community. And get real, ziggy etc, of course that means restricting total unrestrained “choice”. We live in difficult times (even more, if, say you are a residet of the delta area in Bangladesh, or Burkina Faso, or topically Afghanistan, or the low lying islands of Tuvalu and Kiribati). We no longer live in a world where free wheeling mercantilism can hold sway. Of course ideas from the past help create a context for us – but we have genuinely new and frightening problems to solve, and we have to find the least illiberal ways of doing that. Encouraging the worst in materialism (“Greed is Good” etc, “aspirational” in polite nuspeak) does NOT help our predicaments.

    Now I honestly don’t know what the LPUK’s guiding principles are, and I wish someone would tell me, or tell me who their leading lights are, so I can work out for myself what their principles are. But for all I know, they may be authentic left of centre liberalism……

  • BTW, economists will tell you that “free markets” have never been totally free. Often attempts to rig markets to be “freer” have encouraged the rich and powerful to exploit the situation. In an urban and crowded society we have to have limits!

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Sep '09 - 9:51am

    All a ‘free market’ means is the free exchange of goods, services, property as well as ideas.

    The Liberal Democrats, as did the Liberal Party before it, explicitly holds that this is not a full definition of freedom. In its constitution it notes “poverty, ignorance and conformity” as barriers which exist even if there are no legal restrictions on free exchange. Someone who owns nothing is simply a great deal less free than someone who owns a lot. Someone who knows nothing is a great deal less free than someone who knows a lot. Someone who is forced by to conform by social pressure is a great deal less free than someone who is not. From this it notes that there may be restrictions on free trade which on balance increase freedom – an example being a tax used to pay for education.

    A party’s statement of its aims and objectives in its constitution needs to be brief and general and reasonably timeless (though I could envisage a party formed for a particular purpose whose aims and objectives did refer to something current, with the idea that the party would wind itself down once they no longer applied). As such they should be open to many different interpretations, with members accepting that and also accepting that different members will place greater emphasis on different parts of the statement of aims and objectives. So discussions within a party, and agreement to differ, and compromises and groups formed within the party to push one particular nuance or emphasis are all fine. What is not fine is a group which disagrees fundamentally with the main thrust of that statement of aims and objectives. I believe that those who call themselves “libertarians” are such a group.

    I see no problem with a group within the Liberal Democrats which believes the party’s commitment to its free trade aims needs more emphasis. But a group which believes that government legislation is the sole barrier to freedom, and rejects the idea that the state has a role beyond defending existing property ownership and that role may on balance increase freedom is, in my view, so in contradiction to the stated aims and objectives of the Liberal Democrats as written in its constitution that it does not have a place within the party. From discussions with people within Liberal Democrat blogging circles who call themselves “libertarians”, not to mention those who use this term and aren’t in the party, I am quite certain that they are so at odds with the party’s stated aims and objectives that they ought not to be members and are quite correctly described as “infiltrators”, people who have joined the party not to support it but to destroy it by changing it to something which is completely different from its stated aims and objectives.

    Regarding the works of Adam Smith and Hayek, I note a humanity in their work and a liberal instinct (at least in the earlier Hayek) which I find completely lacking in the crude “the state is evil and the only barrier to freedom” philosophy endorsed by today’s “libertarians”. Jock is right that there are streams within the libertarian movement, nevertheless I find that the crudeness of these people and their unwillingness even to accept the possibility that there is something in the traditional Liberal Party refrain of “freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity” to be the defining block to their membership of the Liberal Democrats. When in defending these Liberal traditions I find myself accused not just of having a different emphasis but of being totally at odds with their politics, I can see these are people I cannot work with and they cannot work with me. It is not just a matter of different emphasis, it is a completely different view of politics. Arguments with these people are not productive, they are dragging me down from what I want to achieve, I am dragging them down from what they want to achieve. But I believe I am in the mainstream of Liberal Democrat politics, they are not. It is they who should leave, not me.

    I note that even in the 19th century, the idea that liberalism meant just “free trade” and opposition to all but the minimal state is wrong. When I look at what 19th century liberals did and said, they were certainly in favour of state services and of protective measures to human safety and dignity in employment. The growth of greater complexity, bigger scale enterprises, greater reliance on others which marks the technological development as we emerged from the age of peasantry and into the modern world made it even more clear that there was a role for an active state defending those who have little against those who have much, this was a huge element of the development of the Liberal Party into the 20th century. I believe those forces which mean crude “libertarianism” simply is not not liberal have grown since then. I do not think, though I accept some argue it, that computer technology enables true liberalism to be pushed back to a simplistic “libertarianism”.

