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A Libertarian Guide to the United Kingdom General Election

by | Jun 5, 2024

A Libertarian Guide to the United Kingdom General Election

by | Jun 5, 2024

nigel farage, brexit party leader, giving a speech

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, has finally announced there will be an election on July 4. This comes after incessant badgering from every part of the political spectrum, all of whom have been calling for an election for months. It was quite a sad spectacle when the prime minister walked out in front of Downing Street in the pouring rain and essentially fired the starting gun for the race for office. He turned around after making his first pitch of the election to reveal that he was absolutely drenched, looking like a damp rag who has seemingly accepted his fate of giving his main opponent, Keir Starmer, a colossal majority in the House of Commons.

I predict this election will be the nastiest in our history. This is not saying much since an insult in British politics is something like saying your opponent is a flip flop because he keeps changing his positions. British politics is nowhere near as polarizing as American politics, but if you follow this election, I think you will witness a real shift in how our politicians conduct themselves. I still think it will be nowhere near the level of the United States, but when the bar is very low, as I illustrated, any uptick in nastiness is seen as a big thing for Brits. As I’ll explain, there is not much realistic choice for voters either.

I would best explain the Conservative Party to my American compatriots as similar to John Fetterman, with the politics of the Democrats but occasional expressions of socially right-wing views. They have been the largest party for the last fourteen years. The Conservatives seem tired, lethargic, and outdated, which is often the feeling for political parties that spend over a decade with the reins of power. But their demise runs way deeper than a simple tiredness. The Conservatives have been hit with scandal after scandal, accompanied with crisis after crisis that they simply lacked the knowledge to respond effectively. The downfall started with the COVID pandemic when then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson was ousted after it was revealed he broke his own COVID policy and had a small soiree, pictures of which were leaked and his position made untenable.

I think back and it really hits me how crazy politics was that the prime minister would be treated like he murdered children because he had a bit of cake with a few others who were not socially distanced. Nevertheless, from the public’s perspective, he created all of these incredibly stringent rules that he made everyone abide and then broke them himself. The reaction was quite natural since the lockdown measures crushed so many areas of our lives, even if you can look back and know that it was nuts to persecute a man for eating sandwiches with a few friends. The Conservatives have furthermore been hit with the infected blood scandal, the Post Office scandal, the COVID contract scandal, and so much more since 2010 that they cannot rid themselves of the sleezy optics.

The Tories have also decided to make zero attempt to appear competent, exemplified by their latest proposal, national service. This policy is a bit of a nostalgia-driven throwback to the middle of the last century when young people were forced to do some sort of military service for an eighteen-month period. Sunak seeks to appeal to a certain section of his voter base that perceives young people to be manifestly lazy individuals who do not contribute to their community; therefore, they should be compelled to do either a stint in the armed forces or some form of community service every weekend. Most pundits seem to agree that the judicial system will not enforce it. Home Secretary James Cleverly has said prison sentences will not be a punishment but that they have other ways of enforcement (but will not tell anyone what they are). When asked to justify why it will be mandatory, the home secretary replied, “We force people to do things all the time.” This perfectly encapsulates the current Conservative Party: they will force their ideas on vast amounts of people with the club of the state waiting in the shadows to persuade you to “willingly” abide by their dictates.

The public see them as manifestly incompetent, corrupt, and disconnected from reality to such an extent that the United Kingdom’s other main party, the Labour, is projected to gain over four hundred seats in our Parliament which is acutely rare in our history. However, is the Labour Party a good alternative?

Enter Sir Keir Starmer, head of the Labour Party after the previous leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was thumped in the 2019 election by Boris Johnson. Keir Starmer became leader after he promised to be Corbyn 2.0, promising to maintain most, if not all, of the policies his predecessor had been striving for. Those policies included nationalization (government ownership) of sectors like water, railways, and energy, heavy taxes on the richest in society, and burdening regulations on, well, all sectors. Starmer did this because that is what the membership wanted to hear, and Labour Party membership is quite a lot further left than the mainstream. After doing all that and getting their blessing, he immediately did a 180 degree turn and ditched all the policies he said he would carry out in government.

