The Death of Liberalism

I originally planned to write this post some time ago, when Tim Farron was forced out as leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats, but it fits, sadly, as a companion piece to my last one.

I could hardly be described as a fan of Tim Farron. He is a Liberal Democrat, after all. But, while, like most Lib Dems he isn’t much of a democrat (he was all for ignoring the referendum result), he was, at least, a liberal and he wasn’t mendacious – I didn’t agree with all his policies, but he did stick to them, unlike Nick Clegg flip-flopping his way to the position of Deputy PM.

But, regardless, I was disgusted at the way he was ousted. If you missed it, the reason Farron was forced out was because, as a Christian, he felt homosexuality is a sin (along with most other things humans get up to). That was enough to get a vendetta going, mainly from certain corners of the not-very-liberal elite, to force him from leadership of the Lib Dems. This was despite the fact that, as a Liberal, he held the view that it isn’t his (that is, the state’s job) to enforce personal morality on individuals and consistently voted and spoke out in favour of the rights of homosexuals (ironically, to a somewhat illiberal extent when it came to the notorious Northern Irish cake debate).

Even when, finally losing his usual unbending attitude, he did a flip-flop and said he didn’t think homosexuality was a sin, it wasn’t enough and he decided to stand down rather than continue to face the attacks, which were making it impossible for him to lead the tiny rump of his party. Out he went and in came Vince Cable and the last vestige of liberalism vanished from British politics.

It’s been a long death, of course, running through the course of the 20th century as the Liberals moved further and further from both true Liberalism and electability. The Tories took up the torch of economic liberalism, but largely snuffed it out in the trough of backhanders from big business, while the Labour Party largely embraced dictatorial Communism as its role-model.

True liberalism is about freedom – freedom of speech and conscience, in particular. A liberal does not seek to impose their personal beliefs upon others and only seeks to impose upon anyone insofar as is necessary to maintain as much freedom as possible. Thus, there was nothing incompatible in Tim Farron having a view on the morality of being homosexual and his being a liberal. He never sought to infringe the rights of homosexuals (quite the opposite), nor did he make pronouncements upon the topic (it was the media, alerted by someone with an agenda, who raised the issue).

Having an opinion on whether something is a good thing or a bad thing, for whatever reasons, isn’t incompatible with a liberal stance. Such views can be religious (“homosexuality is a sin and, if you sin, you will go to hell”) or practical (“if you cheat on your spouse, you are a jerk who deserves to lose them”). The point is that the liberal, while they may present their opinion in an appropriate forum or engage in debate on the issue or offer advice when asked, they, ultimately, believe that it is up to individuals to make their own decisions for good or ill.

Despite those launching criticism at Farron trying to present themselves as the tolerant ones, they were yet another example of the present undercurrent of intolerance and fascism. Dare to hold a different point of view and you will be attacked. Dare to be a liberal and you will be destroyed. And, if liberalism is destroyed, all that is left is illiberalism – and illiberalism is oppression.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: