This British election is an impossible choice for liberals like us.
We can’t possibly support Jeremy Corbyn, whose policies of nationalization and unilateral nuclear disarmament would compound the disaster of Brexit — which he did far too little to prevent — many times over.
After they formed a coalition government with the Conservatives in 2010, Britain’s Liberal Democrats only lost elections — local, mayoral and national.
The low point came in May 2015, when the party lost 49 of its 57 seats in the House of Commons. Big names, like Danny Alexander and Vince Cable, were voted out. Liberal strongholds across South West England simply vanished.
Liberals have talked up a “LibDem revival” since that dismal election result and commentators have dismissed it as sheer optimism.
It is the little things, they say, that count. The small places can tell us big things.
There are no smaller places than city states. Holdovers of bygone eras, they are quite nearly the oldest form of political organization our species has. Only tribalism is older and city states arose from settled tribes that over generations grew into legendary places like Ur, Jericho, Athens, the Yellow River city of Cai and the Indus Valley site of Harappa.
We have no empires left; a few kingdoms, though they keep dropping off the map. Nobody much minds. Yet if we were to lose our city states or our microstates, it would represent a collapse of the international order as we know it. Despite their tiny size, city states are bellwethers of their time. Read more “Dubai, Singapore and the Future of Neoliberalism”
The New York Times reports that Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has taken a “Trump-like turn” in the face of a “hard-right challenge”, siding with the “silent majority” in its prejudices against immigrants.
After Donald Trump’s unexpected election victory in the United States, liberal-minded commentators (this one included) looked to Germany’s Angela Merkel to keep the barbarians at bay.
The centrist German leader gave some indications that she’s up to the task of defending liberal democracy and the liberal world order from the nationalist-populist challenge. She conditioned the future of the American-German alliance on shared Western values and urged Germans, after announcing she would seek a fourth term as chancellor next year, to unite and shape globalization “together with others” rather than fight it.
“Openness will bring us more security than isolation,” she said.
If Labour reelects the far-left Jeremy Corbyn as its leader this week, which seems likely, and the Conservatives under Theresa May do lurch a little to the right, that should leave space in the center of British politics for the Liberal Democrats.
Unfortunately for them, that space will never be very wide.
I argued here the other day that May is breaking — however carefully — with David Cameron’s liberal legacy in order to secure the support of suburban and provincial voters who are more right-wing than the party has been. Many of them voted Conservative in 2015 and many voted to leave the European Union in the referendum in June, prompting Cameron, who had advised a “remain” vote, to step down.
A rightward shift under May, on education and immigration policy, could tempt more urban and liberal-minded voters to defect, I warned:
If May seems in thrall to those who voted to leave the EU because they are dissatisfied with the modern world, don’t be surprised if those who only voted for the Conservatives when they had finally come to terms with the modern world abandon her in the future.
Regular readers of this site will be familiar with what Andrew Sullivan has called the West’s blue-red culture war; I agree that the political conflict in Europe and North America is now between “blue” cosmopolitans and internationalists, who tend to be liberal, well-educated and mobile, and “red” nationalists and nativists, who are often socially conservative, less educated and stuck in one place.
I’m decidedly “blue” and so Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last month and the rise of Donald Trump in the United States hasn’t filled me with hope.
Long term, I know the “reds” are fighting yesterday’s battles — and I suspect they know it too. But in the short term, red victories can do a lot of damage.