UKIP’s Latest Blunder May Cost Them Dear

The ousting of Olly Neville as leader of Young Independence, the youth section of UKIP, and the reasons behind it, will no doubt come as a serious blow to the many libertarians within that party who had hoped that UKIP offered an opportunity to build a party with a strong libertarian message, even if the party was not wholly libertarian in outlook.

The debacle will confirm to others outside the party that their decision not to throw in their lot with Nigel’s merry band was correct. The view that it is still the last refuge of the Tory scoundrel seems to have been borne out, as well as its unerring ability to shoot itself in the foot.

Party politics always involves compromise, and each individual has their own lines in the sand beyond which no one may pass, or sine qua non positions without which the prize is not worth the sacrifice. If a libertarian wants to be involved in party politics, they can join a non-libertarian party and hope to be accommodated, or join a distinctly libertarian party, such as Pro Liberty, of which I am a member. With the latter case, no compromise on points of principle is required or expected. You need not hold your tongue nor toe a party line. The compromise is that Pro Liberty has only just begun and has not yet gained any significance beyond its very limited bounds.

The exact circumstances of Olly’s fall-out with UKIP’s high command are for others to say. I have no special knowledge, but it seems clear that what it comes down to is Olly speaking his mind and giving opinions which clashed with UKIP’s stated policy, or were likely to cause the party embarrassment, as far as the leadership was concerned. Most prominent of these is his support for the government’s proposals to change the marriage laws. Ollie’s ‘controversial’ views are clearly formulated within his understanding of libertarianism, but his views are not the central issue. It is the failure of UKIP to allow him to voice them which is the problem.

Libertarians are a heterogeneous bunch. What unites us is that we agree to differ. There is only one principle which someone must concur with, and that is the principle of non-aggression. When it comes to matters of personal morality, no libertarian is called upon to approve of anyone else’s choices, only that the violence of the state should not be imposed to prevent or punish those who take different views.

This point is well made by a recent video by Julie Borowski, responding to, I would say, unwarranted criticisms of an earlier statement from her where she asserted that casual sex was not empowering to women. Whether you agree with her, or take a completely contrary view, has no bearing upon anyone’s status as a libertarian. Similarly, calling for the end of drug prohibition does not presuppose any particular attitude towards drug-taking and certainly does not imply any endorsement of such behaviour. It is quite consistent to support legalisation whilst denouncing the practice itself.

I expect I would disagree with Olly over some of the opinions that have got him into trouble, as I disagree with fellow members of Pro Liberty and libertarians in general on various things. That’s not important – we agree to differ. As long as we can justify whatever view we take with regard to the principle of non-aggression, we’re still in the same club. Personally, I don’t think any libertarian is obliged to support the government’s planned reform of the marriage laws, or indeed any particular government action, short of cutting its own throat. Even if the principle which inspires them is sound, that does not necessarily mean the proposed legislation will be soundly-drafted or will deliver the sought-after result.

In conclusion, as libertarians, I believe we should be doing what we can to build a strong and vibrant movement, and insofar as UKIP has been to-date a gathering-point for like-minded people, that is a positive thing. I do not regret my own decision to remain outside and help set up Pro Liberty, as I believe that libertarians need to develop their own distinct voice and should not allow themselves to be seen merely as a faction of the right-wing, who can be appeased by the throwing of an occasional bone, but are otherwise expected to keep quiet. It is not for me to advise the libertarians of UKIP as to what they should do, but rest assured you will be most welcome within Pro Liberty.

21 Comments

  1. Fully agree Richard. I would add that there now seems to be no major party in which libertarians can be comfortable and achieve positions of influence. There are of course occasional people who slip through party vetting nets, such as Steve Baker in the Tories, but these are very much the exception,

    And so libertarians are left with the three or four minor parties I wrote about on the Pro Liberty site last month http://www.proliberty.org.uk/blog/2012/12/10/libertarian-political-parties/ .

    In this article I pointed to the potential strains within UKIP between it’s old-Tory social conservatives and the libertarian youth wing. When I wrote “The party leadership seems to have to tread a very fine line to keep these two groups happy” I had hoped that it would continue to do this successfully until the old members died. I should have remembered that I had hoped for the same 25 years ago as a libertarian Young Conservative. That never came to pass either.

    Pro Liberty is keen to work with all Libertarians, in whichever party they currently find themselves. And if their current party tries to take away their voice or influence, they can find it again in Pro Liberty if they wish. Perhaps the influence today is not as big as the influence that can be had by being the leader of a Big Four party’s youth wing – but Pro Liberty is a blank sheet of paper open to all libertarians to start writing it’s future.

