British Liberalism has a distinguished history going back to Gladstone and Lloyd George with landmark reforms such as elementary education, the secret ballot, pensions, town planning, free school meals and health insurance. Liberalism laid the foundations of our welfare state.
This country could do with the good offices of Lloyd George right now because today’s Liberal Democrats are a sorry shadow of their forebears, for which their squalid antics over Europe are supremely responsible.
You might think that the EU’s distant bureaucracy and its failure to distinguish between unity and uniformity would be at odds with liberal philosophy but the Liberal Democrats have long been fanatical supporters of the European project and this is uniquely enshrined in the Preamble to their Party Constitution. However, the LibDems have never dared to court unpopularity by promoting their vision of a United States of Europe on the doorstep, preferring instead to rely on Brussels and Big Business to deliver the desired result by stealth. Even now, their vision of a Federated Union of European States is entirely absent from their 2019 EU Election Parliament manifesto and literature.
To begin with, in the complacent expectation that UK voters would continue to support our involvement in the European project as they had in 1975, the LibDems proposed a referendum on our membership of the EU (Hansard 14th November 2007, Column 781)and together with Green, Tory and Labour MPs backed the Cameron plan for a people’s vote in 2016.
When the Country upset their machination by voting to leave the EU, the LibDems then led a conspiracy run by the sort of people who talk loudly in restaurants and who believe that membership of a political party and patronage of the Guardian newspaper somehow gives these self-appointed keepers of the nation’s conscience the right to lord it over the rest of us, who are clearly too stupid to understand the grand scheme of things. Incredibly, the party that proposed the referendum then resolved to “resist” the result of that referendum by conspiring to delay, water down and defeat BREXIT altogether, which is tantamount to trying to topple a newly-elected government before it takes office. What sort of Liberalism is this?
Worse still, the LibDems then castigated those who had voted to leave the EU, in particular the 65+ age group who had voted LEAVE by nearly 2 to 1 and who were accused by the LibDems of “shafting the young”, who had voted to remain. Leaving aside that these oldies were the very same voters who as youngsters had voted by nearly 2 to 1 to remain part of the European project in 1975 and that politicians should ask themselves why they changed their minds, the LibDems’ intolerance and attempts to pit one age group against another are a disgrace to British Liberalism.
Any Liberal worthy of the description will recognize that the only way to settle the national argument over BREXIT is to give it a go. The UK has experienced 46 years membership of the European project and decided in 2016 to try something new. What of it? Nothing lasts forever. If, after 10 years, it transpires that our leaving was a mistake, then we can re-join the EU, but we have to experience BREXIT first before we can make another judgement. That’s how democracy works; we vote, we experience the consequences of how we voted and then we vote again in the light of our experience.
The Liberal Democrats have done immeasurable damage to the British Liberal tradition of promoting independence, individualism, tolerance, localism, and democratic accountability, for which an apology is due. Luckily, they do not speak for all Liberals, some of whom are campaigning to secure BREXIT. To this end, www.liberalbrexiteers.com has been launched to reassure the majority who voted for BREXIT in 2016 that we took the right decision to vote to leave the EU.