The politicisation of liberalism has corrupted it – and we’re all worse off without it

Sadiq Khan accused David Cameron of ‘writing propaganda for the EDL’ with his speech on multiculturalism this weekend. But the resurgence of racial hatred in Britain happened on Labour’s watch.

How is it that the Labour party, the party who tried to be “tough on crime, (yet) tough on the causes of crime,” the party who brought us the Macphearson Report, the minimum wage, and gay rights, managed to create such feelings of betrayal in their core voters, and the perfect conditions for rabid social unrest?

Take crime. Labour have, perhaps in an attempt to pacify both the Guardian and the Daily Mail at the same time – not unlike trying to tap your feet on the ground while standing on your head – managed to dig up policies on the extremes of each aisle. The result has been a country of resentful, frightened people, where minorities like Muslims are vilified and drawn attention to – even criminalised – by huge sections of the media, whilst at the same time having the appearance of getting, or at least wanting, special treatment.

For example, we’ve seen the government singling out the ‘moderate Muslim community’ for not doing enough about extremism within the ‘Islamic community’ (as if every Muslim in Britain sits down to dinner together and discusses their plans to blow stuff up), only to be cushioned by patronising and irritating laws about inciting religious hatred. We’ve seen the government shrugging its shoulders over illegal immigration, whilst at the same time, leaving the children of asylum seekers to sleep in detention camps and using the (debatable) rise in legal immigration as a fig leaf excuse to hide their own failures on housing and jobs. We have seen the government bravely tackling the police on institutional racism, and the formation of groups like the Black Police Officers’ Association, along with recruitment drives amongst ethnic minorities, only to have any newfound trust shattered by incidents like the fatal shooting of Charles de Menezes (not to mention the smear campaign against his character afterwards in the press, where he was accused of being, among other things, an illegal immigrant, as if that is supposed to make his death less important to us, or make his the police error in believing him to be a terrorist any less catastrophic).

The Labour Party has not only helped frighten us out of our liberalism, they have confused us into not knowing what liberalism is anymore. We have no idea if Britain is a soap dish of political correctness gone mad, or an authoritarian and racist police state; whether crime is allowed to happen because the police can’t search minorities for fear of racism accusations (this is surely not true or a lot less minorities would be stopped and searched, although an amazing number of people seem to think it is), or whether the police have a licence to kill any suspect, without fear of prosecution should they get it wrong. Liberalism gets the blame for all of it, and all the while crime goes on, swallowing up the lives of the people who are hurt the most by it all; the people who should be voting Labour. These are the families whose children and partners are being sent to Iraq – to simultaneously kill and to liberate Muslims – the people who are trapped in an education system crying out for reform, with depressingly under-funded social services, and not nearly enough housing. No wonder people feel frustrated, ignored, and frightened. No wonder people are sick of what they think liberalism is.

Like our Prime Minister; like so many members of the previous government, liberalism has become confused in its meaning. Cameron doesn’t know what it means to be a liberal: he probably thinks he is one. People like Cameron believe ‘playing the race card’ actually works; that any anti-immigration liberals will accept, for example, that because one black man in Plymouth likes his general approach to immigration, no-one else will need, or want, or dare, to ask any further questions about the actual specifics of the policy. He thinks that by creating women’s only shortlists for parliamentary candidates that liberals won’t notice he hasn’t addressed the problem of why so many women don’t get taken seriously in politics in the first place.

Looking at each other and seeing groups, instead of individuals, is what the extremists (and that means the EDL, BNP, Islamicists, Zionists, everyone) want us to do. They want every Muslim to be responsible for the actions of every other Muslim; every black person to be a spokesperson for every other black person; every English person to feel represented by the EDL. It’s a mentality that works well for ministers, because it facilitates easy policy-making. They can, as the coalition has just done, introduce ‘gang injunctions’ against all individuals in any group that happens to call itself a gang, rather than work out – and pay for – better policing to actually handle the individuals committing criminal acts. They can pass immigration policies which cannot be considered xenophobic and don’t need to be analysed in any depth because a black man said – presumably aware he was speaking on behalf of every non-white person in the UK– that he wanted less immigration. They can pretend they have improved life opportunities for all women by handpicking a select bunch of women and parachuting them into safe seats. It’s not surprising they’ve allowed this to become what liberalism means. We’ve had a government which has let that mentality flourish for thirteen years, and now we have a government who actually base entire policies around it. But as we can already see, it leads to confusion, resentment, tribalism, fear, and violence, and ultimately a betrayal of liberalism itself.