    A parting of ways would be productive, because then we can work together where we do agree without fear that one is trying to take over anything from the other. For myself, however, I feel the “libertarian” philosophy is tired. It looked interesting and new two or three decades ago, it is now worked out. It has influenced all the major parties in this country, a lot of it has become sloppy truism which shallow thinkers pick up to look smart. It has been heavily pumped by those who have a vested interest in it. What it offered has been tried and tested, and hasn’t delivered what was promised, the claim that all that is needed is more of it in more extreme forms look very doubtful. They can be seen to be even more doubtful when they are issued in such a shrill tone and those issuing them seem to have no concept of the arguments against and no self insight or critical capacity. In short, it is like the socialism it replaced as the dominant ideology when it did so.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Sep '09 - 10:50am

    Matthew – cracking post. I don’t want to join a witch-hunt of libertarians (as I said before, some have interesting perspectives to offer), but I shan’t regret their departure, and this is a fine explanation of why libertarianism and liberalism (let alone liberal democracy) have so little in common beyond their first five letters.


    Lib dems party of freedom? Nope.

    Just another banstibation party.

  • Good links bear. There is passion for liberty among some LibDems, but there is limited action from the party. What is the difference between this “liberalism” and Social Democracy?

    At what point do you say, this is not something that the government should be involved in? The “anti air brushing” campaign is a perfect example. What a pointless waste of time. Why not ban the Miss World Talent contest, some young girls might get depressed because they don’t look like that? Ban the national lottery, because it encourages a gambling culture. Ban smoking (oh its already happened)… because adults and business owners aren’t smart enough to make their own choices about smoking indoors.

    All this “product of my environment” thinking has overtaken the LibDems, you are becoming the New New Labour party (although not as bad as Labour and the Tories, I will be fair about that).

    In the words of Ronald Regan – “If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity of governing someone else.”

  • What we’re almost getting with the last two posts is into a discussion which clearly shows that there’s two sides to every piece of liberty. Should magazines print airbrushed pictures, or should girls be prevented / shielded from seeing an idealistic view? Does the National Lottery make people gambling addicts?

    The smoking ban was more about placing the freedom of the majority (non-smokers) over the freedom of the minority (smokers.) Show me a pub where, as a non-smoker, I could have a pint without coming home smelling like I’d had an ashtray rubbed in my hair? Before the ban, I didn’t have the freedom to go to a pub and not have to inhale second-hand smoke – I do now.

    And yes, in response to others, the leadership does sometimes make comments which aren’t particularly liberal (both the Huhne statement on Wilders and the position on the Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi are examples of this) but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll see that a large number – I’d go as far as to say a large majority – of members fundamentally disagreed with the leadership on those decisions. But at least as the cats trying to be herded, we can scratch back (unlike in some other parties.)

    But it still doesn’t answer my earliest question. What has fundamentally changed in our party policy over the last year that someone who fought so hard to stay in (and got sympathy from those who disagreed with him) suddenly felt he had to leave?

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Sep '09 - 1:31pm

    As far as the so-called airbrushing ban is concerned, I have my doubts about it as a policy, but the point is that the proposal to ban it specifically concerns adverts aimed at children, and no, “Anon”, children aren’t “capable of governing themselves”. That’s why we don’t say, for example, “well if a ten-year-old girl wants to have sex with a thirty-year-old man, why should we stop her?” (And no, to forestall the obvious complaint, I am not saying that printing manipulated images of women is comparable to child sexual abuse. I’m using an example that I expect to be beyond dispute in order to make a point about self-government.) So unless you believe that society has no business protecting children, you can’t just point at this proposal and say “see, they’re obviously evil state socialists in the Lib Dems”.

  • KL – In response to your comment.

    I am not speaking for Gavin, but rather sharing my views about a possible theory that may answer your questions. Libertarians/Classic Liberals have not really had a party where they could feel fully comfortable. They have been split between the Tories, LibDems and UKIP (and maybe one or two in other parties). They have perhaps stayed within these parties to try and get internal debate going and try to influence party policy towards a more Libertarian platform (Liberal Vision being the obvious example for the LibDems). In my honest opinion, the LibDems are probably a better balance of Libertarian values within the mainstream parties.

    But now the Libertarian movement (not all of it) is attempting to find its own ground, LPUK is a small party, and a young party and a largely unknown party, but it is a Libertarian party. We have had many members come in from the Tories, UKIP, LibDems and those who have not previously been able to find a political position that they agree on until they discovered that they were libertarians.

    Perhaps the question you should be asking is not “what has changed in the LibDems in the last year that made him want to leave?”, but rather “what hasn’t changed in the LibDems that would have kept Libertarians committed to stay?” My personal belief is that many of our members who have left other parties have lost hope in trying to get the mainstream parties more Libertarian, so LPUK is an attempt at a different approach.
    To those Libertarians out there who are in the LibDems, Tories or UKIP or even independent, we understand that there is hesitation for you to jump on with us at LPUK, because we are still rather small, young and building up. We are not competing with you because ultimately our end goals are the same, so we wish you success in spreading the message through the mainstream, and I am sure we do not have any differences great enough that would prevent as from working together if the opportunity arises.