I must admit that I found it very amusing to witness hard left members who voted for him froth at the mouth at this great betrayal from someone who they hoped was the second coming of their messiah, Jeremy Corbyn. He’s now made a leap to the center of politics and, weirdly, made the party almost identical to the Conservatives. So, British voters are now in this confusing situation where the only two parties that have a chance of winning the election are almost mirror images of each other except on some social issues like transgenderism and (nominally) immigration. The only factor giving the Labour Party such popularity is the deep-seated hatred for the Conservative Party.

But wait… there’s more! Nigel Farage, now leader of the recently created Reform Party, has decided he is going to run for Parliament for the seat of Clacton. It comes as a major shock since he has previously claimed he would not be running this election cycle. This really shakes up the election since Farage has typically been seen a focal point for conservative minded voters who are disillusioned with the current version of the Conservative Party. Farage has many links with Donald Trump and has appeared at rallies with him, and even interviewed the former U.S. president for GB news. Their similarities are apparent.

The reality on the ground right now is that the Conservative Party is capitulating, I could write a whole piece on the pure chaos that is leading some polls to show the Tories will retain less than one hundred seats. I realize I am writing for an American audience so, to put that into perspective, it would be like if in one election the Democrats dwindled to only twenty seats in the Senate. Absolutely monumental. We could be witnessing the extinction of the Conservative Party and Nigel Farage is twisting another knife into its hollow body. Farage’s Reform Party will likely attract those disillusioned voters who want to see action on immigration, Brexit fully exploited, domestic industry protected, and British citizens put first. The Conservative Party has failed to deliver on any of those areas and Farage is a real epicenter for voters to punish them for it.

I predict that Farage’s presence in the race will split the right-wing vote and help Keir Starmer become prime minister with a humongous majority. The reality of the United Kingdom’s voting system is that third parties find it a real uphill struggle to garner seats in our Parliament so I suspect that the Reform party will not overtake the Tories on paper. But I suspect there is a very good chance there will be fracturing to such an extent that will be a real opening for Reform members to join the Conservative Party and take control of it. That is the more practical thing strategy for Reform, given our voting system. Perhaps we’re witnessing the beginning of a proper MAGA-style movement in the United Kingdom? Time will reveal all.

Put it this way: voters in the United Kingdom have a choice between a bunch of John Fetterman-like characters and mainstream Democrats… not great. Yes, there are other smaller parties but they are never going to win in this election cycle. Maybe we will witness the uniparty political landscape shaken up with the entrance of Nigel Farage at this critical juncture, and the Conservative party could be gone for good. The Labour Party is probably going to win, and they will be truly horrific in power. So the more interesting question is, who will be their main opposition in the 2029 election? Farage has promised to stand as Reform Party leader for the next five years.

On a more serious note, the United Kingdom needs radical change. It has had nothing but statism in slightly different flavors for fourteen years and faces the prospect of statism under Keir Starmer’s vision for another five. I will say this; the Labour Party would be worse than the Conservatives for another five years, but that is more like running towards the cliff at a slightly faster pace.

The prospects for liberty are very bleak. Statism will continue to produce scandals where the public eventually kicks out the incumbent government, but without vocal proponents for libertarianism, the state will continue to avoid proper responsibility whilst blaming individuals instead of the institution itself. This is the fundamental issue in British politics. There have been multiple failings caused by the perverse incentives for those who operate within the state apparatus but there is not a single notable voice that advocates this truth on platforms that will spread the information to people so they can realise why the state keeps failing.

I want to end on an optimistic note. British voters are not supporting Keir Starmer because they overwhelmingly wish for him to be prime minister; they only vote for him because he is not a Conservative. This tells me that most voters are open to hearing other options and that is all libertarianism needs to get started. Those of us who are pushing for a more libertarian country just need to keep writing and keep the consistency of our principles. The support will come with our work.

Owen Ashworth

Owen Ashworth

Owen Ashworth is a British political commentator who studies cyber-security, economics, politics, and history. He writes for his Substack, Libertarian Living in the UK.

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