It is a freezing cold January afternoon. The setting is a brightly lit subterranean hall, the ridiculously baroque design of the room makes the place look like an upmarket nightclub. But people are not here to dance they are here to the UK Libertarian Party Conference.
The LPUK has had an unexpected burst of energy in the past year despite suffering for a while with a reputation as a ‘do nothing’ party. As I am not an LPUK member I attended the conference out of pure curiosity, to see if the party has what it takes to build on its success.
The first half of the day was taken up by speeches from LPUK activists. By far the best speakers were Will Taylor and Dan Liddicott; both finishing their speeches with thunderous applause. It was immediately apparent that putting forward a positive, thoroughly modern case for liberty resonated with almost everybody in the room.
The second half of the day was taken up by an eclectic mix of different speakers. Historian Ruth Dudley Edwards, Fathers for Justice leader Matt O’Connor, Firearms UK organiser David Ewing and finally the Liberland founder Vit Jedlicka.
There were three significant messages that the LPUK conference has taught us. This first being that there is a real appetite in our society for an enthusiastic party that truly represents the future of modern Britain and puts forward a positive case for liberty.The talking points that got the best response from the audience were reaching out to people’s hearts, promoting genuine diversity, new technologies like cryptocurrency and the importance of the private initiative.
Liberalism is a radical doctrine, we do not have to play the progressive versus reactionary game. The likes of Momentum and Rhodes Must Fall represent only one image of the future. There is an alternative outlook for the UK. It is innovative, open-minded and free.
The next message we learned is that people want to be part of the Libertarian movement. Over the course of the day, there were talks about Northern Ireland to firearms law to creating a new country. Libertarianism is exciting and people want to be part of it.
Finally, and on a less positive note, we must look at the condition of the LPUK itself. You may be wondering why little attention has been given to the LPUK leader Adam Brown. This is because there is really not much to write about.
Given that Brown has received criticism for being an extremely low key leader you would imagine that he would make use of this opportunity to stamp his authority on the LPUK. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Brown made a rather clumsy introduction which was around two minutes in length. He then remained silent for the entirety of the conference.
At the end of the day, Brown had his chance to speak and finish the conference on a high note. Instead of doing this the party leader stuttered through a five-minute address which he admitted that he didn’t write himself. All of the chances for Brown to demonstrate some ownership over the day’s proceedings were taken by the party’s previous leader Andrew Withers. To add insult to injury the party top brass (in full view of the audience) were playing around on their phones rather than listening to the speakers for the duration of the day.
The LPUK conference was a positive and energetic affair. At the end of the day one of the speakers, Ruth Dudley Ewards said she was “impressed” by the noticeably young and engaged nature of the audience. There is indeed a great amount of potential in the LPUK at the moment. But for it to gain more momentum it needs to sort out its chronic leadership problem. It is incredibly unclear who is actually in charge of the party. It would be a tragedy to see this new vitality wasted by an apathetic leadership.