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  2. I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the years looking at and participating in libertarian web forums, but ultimately they seem incestuous, impotent, clannish, slightly batty, and with a vanishingly small level of electoral support in the UK. They do better in the USA but even there have achieved remarkably little. UKIP is far from perfect but it represents a home for sort-of libertarian/conservative types like me – and although it has yet to get a single MP, its support seems to be consistently on the up, which is encouraging. It is true that much of its organisation is inept, and that it contains (probably) a fair few crusty brainless reactionary ex-Tories of the hang ’em/flog ’em school who also detest homos. Still, it offers a voting option with a chance of seriously sticking it to the cosy tripartite political establishment – one looks forward to 2014….
    I don’t actually know what “Pro Liberty” is though I’ll check it out. I would like to think it might get away somewhat from the Judean People’s Liberation Front ambience that typifies libertarian politics in this country. But I doubt it…. With all its faults UKIP remains the only option for a great many people like me. Keep ploughing that libertarian furrow – it’s very worthy.

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    1. I hear what you’re saying. In an earlier draft of this post I wrote about the 2014 elections and how I figured most libertarians will support UKIP, although what happens after that is more difficult to predict. Presuming Pro Liberty is not in a position to contest that election, (and assuming nothing happens to change my mind) I will be happy to see UKIP triumph over the mainstream three in that election, but I have little enthusiasm for them.

      A libertarian party is unlikely to get anywhere without a libertarian movement. I think it more important to work at this latter, rather than contemplating electoral success. As for the “Judean People’s Liberation Front ambience that typifies libertarian politics in this country”, I believe this is pretty much the same for all political groups. The great majority of people have no particular interest in political matters, so politics is always likely to be a minority pursuit. Although only a small number of the population wishes to get together and discuss “Man, Economy & State”, there aren’t that many who would choose to the same for “Das Krapital” or the latest blockbuster of centrist political philosophy (if there is such a thing).

      As I’ve said before, the question of whether a libertarian party can succeed, whatever that means, depends on the generation to which Olly belongs, and there are reasons to be hopeful in that regard. I would say I’ve always been a libertarian, but, at his age I’d never even heard the word, let alone come across the names Rothbard or Mises etc. I can only speculate what I would have though of, say. “The Ethics of Liberty” if I’d stumbled over it aged 21.

      If libertarians ever want to achieve anything, they need to get off their arses, and put some work digging the foundations. If this be done, who knows where we’ll be in twenty years?

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  3. I’ve long expected Ukip to dump its libertarians, ergo I am currently in smug mode. Can’t say I’m bothered, rather pleased and hopeful that Farage won’t get away with saying “Ukip is a libertarian party” for much longer. I wish them all the success in the world as the Real Conservative party, at least until they get us out of Europe, by which time UK politics will be in a very different place.

    Julie Borowski is truly magnificent, I was daft enough to ignore her for quite a while but she makes great videos. And I say this as a libertine.

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  4. I can report that Pro Liberty has seen it’s best day ever for new members and friends signing up. The fallout is happening.

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  5. Partisan politics is anti-libertarian in concept, so you’ll always have this problem, expecting any established political movement to sway wholesale towards libertarianism is a fantasy, it would be better to form an “alliance”, much like the Cooperative Party does, except open to all parties, rather than establish a separate political group.

    The current state of affairs means libertarians have little chance of getting into parliament unless they tag along with an established party, there are some good and committed libertarians in all sides but nothing to unite them and the partisan system to divide them.

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    1. Pro Liberty recognises that. If you look at the party constitution, you will see that it is prepared to work with libertarians in any or no party. If someone prefers to remain independent, they can do that through the Independent Libertarian Network.

      I’m not sure what you mean by ‘partisan politics’. If you mean tribalism and toeing a party line, I agree, but if you mean simply ‘party politics’, then I disagree. There’s nothing anti-libertarian in forming a voluntary association, and that’s all a political party is in essence..

      Getting a few libertarians into Parliament is a good thing, but there’s a lot that libertarians can be doing for themselves now, which we should concentrate on.

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      1. I mean partisans in the political sense, the established political parties have exclusive membership requirements, not very libertarian.

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  6. This is why I won’t join any party and why I think that any hope of ever establishing a libertarian political presence with a chance of serious influence is a vain one. It is all very fine saying that the essence of libertarianism is that everyone is free to believe and say what they like, I agree but it’s impossible to run a political party like that. The media and your opponents will sieze on any disagreements as evidence of incompetence and lack of seriousness and the electorate will believe it because most people have no great interest in politics and just vote for whoever looks most appealing and most likely to govern with a degree of competence. The fact that they keep discovering that the people they vote for don’t have these qualities apparently makes no difference. UKIP quite obviously aren’t a libertarian party and if they were would have no hope of political power, again most people aren’t libertarians and are actually suspicious, frightened even, of liberty. Socialism and social conservatism will go on slugging it out for the foreseeable future, with the world becoming ever more statist, the only libertarian hope is to try and temper conservatism with a bit more concern for personal liberty but I’m not optimistic about that. I’m sorry if all that seems very pessimistic and I’m not belittling the efforts of various people here and elsewhere to try and change things but I really don’t see things getting any better.