  • Malcom –

    There are differences between your comparisons (apart from the obvious) that mean we would support one and protect against the other (I hope you understand which is which). The point is that to go through some meaningless research and conclude that teenage(and not just teenage) stress and despair with personal image can be solved with getting rid of photo airbrushing is silly quite frankly. Let me ask where this idea goes next…
    What about supermodels on catwalks, no airbrushing but arguably the same effect?
    Why not just get rid of makeup completely because celebrities (obviously not all of them) can sometimes look stunning compared with the average person on the street?

    I am for protecting children, (murky philosophical ground coming up) until they are at an age when they can make decisions for themselves. But I can do that as a parent and don’t endorse the government having to apply social engineering measures. Why not make it illegal for parents to smoke in front of their children? After all, another survey shows that they are more likely to become smokers if their parents smoke. Why not regulate the music they listen to? Grunge, Emo and Goth rock could be proven to make teens more suicidal, should we ban it? Or Rap music encouraging crime?

    My proposals might seem crazy right? But a year ago I would have never thought (did you?) that air brushing images would come under such fire.

    In my honest opinion, this particular “liberalism” is on the same level as Labour’s “social democracy” and Cameron’s “compassionate conservatism”, lets be honest about it.

    These things seem small, but remember that “small laws are pieced together into large tyrannies” (saw this on Old Holborn’s Blog).

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Sep '09 - 2:42pm

    I was one of those within the Liberal Party who opposed the merger with the SDP at the time it happened. As my previous article here shows, I am one of those who believes the “Libertarian” position is incompatible with membership of the Liberal Democrats and with my own personal politics. My personal politics have not changed in fundamentals between the Liberal/SDP merger and now. This shows that the idea that the pre-merger Liberal Party had a position which was “Libertarian” in the sense that those who use that term of themselves mean it, and it was the SDP which changed that is totally wrong. It is an Orwellian re-writing of history, and its repetition within “Libertarian” circles shows that those people don’t mind telling utter lies when it suits them. Let me make it quite clear – those of us within the Liberal Party who opposed the merger with the SDP did NOT do so because we believed the SDP was insufficiently committed to free market economics. If anything, one of the things that put many of us off the SDP was that we felt under David Owen it was moving too much in that direction, a process we saw more of with New Labour doing what the SDP wanted, so now we see Gordon Brown, supposedly a man of the left, standing well to the right of Sarkozy and Merkel, the leading figures of the European centre-right.

    I myself was unhappy with Huhne’s statement on Wilders, and have doubts about the “airbrushing” issue, which does not mean I have any sympathy with the central point of these “Libertarians” which is to claim the only way freedom is restricted is by action of the state. I repeat again – Liberals believe we can be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity, “Libertarians” do not. Libertarians defend all these enslavements under the claim that state action to rectify them is an attack on freedom.

    The issue with the airbrushing and smoking ban is really enslavement by conformity, which is one of the most difficult things to deal with, there aren’t easy answers. Conformity means people do things because they are under social pressure to do so, not state legislation which forces them. There are no “fashion police”, but nevertheless the terror some feel if they are not following the latest fashion, or are doing something which makes them feel outside the norm, is real. It seems to be particularly strong amongst the young, I am astonished by some of what I hear from teenagers of my acquaintance about it. Whether this sort of thing can or should be controlled by restrictions on advertising is another issue. The extent to which advertising means those with wealth and control of the market can saturate our culture with their imagery and use it to enforce conformity is a Liberal issue, though “Libertarians” deny there is any issue there at all, they do not think conformity is a restriction on freedom, they do not think inequality of power due to inequality of wealth is an issue. With the smoking ban too, the issue is that until recently conformity was that those of us who disliked smoke were forced to conform to the idea that those who wanted to smoke could inflict it on us whenever they wanted. I was reminded the other day of just how much this was taken for granted just a few years ago, in a conversation where it was recalled that most public places and workplaces at one time had no smoking ban and smokers felt free to smoke in them. Reversing the situation so that now it is smokers and not non-smokers who must seek out little havens where they can be at peace has maybe pushed the situation too much the other way, but I don’t see it as complete clear cut in he way the “Libertarians” do.

  • John Roffey 10th Sep '09 - 3:16pm

    On smoking – why isn’t it the publican who has the right to decide whether his establishment should be smoking or non smoking – why have his freedoms been removed, it is his livelihood which is being/has been taken away! There’s 12m votes for a party which adopts this policy. Oh – I am not sure if we would be able to stay in the EU if a UK Government had the audacity to introduce that policy – ah well freedom always comes at a price.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Sep '09 - 3:33pm

    The point is that to go through some meaningless research and conclude that teenage(and not just teenage) stress and despair with personal image can be solved with getting rid of photo airbrushing is silly quite frankly.

    Yes, that’s pretty much my concern about the policy: that it’s probably not very well grounded, and risks running off into rather indefensible restrictions on personal freedom. But in itself, it’s not an intolerably restrictive proposal, which is why I don’t buy the libertarian objection.

