Your humble Devil wandered along to the Election Night Party at the Sports Café on Haymarket on Thursday night—the only time that I would ever enter a bar called "The Sports Café". There were a number of amusing people there—it was excellent to catch up with old friends, including (but not limited to) various fine members of the TPA, Dizzy, Tory Bear, Guido, Gawain, Trixy and others—but I was seized by a certain ennui throughout the night.
You see, whilst the Tories and LibDems (I met no Labour people) were thrilled when their parties took their respective seats, all that I could think was "they're all crap: I don't want any of them to win". For although I was happy when Labour got kicked—and was most especially pleased when Jackie Smith and that jug-eared thug, The Safety Elephant, lost their seats—simply being against something produces remarkably little pleasure, even to a perverse little git like myself.
As the course of the night continued, and the result looked ever less decisive, I could barely be bothered to continue watching. Only the continuing supply of half-decent booze (and it was only half-decent) could keep me on my feet.
The next morning, I wandered along to the post-election drinks reception hosted by Julia Hobsbawn's Editorial Intelligence, at which the drinks were at least free—and I was introduced as a "blogger extraordinaire" (I think that I have mentioned before that I am a vain man). There were also a collection of entertaining people there—covering the cross-section of business from finance, media, PR, as well as other Involveds—and there was a general consensus that no one quite knew what was going to happen. Most thought that my opinion—that the LibDems would ally with the Tories—was probably mistaken, many of then believing that the Lefty aspects of that party would block any coalition.
They may, of course, yet be right. Still, I enjoy these events since I am usually asked, and able quickly to articulate, what Libertarianism is all about (something that I was, of course, not given the opportunity to do when subjected to our "impartial" national broadcaster's tender attentions). Although most seemed astonished that I ascribed my party to neither the Left nor the Right, but a described it as the best of all options.
In any case, I stayed until the end came at about 2pm, then wandered out onto the sunny streets of London. Strolling along Regent Street, I met a member of the cricket team that I play for and suborned him into joining me in a pub for a swifty. I am very much looking forward to our first match of the season tomorrow. Anyway, this last has little to do with the election, so I shall move on...
The question is, of course, what happens now. Charlotte Gore, amongst others, is excited by the possibilities of combining the most libertarian bits of both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties: indeed, your humble Devil would—and did—hope for just this kind of combination.
For some of us it’s all about that Freedom Bill, or some Great Repeal Act, rolling back 13 years of odious authoritarian legislation. The Conservatives have the biggest mandate, but not a comprehensive one. The Lib Dems can hold the Conservatives to their pre-election noises about civil liberties, ensuring the Digital Economy Bill gets thrown out, ID cards get scrapped etc.
It’s also about being practical about the desirability for a majority Government if we’re going to deal with the deficit properly.
I’ve just finished writing a pro-Lib/Con piece for the Guardian’s Comment Is Free and rumours abound of an open “Do the Deal” letter going around that I’ll hopefully get to sign. We might not be a very strong or big voice, but from outside tribal bubbles, with no particular attachment to any one party and as someone who agonised over whether to vote Tory or Liberal (and, in the event, I feel pretty good about my choice), this is almost a dream outcome.
All the usual caveats about neither party being especially libertarian apply, but the two together? That’s a leap into the unknown and one that could, if the Lib Dems play it right, show the British People a very different and radical flavour of Government to the one we thought we’d be stuck with.
Maybe the outcome will be of benefit to the libertarians of this country. Perhaps we would get the LibDems' £10,000 Personal Tax Allowance combined with the Tories' educational reforms. Or maybe we'd just get a mish-mash of half-way-house policies combined out of ideas that were, in any case, merely tinkering at the edges of the problems facing us today.
I most certainly reject the idea that Britain voted for a "progressive coalition of the left". Quite apart from anything else, I am of the same view as Longrider—that anyone who describes themselves as "a progressive" is an odious little shit who should not be trusted with a pari of scissors, let alone control of an entire society.
Then there are the progressives themselves – a term that is becoming increasingly bandied about. When someone declares themselves a progressive, my hackles rise. What they mean in reality is that everyone else must be forced to bend to their vision of society, to conform to the socialist utopia they espouse, to be a good little prole. Progressives have no place for independently minded individuals. Progressives are the enemy of individualism, and are, therefore, the very essence of misanthropy. They choose to forget that society is composed of individuals. Progressives are to be despised utterly and completely. Perhaps, most of all is their mangling of the language. Progressives do not want progress, but regression to the dark days of the cold war eastern bloc style of living – the tractor stats will always be going up, despite the enslavement of the population and the collapse of the economy. There is nothing progressive about a progressive, just as there is nothing liberal about a liberal.
These people are, quite frankly, the worst people on earth and—as I have opined before—they are the ones who expect to be giving the orders: trust them at your peril, but do not ever ask me to approve your choice. But then, were you minded to support them, you would not be asking for my approval and would barely mind my opprobrium.