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    1. The world is changing. When I was a student, i don’t remember there being any libertarian groups. I don’t remember ever meeting someone who called himself a libertarian. I’d never heard the word. Today it’s totally different. Libertarianism is on the same par with socialism and conservatism in one important area; the battle of ideas, We have an opportunity that didn’t exist before, and I think we have a responsibility to at least try to put in place some kind of structure of a movement, to hand over to the next generation. These are not new ideas, we are carrying forward a tradition which goes back a long way, and unlike some of the great figures of that tradition, we are not yet being thrown into dungeons and risking our necks or heads for espousing these ideas, so if Richard Overton could send “An arrow against all tyrants and tyranny, shot from the prison of Newgate into the prerogative bowels of the arbitrary House of Lords and all other usurpers and tyrants whatsoever.”, surely, for shame if nothing else, we can try to organise something, bring some cohesion amongst those of us who believe in liberty?

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  7. Yet another UKIP blunder on the same theme as it dumps Richard Lowe from being its PPI for Chester.

    People are being attracted to UKIP on its claims to be a libertarian party, but it is demonstrating that it most certainly isn’t anything of the kind.

    Now that the social conservatives and petty nationalists are showing themselves in UKIP it is time for people like Olly Neville and Richard Lowe to point their supporters to genuine libertarianism on this site and in Pro Liberty.

    Many people want the prosperity and personal responsibility which much smaller government will bring. All the parties represented in Parliament constantly demonstrate their inability to solve the economic crisis and their complete incompetence in everything they meddle in.

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  8. Olly’s three stumbling blocks : supporting gay marriage, paedophilia and necrophilia – [separately but added together – LH] disqualify him from being a proper person to hold office in a political party. UKIP needs to remove him as an official spokesperson for the party, and glad they did.

    – Marriage is a religious institution, mainly the Church of England in the UK, but there is no religion on earth which allows gay marriage. Politicians have created a civil partnership which fulfils the purposes of legal commitment for gays, and they should have no say over religious marriage.
    – Paedophilia – many paedophiles want to be libertarians because they think ‘anything goes’ is their kind of philosophy, but a true libertarian knows that ‘anything goes as long as you don’t impinge another person’s liberties – hence – fail, paedophiles cannot be libertarians
    Necrophilia – words fail me.

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    1. I think you are exaggerating the case against Olly, and misstating what marriage is, which is a social institution, rather than a religious one, which involves a contractual relationship of a very specific kind between two people. I have no knowledge of what you are claiming with regard to Olly’s views on paedophilia, or indeed what you say about paedophiles wanting to be libertarian, whatever than means. As for necrophilia, I’m sure we both find it repulsive, as is widely the case, so widely indeed, that there little need for the law to act in its suppression or punishment. I’m sure the vast majority of policemen and judges pass their whole careers without encountering it.

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      1. I accept what you say Richard – I have looked up the definitions on marriage and all sources agree with you, not with me.
        A quick search on Google will show that Olly admitted all the above. Whatever the timing, I don’t believe that any political party in the UK can afford to have an official representative publicly stating the views listed above, hence every party would have sacked Olly.

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      2. Lawrence, I have looked on google and can find no statement from Olly on paedophilia, only someone writing that an argument he made could be used to justify paedophilia, which I don’t think follows,

        I recognise necrophilia and bestiality are net vote-losers to say the least.

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  9. It is ridiculous to say that marriage is a religious institution. Civil marriage has been possible in England since 1836 and there are similar arrangements in most other countries. Richard rightly points out that it is a contractual relationship. Marriage contracts were in existence long before Christianity or any of the other Abrahamic religions.

    The fundamental principle of libertarianism is voluntary action. Only adults are able to consent to sex in a fully informed way so paedophilia is not compatible with libertarianism.

    I do not know what Olly Neville’s political opinions are, but his former UKIP colleagues seem to be trying to smear him. This is the first time that I have seen him accused of supporting paedophilia. Others have said that he wants incest and necrophilia to be legal.

    These were certainly not the reasons he was removed as YI chairman. He was deposed from that position after supporting equal marriage in an interview.

    I don’t think there is any future for libertarians in UKIP as they will not be allowed to hold office or express their views. We need a strong libertarian movement in this country. I would urge them to become active in Pro Liberty, the Indy Libs or both.

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  10. “I don’t think there is any future for libertarians in UKIP…”
    There’s certainly no future for libertarians so long as you keep forming these tiny, clannish groupings, with half a dozen of you getting together at some pub in Sarf Lunnon to plot revolution…
    I’ve voted UKIP in the last two GEs since I saw no alternative – the one before that, after much agonising I really felt I couldn’t vote for anyone, after decades of voting Tory. It certainly ain’t perfect, but at UKIP gatherings one sees an encouragingly wide range of people – they are certainly not the crusty blazer-wearing old farts of Tory/MSM mythology. And Farage is a good bloke – nice to see him getting more air time now that the MSM are taking UKIP a bit more seriously.
    He’s a good performer, and everyone seems to be expecting UKIP to do better. So I’d like to see a lot more libertarian-minded folk involving themselves with it, to help direct its way and to counter the somewhat reactionary tendencies of some of the ex-Tory adherents.
    I still know nothing about this Olly bloke and frankly I don’t care – it’s a boring issue. get over it, and get involved in UKIP. That is, if you want to stand a chance of making a difference, rather than just debating theory over pints of beer.

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