    And thank you, IanPJ, for continuing to show why it’s hard to believe that some libertarians even believe what they’re saying themselves:

    IT IS NOT for the state to claim ownership over the actions, exposures and education of children, that alone belongs to the parents, whether that be good or bad, it is for them to decide. …
    And the same principle lays at the heart of any discussion over under-age sex, except in the single matter of coersion by the older party. Where coersion is not present then it is a parental matter, not a state matter.

    So, parents have “ownership” over the actions of their children, and if the parents of a ten-year-old girl think it’s okay for her to have sex with a thirty-year-old man – or for that matter, that it’s okay for her to drive a car, fly a plane, or work ten-hour shifts in a coal mine – then that’s fine, and the rest of us shouldn’t interfere? Any members of the Libertarian Party out there who’d like to tell us whether that reflects LPUK policy? (Actually, that raises the question: can the Libertarian Party actually have policies, or would that be an infringement of its members’ rights to believe whatever the hell they want?)

  • John said it perfectly. On this issue, you have valued the views of the non smokers over the views of business owners. What about shisha cafes, where the prime service they provide is for smokers. Is it fair that they are not permitted to have their customers smoke indoors? Why can we not trust businesses to self regulate on issues like this?

    If smoking was such an issue, why not vote with your feet? There were places that did not have smoking areas prior to the ban, and they were popular. There were pubs that had separate smoking rooms.
    I draw your attention to the “amend the smoking ban campaign” which is Mark Littlewood’s project, a Libertarian Lib Dem. The idea is to allow businesses to choose and provide separate rooms if they so wish. Is this a “crazy” libertarian idea? Is this not compatible with Liberalism?

    If you agree with the idea, I suggest you support the “amend the smoking ban” campaign and try to get others in the LibDems to do the same.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Sep '09 - 4:09pm

    Please I’m not saying people shouldn’t recycle but I think the libertarian viewpoint is that people shouldn’t be made to or why should they have to?

    The answer is simple: because whether you recycle or not will have an impact on other people. Now whether recycling really does all that is claimed for it (and I’m not wasting half an hour watching that sub-Michael-Moore video, which might have 2 or 3 minutes of actual information buried in it somewhere) is another, entirely legitimate question. But the answer will then inform what is quite properly a collective, not an individual, decision.
    (After all, you might ask why should people have to put their rubbish in any sort of bin at all, and not just dump it wherever they fancy? Same answer as above.)

  • Malcom – (After all, you might ask why should people have to put their rubbish in any sort of bin at all, and not just dump it wherever they fancy? Same answer as above.)

    Simple. Because of private property rights, and they would be fined for it. There is nothing really stopping anyone dumping their rubbish where they want (they do dump, in parks and on streets and so on). But what discourages them (or could if it was better enforced)? Well, you could fine them. And yes you would have legitimate reason to because the property is private or public on behalf of a collective of private individuals. If a person judges his want to dump as being more valuable than the fine, he dumps.

    I suggest you take a look at the video, its pretty good.

    You need to understand that Libertarians do not oppose everything to do with the state (well some of us do), but we generally agree on most things and about the direction to take. The party is not proposing the privatisation of trafic lights or roads, and LibDems need to stop looking at as all as Anarcho-Capitalists (no offence to them). There is plenty of interesting debate to be had about just how far into Libertarianism we go, and no doubt the debate will happen. But we all agree that before the debate, we’ll approach the issues with a direction we agree on, and they shouldn’t be incompatible with “liberalism”.

    The answer is simple: because whether you recycle or not will have an impact on other people.
    Not a direct coercive impact that causes damage, and even so, this impact is arguable. (I wont go into global warming debates here). Almost everything you can do will have some sort of “impact”, me recycling will have an “impact” on the guy trying to sell unrecycled plastic. We don’t deny “impact”, but we are not damaging you or your property by not recycling, if we are you can sue us or whoever the culprit is.

  • “Now I haven’t read this whole thread, because it’s tedious, but I have scanned it.”

    Well clearly there are many here who don’t think it is tedious – there are probably many more than average postings to this article. And I don’t think this is down to the popularity or otherwise of Gavin Webb!

    I assume I am your “Tim or something”, Julian. I haven’t said I am anti – Libertarian. I am jut anti – right wing!

    “There is passion for liberty among some LibDems, but there is limited action from the party. What is the difference between this “liberalism” and Social Democracy?” This post from Anon at 1233 is, I think the one Matthew was commenting on, in which he was answering various of Matthew’s points in his previous post.

  • In response to Tim13 and Julian H, I did not capitalise the letters to refer to the Social Democrat Party, I am talking purely on philosophical and policy grounds. I would have also capitalised “liberalism”, the capitalisation was not to emphasise anything, but rather an involuntary action.

    May I also add that I do not recall saying the “Liberal Party” was Libertarian prior to the merger, which I think is the main point being addressed.

  • Could I also make the point that the closest thing to rewriting history being discussed here is the idea that Liberalism went from “Classical” to “Modern” (today’s lib dems).

