Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Liberal Doses

This is the fiftieth anniversary month of the dissolution of the National Liberal Party, with its proto-Thatcherite policies that had led to the inclusion of both of its remaining Cabinet Ministers among those dismissed on the Night of the Long Knives. Appropriately, it had been chaired by John Poulson.

The Conservative Party has been defined by the takeover of the largely bovine Tory machine by small but hugely influential bands of Liberals. Their success has been so complete that almost all Conservatives now assume that "free" market economics and a foreign policy of military interventionism are "traditional Tory values" that their party has always held. Nothing could be further from the case.

Such is the legacy of the Country Whigs, of the Patriot Whigs, of the Liberal Unionists, of the Liberal Imperialists, of the National Liberals (including Michael Heseltine, who privatised more of the British economy than any other Minister in history), of Alderman Alfred Roberts's daughter, of the founders and funders of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and so on.

Much the same thing happened to the Owenite wing of the SDP, although most certainly not, as it has turned out, to David Owen himself. As a result, in the run-up to the 2010 General Election, there were more former SDP members on the Conservative front bench than there were shadowing portfolios for the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems themselves would have been the latest such wave, if everything had gone according to plan both for Nick Clegg and for David Cameron, and there had been another hung Parliament in 2015. The EU referendum was only the most obvious of the many policies in both manifestos that were included on the strict understanding that the other partner in the Coalition would never have allowed them to happen.


  1. The Conservatives were traditionally more militaristic than the Liberals and the Tory Party has been into Hayek since the '40s.

    1. The first of those only became true, after a fashion, in the 1930s, but it was never consistently so until the Iraq War, and not a single Lib Dem MP voted against the war in Libya.

      Beyond the outer fringe of the Conservative Party, the second simply was not true at all until the middle of the 1970s, or arguably even later than that.