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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

David Cameron and the Illiberal Left

I liked David Cameron's Leader's Speech. It was well-written and he delivered it well. Oddly enough, the transcript is not the whole speech - chunks are missing from the transcript, including an extended comedy routine about audio books. Large parts of the speech reminded me of why I am a strong supporter of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. I was struck by his reference to "a one-nation deficit reduction plan – from a one-nation party". Is he nailing his colours to the mast as a One Nation Conservative more firmly than hitherto? For all this speech's invocation of Margaret Thatcher (and Harold Macmillan), was this a pre-Thatcher Conservative speech? Some people of my age and younger don't know that the Tories moved strongly to the centre after their 1945 defeat before shifting rightwards again under Thatcher after 1975; Thatcherism in the 1980s was arguably an aberration in Conservative Party terms. A lot of Mr Cameron's speech today was resonant of an earlier, pre-Thatcher era.

Where I take issue with the Prime Minister is with his reference to "the age-old irony of the liberal left: they practice oppression and call it equality". Well, thank you, Prime Minister - that may be true of some parts of the Left, but those parts are decidedly not "liberal". By definition, a liberal is someone who prizes personal freedom above everything else, including "equality". That is the whole point of English liberalism, and is perhaps why Mr Cameron said last year: "I've always described myself as a Liberal Conservative. I'm Liberal because I believe in freedom and human rights, but Conservative - I'm sceptical of great schemes to remake the world." 

In calling the Illiberal Left the Liberal Left, the Prime Minister pays them a compliment that they do not deserve. I'm sure that the writers of today's speech know that Liberal Democrats share Mr Cameron's hatred of "oppression", including when it is practiced in the name of equality. That is one line in the speech that might have been phrased differently. 


  1. I agree about the liberal/illiberal left; those left-wingers who are anti-aspirational, accept ghettoisation, defend left-wing dictators etc, are NOT the "liberal left". Calling such thinking "liberal" really gets up my nose and it is disturbingly commonplace. I remember last year an article in the Independent (!) attacking "well-meaning liberal folk" who defend the far-left dictatorial regime of Cuba. The examples of such "liberal" folk that the author mentioned? Red Ken and Tony Benn. If these men are "liberal", then Richard Dawkins is an evangelical Christian. [My letter to the paper making the point that defence of the Castro regime is largely confined to the illiberal loony left was published, however.]

  2. Thanks. Yes, it drives me mad about Cuba and about Venezuela.