    The liberalism of Locke, Mill (yes John Stuart Mill), Adam Smith, Hayek and Mises is classical liberalism. Hayek addresses in “The Road to Serfdom” how “liberal” has come to mean something very different indeed from when it was originally used. Today it means more what is understood to be “progressive” (not automatically leading to progress I might add). It’s the whole “freedom from” verses “freedom to” philosophical argument.

    I don’t mean to open a whole new argument with this, just thought that it was a interesting point to make. I am not going to encourage a philosophical debate here merely stating my views on what “liberal” is (and I suspect most Libertarians would agree).

  • John Roffey 10th Sep '09 - 6:44pm

    They way this debate is developing – it might be time for Tom!

    It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few . . . They . . . consequently are instruments of injustice.
    The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist. Thomas Paine [Rights of Man]

  • David Allen 10th Sep '09 - 6:53pm

    We have race relations laws. They make it illegal to stir up race hate. Perhaps libertarians would have happily looked on as the Blackshirts paraded through the Jewish East End?

    We have advertising standards. We do not allow Cadbury’s to say that chocolate will make you slimmer. Would it be a purer form of capitalism if we allowed advertisers to lie to us?

    Airbrushing in an advert is tantamount to telling the same lie. In my view, it should be banned for the same reasons. Referring to vulnerable children etc is beside the point. The state should protect us all from commercial liars, just as it acts to protect us all as best it can from thieves and murderers.

    (Airbrushing in a fashion magazine is different. If it is not in a paid-for advert, the position is different and one can argue that it is artistic freedom – though even there, I don’t see why a caption beneath to warn that the picture is not a real human being would be an unreasonable thing to require. I don’t suppose Salvador Dali would have had a rooted objection to that!)

    What’s wrong with libertarians is their blind adherence to a philosophical principle of “liberty first, other issues nowhere” under all circumstances, whether it makes practical sense or not. That is the absolute antithesis of the Lib Dem philosophy of “balancing liberty, equality and community”.

  • I am still not sure how you distinguish a Libertarian.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Sep '09 - 11:26pm

    Simple. Because of private property rights, and they would be fined for it. There is nothing really stopping anyone dumping their rubbish where they want (they do dump, in parks and on streets and so on). But what discourages them (or could if it was better enforced)? Well, you could fine them. And yes you would have legitimate reason to because the property is private or public on behalf of a collective of private individuals. If a person judges his want to dump as being more valuable than the fine, he dumps.

    This is exactly the problem I have with libertarianism. It’s freedom for the strong and the wealthy. If I can afford the fine, I can dump my rubbish wherever the hell I like. But in any case, if you can’t afford a good lawyer, I’ll probably never have to pay anyway, since nobody else has any responsibility to look out for the poor and the weak. This is all assuming that you really mean that we have private property rights which we can enforce against each other, rather than public, criminal law that can be enforced anyway. But if you mean the latter – that you can dump where you like, but face public prosecution then a fine – then isn’t that exactly what we have now, the system that you claim to find intolerably oppressive?

  • Jock, all I can say is that your efforts to promote Libertarianism or even Liberalism, as some us know it originally, are more than commendable… they are to be applauded standing sir. I would not have been able to do it nearly as successfully as yourself and the likes of Gavin and many of those at Liberal Vision.

    I would also like to say to those LibDems that are not Libertarian, but ARE tolerant of these views expressed by Gavin and others, that you are a real credit to your party, to the ideals of Liberty and Democracy and that it is unfortunate that many of us Libertarians feel that we can no longer pursue our goals alongside with you in the mainstream parties. We will disagree with you on certain issues, but none the less, it is members such as you that have made the idea of forming a separate, Libertarian Party a very difficult choice indeed. And although I have not spoken to you previously or even met any of you, I am glad to see that there are people like you who are indeed welcoming of a “broad church” of Liberalism.

    I find it fascinating that this debate has not really taken part within the LibDems before Gavin’s departure. It seems the majority of members are either reluctant to acknowledge Libertarianism as compatible with “Liberalism” or themselves seek to kill off the idea altogether.

    Perhaps some of you may consider welcoming LPUK as a sort of “Socialist Workers Party” or “Socialist Labour Party” of the Liberals, in that we may be of use in trying to keep the LibDems from straying too far away from Liberal Principles in the future as labour has done with socialist positions.

    Libertarians will never have it easy in UK politics (or most politics in general), I think we all recognise this. LPUK is not guaranteed any success, or survival. We understand that we are in it for the long haul. If there are Libertarians or Liberals in the LibDems who feel that their party is going off course and are willing to try elsewhere, LPUK is an option and I am sure our party would gladly welcome you, but by no means is this the only alternative. For those of you who will persist in getting the LibDems back on track, we hope you succeed, truely.

