What if you’re a liberal, but 95% of the people you represent aren’t? Alternatively, what if you’re not really a liberal, but are pretending to be one, and 95% of the people you represent still aren’t?
Bernard Salmon (in entertainingly sarcastic mode this evening) alerts me to this blog post by Jayne McCoy about organising a protest outside a shop that sells smoking paraphernalia – not drugs, nor anything else illegal. Just smoking paraphernalia. This has already caused ructions over Essex, though I think Chris Black misreads the case somewhat – stating your disagreement with a particular protest does not for one moment mean you disagree with the right to protest.
Anyhow, Cllr McCoy has since explained more of the background to the decision of her and Tom Brake to mount the protest. This is something “95% of the parents” at the (very) local primary school are concerned about.
It’s a problem, isn’t it. Without wishing to comment on Cllr McCoy’s personal views, because I don’t have a clue what they are, how do you set about faithfully representing an electorate which would happily club a baby seal to death with a copy of Mein Kampf and then wrap its remains in the Daily Mail if it prevented their little mop-headed darlings being thirty feet away from anything new and culturally unfamiliar and hence a DANGEROUS INFLUENCE for ten seconds? (Liberal Provocateur started it with this capital letters thing. I blame him.)
Now we might surmise, in our cynicism, that Cllr McCoy would hardly have responded with enthusiasm to this call to arms if she had liberal objections to her own actions – but how much scope does she or any other councillor really have to follow their liberal instincts? And what of regional differences? We’re a localist, decentralising party, aren’t we? It often occurs to me in unquiet moments that there are an awful lot of Lib Dems out there with whom I agree on just about every matter of substance who would be very, very uncomfortable with allowing true localism to run free.
It’s a question I think we should test ourselves with. Could you, yes you, look over the fence into a jurisdiction where drinking and smoking in public were banned? ok bad example, pretty much true where I live. What about, where movement and im/emigration were prohibited? Where there was one rigid school system where everyone was tested at 11 and if you didn’t do well, you were on the scrapheap? Or where it’s ok for a party of outraged, over-hormonal people whose human reproductive powers* bestow on them a dubious moral guardianship to decide they want to put a legal trader out of business?
Another such borderline case of illiberal councilling is this one, courtesy of the The Gob. I was going to comment on the article as “Worried Lib Dem”, and thought better of it in case the local Labour party picked it up. But actually, sorry, I couldn’t care less. These people deserve to be picked up on. This is what the Lib Dem councillor concerned has to say about binge drinking:
Why are we trailing on these issues? Our Government should be at the forefront, not lagging behind. It is just another example of New Labour’s ineffectiveness…
When is the Govenment going to tackle binge and excessive drinking? To start, there could be a ban on alcohol advertising, as happened with tobacco. Not only are binge drinkers at risk of damaging their health but also the many others who drink in excess of the recommended limits.
This woman is a Lib Dem councillor and she thinks the government are not doing enough to “tackle” binge drinking? The letter only mentions bans on advertising, and dear god, I hope her ambitions are limited to that. Should we give her the benefit of the doubt, and assume that all the emotive language is just so much window-dressing to please the more authoritarian elements of her electorate, while what she’s actually advocating is a ban which will infringe the “rights” of companies, not individuals? Maybe we could, but understandably the commenters take a different view.
For all that the British electorate is said to be not ready for liberalism, these people make the connection instantly:
What sort of a country are we becoming? As tobacco and alcohol are legal products we should be able to buy them where we want. I am sick to death of being told what I can and can not do.
And even more demonstrative of the direct damage caused to the party:
Typical of the Limp Dims this one – why not put Pies and Chips under the counter too, to stop the obese getting fatter!
The setting, to put the pie and chips into context, is Calderdale.
It’s not that I don’t have sympathy with the dilemma councillors face. They’re councillors, not visionary cult leaders. But presumably they had some idea, when they came to office, that some people wouldn’t agree with their views. So did they ever work out a method for working through such disagreements and remaining true to your principles while still serving your community? Not easy, I’m sure, but hey, they were elected!
Or are they, actually, just a bunch of authoritarians hiding behind the Big Yellow Bird who deserve to be exposed for the drag factor on British liberalism they really are?
* I continue, by the way, to misunderstand why so much of our political culture is pulled towards the moral centre of gravity of people who have either fertilised an egg or successfully carried said egg to term. But I’m sure there are smug tossers out there just bursting to tell me that I will understand this one day.