So let’s stop this politicised vision of ‘liberalism’; something to be used as a divisive political tool. Let’s stop this being what liberalism means. Liberalism should be about seeing each other as individuals, with equal rights, so we have no need for special allowances; with each of us taking full responsibility for our own individual actions; with criminals being punished properly for their crimes, and innocent people being treated as innocent people until they are proved, by an impartial court, to be found otherwise.

David Cameron speaks of ‘muscular liberalism’: let us stop liberalism being a synonym for weakness. Liberalism is not the triumph of the heart over the head; it’s the triumph of logic over what those too lazy for logic like to call common sense. And, most importantly, let’s make sure the real liberals don’t get drowned out by those who pretend to adopt liberalism for political purposes. They are the ones who’ve made it into such a mess in the first place.


6 thoughts on “The politicisation of liberalism has corrupted it – and we’re all worse off without it

Add yours

  1. Crime has never been lower. No wonder – it’s a function of demographics after all and there are fewer men aged 14-26 now than a few years ago.

    Anti-liberalism is a function of economics – policies don’t matter nor speeches, jobs and rising income does.

    Everything else is electioneering.

  2. Crime figures are all over the place, I’m not sure anyone can state with much confidence whether crime has gone up or down to be honest. A lot of figures show that hardly anyone bothers to report crime anymore, compared with, say, twenty years ago. Sometimes it is said that violent crime has gone up, but overall crime has gone down, or corporate crime has gone up but street crime has gone down, or the certain types of crime that concern people – muggings, stabbings, gun crime, illegal immigration and trafficking, and drug-related crime – have gone up… So I’m nervous about just saying crime has gone down overall, therefore Labour’s crime policies have worked.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the rest sorry! (You’ll have to go slower, I haven’t had any coffee yet this morning Gary…)

  3. I agree that crime figures are utterly unreliable, which is why politicians love them so much.

    I wasn’t clear with the rest – what I mean is that anti-liberalism is a function of the state of the economy. It doesn’t matter who says what about who or what – the forces of fascism and their fellow travellers and the weaker kinds of anti-liberals always thrive in recessions. Come the economic revival, the fascists go back to their boltholes and the anti-liberals suddenly sound antiquated and irrelevant. Create jobs, economic security, good public services and a thriving private sector and many of the “haters” disappear.

    By the way, re “But the resurgence of racial hatred in Britain happened on Labour’s watch”, you really should have seen things under Thatcher.

  4. By electioneering, Cameron knows that Labour cannot attack him from the right re multiculturalism, so every now and again, he needs to shore up his base with a speech like this. He can then get all touchy-feely with Middle England nearer the election, knowing that his supporters (usually at least one member of the cabinet and a few backbenchers) can refer back to anti-liberal speeches to avoid more a handful of votes going to Nigel Farrage’s headbangers.

  5. Good point about race relations in the 1980s. I have heard about that although was too little to remember. Couldn’t you argue that was more to do with people being less aware of racism as a negative thing then, though, rather than being a direct result of government fear-mongering? You can clearly see the link between Islamophobia (for want of a better word) and the ‘war on terror.’ But a general shift in race relations is probably, as you say yourself, more likely to be related to economic boom and availability of jobs etc, rather than anything the state particularly did.

    But then I suppose I am being a typical libertarian, blaming the negative on the government but saying individuals are to be credited for the good stuff. Perhaps you are suggesting the opposite 😉

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