    I think I will end my posting here at that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Sep '09 - 10:56am

    Mark Wright, my point about the Liberal Party and the SDP is that I have seen on many occasions the suggestion that the Liberal Democrats are not truly “liberal” in the meaning of that word people who call themselves “libertarians” like because of the influence of the SDP. As one of the fairly small number of people within the Liberal Party who opposed the merger, I feel it is important for it to be placed on record that this is an entirely wrong reading of what the arguments were then. The idea that the Liberal Party then was closer to what “Libertarians” are now then the Liberal Democrats are is false. It does seem to me that today’s “Libertarians” are engaged in an Orwellian process whereby they try to make their ideology seem deeper rooted by claiming stronger historical antecedents for it than actually exist. This is done also by using such terms as “19th century liberalism” as if t was more or less what they stand for, while condemning as “nanny state” or “socialist abomination” and the like things which real 19th century Liberals were strongly in favour of.

    Jock, I have seen your game now. As ever, you bring up all these big names from the past, and play the oh-so-clever sort, dismissing me as some sort of ignorant peasant. But when analysed, your words are strangely content free, all big names and jargon, but nothing in terms of present practical policy which convinces me, as a reasonably well read and intelligent person, that the doubts I have about your ideology are unfounded. Actually, I HAVE read many of those you accuse me of being ignorant of. My going back and reading real 19th century liberals and comparing them with the shrill and crude tones of today’s “libertarians” influences me strongly in what I wrote above. It’s not me you should be getting angry with, but yourself. If I am wrong and have missed something, then you have failed to show me, you have had plenty of opportunity. You just seem to think saying “Proudhon, Smith, Ricardo, Spencer, Mill” is enough. In practice, when I look at what people who call themselves “Libertarians” are saying in term of current day practical politics, I do very much see people who I find over-dismissive of those restrictions on liberty caused by poverty, ignorance and conformity. Anyway, I myself think the primary source of poverty is not owning anything. You appear not to. I have seen plenty of poor people and mostly their problem seems to be not owning anything, and not having anything to trade either, since the value of a person simply for their body and mind isn’t much these days. This really seems to be the basis of my problem with you and your like, it doesn’t seem to me to be complex, and your intoning “Proudhon, Smith, Ricardo, Spencer, Mil, ignorant fuck” doesn’t actually answer that point.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Sep '09 - 11:43am

    The smoking ban in pubs is an interesting case, because on a naive view one would think the market would provide a range of smoking and non-smoking establishments to cater for those who prefer either option, but it didn’t. The reason seems to me that no-one wants to be a killjoy and in a mixed group of people try to enforce either a non-smoking or smoking option. Instead, a social convention had developed that non-smokers had to tolerate the smokers. Non-smokers felt it was rude and anti-social to challenge that convention. It is possible the convention would have flipped, but it seems it has to be one way or the other.

    My feeling now is that if the smoking ban were reversed, the convention wouldn’t flip back. Maybe just in pubs, but not sure even about that. Definitely not in restaurants. Suppose the ban were removed and a restaurant opened advertising itself as a place where smoking was permitted. Would a mixed group of friends choosing a restaurant go to it? No. The smokers amongst them would feel it rude to suggest that choice.

    I was reminded in a conversation recently that there was a time not long ago where staff and students smoking in university lectures and tutorials was common. Those who disliked it were compelled by necessity to accept it. The flip to non-smoking obviously meant those who liked it were compelled to accept the new convention.

    The point here is that freedoms are slippery and that one person’s freedom can be another’s lack of it. Convention can affect this as much as state legislation. Table Bear’s “No-one owes you anything” line does not seem to me to show a real awareness of true freedom. I might as well say to Table Bear “No-one owes you anything, so if a group of people wish to collectively bash you, so what?”. Table Bear believes he is owed a defence of freedom, otherwise he could not complain about the unfairness of the state interfering with it. We do not say “the state exists, it decides to impose this on you, no-one owes you the right to complain that is unfair”.

    Libertarianism is attractive because it offers a simple calculus of freedoms. You do not have to think too much if you stick to the calculus “freedom is what the state takes away from you”. But I think this is too simplistic, and I think this is explicitly recognised in the “poverty, ignorance and conformity” statement of the Liberal Party and Liberal Democrats. Jock claims that this aims can be reached indirectly through the simple calculus, but I think that misses the point. If it’s a beneficial side-effect, it’s not an aim. Most political ideologies will state that they are in general beneficial so general good things will come about from them as a side-effect. Communism claimed that it would lead to the state withering away, so yes it would lead to all these freedoms. That does not mean I would accept someone whose politics were communist as a true believer in these freedoms.

    The Liberal Democrats can and do contain a wide range of people, but it is the sneering attitude at the idea that poverty, ignorance and conformity can restrict freedom just as much as state legislation that I consider makes many who call themselves “libertarian” unacceptable as members of the party. I do not think it is unacceptable factionalism to say this, just as much as I would not think it unacceptable factionalism for a Libertarian party to ban someone who endorsed Soviet-style communism from membership and who argued he should be entitled to be a member because his politics would lead to the state withering away and hence a libertarian society developing.

