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.