The other "grand narrative" that has come out of this "unholy mess" is the fact that, once again, England has been denied a Conservative government by the troublesome Celtic fringes—and cries have gone up again for those provinces—and most particularly Scotland—to be cut loose.
"The answer to our woes, is a devolved English Parliament. Let the four constituent nations go their own separate way. let Scotland have independence, let Salmond have his way. Lets the Welsh & the Welsh and Northern Irish go. We moan on this site about the Internal Aid department, well how about we look a bit closer to home. England again has voted overwhelming Conservative, except this morning we are still governed by a party that is led and draws its legitimacy from the huge client state that is Scotland. All the usual suspects will whitter on about the unfairness of the FpTP system, whilst ignoring the biggest unfairness of all."
Written by a character called Paul B, over at the Spectator's Coffee House blog.
I happen increasingly to agree. While I yield to no-one in my admiration for much of what Scotland has brought to Britain and to the wider world - this book is a wonderful description - the brutal fact is that Scotland is now exerting an outrageously one-sided, and disproportionate, influence on British affairs. Its politicians have carefully natured a client state in the big cities such as Glasgow, where a huge proportion of the locals subsist on state benefits. If, as the Coffee House commenter suggests, we were to make it possible for Scotland to operate as an independent nation, then the Scottish Labour Party machine, a profoundly corrupt one and similar to the Chicago Democrat machine that gave the US Barack Obama would no longer exert its malign influence on England's affairs.
It is time to cut Scotland loose, both for its interest, and more to the point, for those who want to see the back of the Scottish Labour Party and its arm-lock on UK affairs for the past decade and a half.
I remember similar arguments after the 2005 election, when more people voted for the Conservatives in England than voted Labour and, once again, the Scots saved the Labour Party's hide. At the time, I was living in Edinburgh and, even so, had some sympathy for the argument (perhaps I am, at heart, an Englishman even though I have never felt so at home anywhere as Edinburgh. Mind you, most Scots would be of the opinion that this confirms me as an Englishman!).
In any case, my argument now is the same as it was then—Scotland should be cut free. But I also believe that this is not nearly enough. For, in most cases (with the notable exception of London), the Labour strongholds are mostly located in Wales, Scotland and the North. This would be of little import, except that these places—indeed, the whole of the UK—are essentially subsidised by the South East. As such, these areas continue to vote themselves more and more state money—money which is only provided by the hard work and profitability of the over-whelmingly Tory South East.
Consider, if you will, these maps of the constituencies of the UK (provided by the BBC).
As we know, Labour's heartlands are in the inner cities which, due to the population densities, also provide numerous small constituencies. As we can also see—most notably in the proportional map—Labour is most popular in Scotland and the North and, of course, in London.
As regular readers will know, I support none of the main parties, believing them to be statist, authoritarians with few redeeming features. I remind you all of this, only because—having couched my argument in terms of the election results—you might believe me to support any one of them in what follows. I do not.
What I would like to propose is simply this: that the entire United Kingdom be broken up into almost completely autonomous federal regions, with the Westminster Parliament handling only defence and a few other "federal" competencies (as the national government in the US was supposed to).
The motivation is primarily economic, of course, but there are vaguely libertarian reasons too. The former is, at first glance, easy to see: the entirety of the United Kingdom is propped up by the tax revenues from the only profitable region—the South East.
But there are other advantages to doing this. Whilst the first, and most obvious, is that the rest of the country would cease to be a drain on the South East, there should be benefits to the rest of the country too. It is to no one's advantage that, in some regions, government spending amounts to more than 70% of the economy: the "free" state services crowd out profitable businesses and thus causes a lack of profitability.
Those "poor" areas of the country which—instead of adapting as heavy industry died, took the option of suckling on the state teat—would find that there was no more state money. They would have to build a viable economy or die—in their thousands. Humans are incredibly ingenious creatures and, of course, extremely industrious when their livelihood is threatened—the people of these areas would have to progress or find themselves in ever dire straits.
Further, these areas would not have a meaningful government centre. Look at the main centres of business in each of the provinces of the UK—London, Edinburgh, Cardiff. All of these places are traditional centres of government, and attract business because of that: more government centres would build more centres of business (much though I would wish it were not so).
These areas might also continue to vote Labour—but the people would soon cease to do so once they found that that party was unable to deliver the free money that they promised, simply because there was none.
There has been a narrative of localism recently—the concept of the devolution of power closer to the people. This is a good thing from a libertarian viewpoint, but also from an economic viewpoint. But it has been rendered pointless in practice, simply because it is the central government that has the power to raise taxes and to disburse said monies.
Let's stop this insane state of affairs and, instead, break the UK up into fiscally autonomous areas—mapped vaguely on the old kingdoms—that contribute small amounts to the central government's defence budget, and see how our prosperity rises.
Anyway, it is late and I am not making the most forceful argument: I should be interested in your comments and then shall return to the fray tomorrow evening—after I have played some cricket...