  • Reading through these posts, does anyone else think this would make an interesting debate at a conference fringe meeting?

    As it happens, I’m one of those who welcomes a variety of views within the Lib Dems – frankly, if we didn’t have that, the party wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. I believe people have the right to hold and, for the most part, express views which I disagree with – it’s why I don’t have a problem with the BNP appearing on Question Time.

    On the smoking ban and pubs, though, Jock mentions the effect that this has had on smaller pubs. But as a true libertarian, isn’t that simply market forces at work? Like ’em or loath ’em, the big pubcos have bigger profits and smaller overheads, allowing them to charge less and cross-subsidise between pubs. The smaller pubs can’t do that, so will inevitably suffer. It’s in many ways a fallacy to attribute the failures of smaller pubs to the smoking ban alone – other factors, such as drink-driving crackdowns and a greater number of people living in urban areas, have had just as much effect. Ultimately, the small pubs which survive have either been able to carve out a niche market for themselves locally, usually through food, or have been able to carry on as a local monopoly in the village where they exist. That’s the free market, isn’t it?

  • “How on earth do you fight against conformity by imposing the will of a minority on everyone with the threat of force?”

    Lets see. Legislation to leglise homosexuality, equalise the age of consent, legalise abortion, abolish the death penalty, outlaw “No Blacks” style racial discrimination, were all probably minority views when introduced. Some possibly still are. Which of these would you support repealing?

  • But those laws are (at their most benign) an enforcement of the non-aggression principle. There is little evidence that without a rights based legal framework exploitation and victimisation of individuals and members of particular groups doesn’t occur.

    “And as a gay man I would prefer to know that the B&B owner is a bigot so I can decide not to patronize his business”

    And where is your freedom when you find yourself in a town where every B&B has a “No gays, black, irish or dogs” sign in the window? Or a council will only licence bars and restaurants which adopt a white’s only policy.

    What you are advocating is freedom to exploit and victimise vulnerable groups within socieity.

    Scrap age of consent legislation? It didn’t exist in Victorian times and I’m not convinced that was a golden age for the protection of 10, 11 and 12 year old girls.

    “The death penalty does not fit in with most anarchists’ views of non-aggression and proportionate restitutive justice.”

    So now who’s imposing a minority view on the majority?

    Liberalism as about the (difficult) debate about when absolute freedom should be restricted. To quote Mill (IIRC) back at you “freedom of speech is not the freedom to shout fire in a crowded cinema”. The extremest version of Libertarianism doesn’t have to have such a debate.

  • “What you are advocating is freedom to exploit and victimise vulnerable groups within socieity.
    I’d like to point out for the benefit of readers, that I am not, in fact, “advocating” any such thing. ”

    What you said was:
    “The very notion of an “age of consent” is illiberal – “equalizing” it for two different groups was fine, but it shouldn’t even exist in the first place.”

    No age of consent gives quite a bit of freedom to those who wish to sexually exploit children.

    Where are the protections for the sexual explotation of children (that went on in the Victorian era) absent age of consent laws?

    “Where did I say that the death penalty would, in fact, be outlawed?”

    YOu didn’t – you dodged the question like Phil Bennett dodging Alistair Scown 🙂

  • I’m sorry that Gavin has left because I believe that having a plurality of viewpoints in the party is healthy. The Liberal Party of old seemed to me to encompass a wider range of views and have more impassioned debates than is the case in the Liberal Democrats. I’d just like to take up Jock’s point about legislation against bigotry though: surely one of the reasons the that this country is a far more tolerant place today than it was forty years ago is because racists and homophobes have been unable to shield themselves from contact with the objects of their hatred, and have found that actually their fears were groundless. If you enable an apartheid mentality to continue then why would anything ever change?

  • “You don’t think that harming someone, which exploiting them sexually would undoubtedly be, would be a tort, absent a statutory legal system that could just as easily be prosecuted?”

    Yes. However proving it would be very difficult in the case of a 5yr old victim.

    If your seriously suggesting that in your ideal system of government it would be OK for a 40 year old man to have sex with a 5 year old because she could then sue him then I think any rational discussion has reached an end.

  • I see Ziggy is exercising personal freedom to change the subject away from uncomfortable arguments 😉

  • “Tell me – Hywel do think people should be forced t pay for the BBC?”

    As commented above this is a swerve beyond Phil Bennet-esque 🙂

    AAMOF No. I do think there should be public service broadcasting but, especially in the age of digital TV we can move that to a pay-per view basis so if someone only watches Sky 1, Living and ITV then they wouldn’t have to pay. Public sector funding could be available to all channels to fulfil the public service remit. That would make the “licence fee” more akin to the subscription package I pay for my commercial satellite channels and move it to a more explicit payment for a service.

    But so what if I do? I don’t see what that has to do with the issue of the Libertarian/Liberal divide. I’m quite happy on the Liberal wing of accepting that the state has a role to intervene in areas to fulfill the end goal of balancing liberty, equality and community.

    To that end I can always find areas where I think government intervention goes to far – in part because liberalism is a constant struggle to ensure the balance of those three qualities rather than a utopian. However it doesn’t mean I reject the idea totally.

    The libertarian strand of thinking does have an important role to play within the party, its important when faced with an issue to consider not just whether “government” could do something about it but whether we should.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Sep '09 - 12:31am

    Mark Wright

    As it happens I support race/sex/homosexual discrimination laws, though I realise that you – like Matthew and others – cant comprehend that there is a continuum of philosophy between liberalism and libertarianism and therefore any of us might have different ideas.

    That is absolute and complete rubbish, because I certainly do recognise there is such a spectrum. The point I am making is that it seems to me the constitution of the Liberal Democrats explicitly recognises there is a role for a state which is more than minimalist, and that there are freedoms which may be enhanced by state legislation even though this legislation diminishes other freedoms. This is not a small point, it is at the heart of what the Liberal Democrats define themselves to be for. I find many who call themselves “libertarians” are COMPLETELY opposed to this idea, therefore it is not just a matter of nuance, it is a matter of complete opposition to a core aspect of what the Liberal Democrats define themselves to be about. I am making the point that if you are in a party despite being completely opposed to a core aspect of what it is for, it does suggest you ought not to be there.

    Saying this does not mean I suppose anyone who is influenced by libertarian ideals should not be in the party. It is difficult to draw a line at where it should stop, but I do think membership should entail some sympathy for the core objectives of the party, and I think the extreme end of libertarianism has no sympathy with those core objectives.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Sep '09 - 12:42am


    Your nearby sink estate is at least partly a result of eons of abuse of the system of land distribution that drives those least able to afford it into effective “ghettoes” of cheap, and usually subsidized, land. Abuse that is sanctioned and protected by the state. The tax and benefits system has trapped many in a cycle of dependency, a “state of welfare” which the “welfare state” was never intended to produce, but which it did – part of the ammunition that demonstrates that government action rarely produces the grand, desirable outcomes promised by politicians to get into power.

    Well, there you go, there’s a sneer. Are you unable to accept at least a little liberal humility which might be able to accept there are people who are genuine despite not thinking the way you do, so just perhaps some of those politicians said what they said and did what they did because they genuinely did think it would improve the lot of people and not just in order to gain personal power?

    As for your notion that poverty observed on council estates is all down to state subsidy, don’t we observe rather similar things in third world shanty towns, or US trailer parks and the like? As I have already said, I rather feel the problem of poverty is due to people who don’t own much, and I note you have made no answer to this rather basic point.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Sep '09 - 12:56am

    Mark Wright

    People like you and me have been the most aggressive over the years in putting the case that taxation policy should be radically rebalanced towards the poor by abolishing the lower rates of income tax and instead taxing wealth, property, and other community assets that are frankly pillaged by the rich and powerful and used perpetually to their advantage over the “have-nots”.

    The one time I ever spoke in a debate at the Liberal Party Assembly was a speech I made imploring the party to go back to its traditional support for Land Value Taxation. Later, just a few years ago when I was a Liberal Democrat councillor, I surprised Labour Party colleagues when I was on a scrutiny committee investigating local government finance when they assumed I would be in favour of a local income tax and I made it very clear that no, I was utterly opposed to this policy since I felt tax was already skewed too much on income and I regarded the abolition of the last remaining property tax – council tax – as a thorougly bad thing (I don’t regard the council tax as a good property tax, but I was appalled at the line used by the Liberal Democrats nationally against it and in favour of yet more income tax).

    Does this perhaps change the picture you have of me?

  • Tom Papworth 14th Sep '09 - 11:12am

    Sounds like there was an impromptu party on the collective farm this weekend!

    What saddens me is the amount of bile that spills out when people leave. It seems that within this party there are a few extreemists who are more interested in fighting one another than in promoting a liberal future.

    I fear that some of the comments above just put casual readers interested in political discussion from a Lib Dem perspective off becoming more involved.

  • Tom Papworth 14th Sep '09 - 12:09pm


    I can’t argue with that. I commented on the amount of bile. A lot of it came from a very few people, but it is sad nonetheless.

    As for the “philosophical slanging match”, it is all tiresomely predictable. I certainly don’t have a problem with people discussing it, but I’ve seen nothing above that moves it forward from a dozen other posts on LDV.

2 Trackbacks

  • By The LDV Friday Five (ish) on Fri 11th September 2009 at 6:52 pm.

    […] Gavin Webb quits Lib Dems, joins Libertarian Party (113) by Stephen Tall 2. 29% of seats have not changed hands since 1945 (11) by Mark Pack 3. Video: […]

  • […] state. New Labour are responsible for a huge uptake in Libertarian ideas, and one LibDem Councillor giving up that unethical party. We want the British people have their say on where the state should step in, and where it should […]

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