Thursday, February 16, 2006

Coalition: feedback and where next?

Well, that's stage one complete, get peoples attention. Thanks to all the links people.

Now, stage two. Um, right. OK, ideas and suggestions received.
  1. Bishop Hill suggested and John has expanded on the idea of a style website linking the liberal left and libertarian right together. I like the idea, but not got the time (nor the resources for a domain name/hosting right now). Any suggestions for names and/or volunteers to set up/run/pay for?
  2. Bondwoman wonders if the internet can help us facilitate changes and alliances such as this more easily; would we have been rid of Major earlier if we'd had blogs?
  3. D-notice observes that Labour voters don't always go towards parties we want to get support. A lost vote for NuLab is a lost vote, but, um, still not sure I like where they're going.
  4. Doctorvee talks about the need to defeat Labour as well, and observes the electoral system is completely against us; he's right on the latter part, I'm not as convinced as him that all Labour MPs are evil...
  5. Garry the Curious Hamster is wondering if he could stomach voting Tory; he, like me, is instinctively opposed to them, but finding that even they can't be as bad as NuLab. He's glad he lives in a seat where it's a straight LibDem/Labour fight; similarly, I'm glad I live in a LibDem/Tory marginal. But given I plan to move within the next few years, I may have to bite the bullet
  6. Quarsan at Blairwatch urges us to vote any way that isn't Labour; on this, I disagree, we have to plan a tactical vote campaign and make sure it's well publicised, splitting the anti-Labour vote will give them more seats than they deserve
  7. Unity reveals we have similar taste in music, and then goes on to discuss the need to change the system completely; I agree, but in order to do that, we need a govt that will genuinely reform the system. That, to me, means as many LibDems as possible, and to persuade the Tories that they really need to acknowledge the need to reform things.
  8. And, finally, Bishop Hill asks "is anyone listening to the blogs?"
Well, are they?

More to the point, will they?

The next step is two-fold

  1. build a platform for us to meet and discuss strategy and promote candidates, a freedom blog central. That, someone else needs to do, but it's definately something I like the look of.
  2. Study local election numbers; what sort of seat are you in, what party/candidate needs our support, what elections between now and 2009 can be used to build the momentum?

Other ideas/suggestions welcome. Essentially, we all need to get involved. Also, the Political Weblog Project. If your MP is on Our Side, we need to get them blogging and joining the debate. If they're not, we need to get the opposing candidates up and running. This does, of course, mean talking to politicians. Trust me, at times, I've called a few friends. They're not all bad. Honest.

Follow up post here.


Unity said...

Do you think that - which I registered a couple of minutes ago - plus 15-20gb of bandwidth and a Drupal-powered system (same platform as 'The Onion') would do the trick?

Will take a couple of weeks to put the site together with a nice template, in between blogging and the day job, but we could be all systems go by early March, in time for the return of glorication and ID cards to the Lords.

Anonymous said...

Holding your nose to vote for the Conservative party, firstly I would question the candidate very carefully about their views on civil liberties, if you feel you are being fobbed off, don’t vote for them. The same would go for the candidate of any other party. My gut feeling about the Conservative party is that they are hungry for power, but do not yet know what they want to with it if they get it.

MatGB said...

Unity; I reckon that would do it, and the name is good as well. Drupal I'm familiar with, I looked into it for one of my other sites awhileback, not bad.

Backend stuff is not really my thing, but if'n I can help, holler.

Ken; you're right, a list of key questions is I think something to work on. Also, try and engage with those accessible Tories and get them to understand the point/campaign/join in?

Anonymous said...

My one concern about the name "liberty central" - it sounds like the kind of name a militia in Montana would give itself, in their campaign to protect their liberty to shoot at any member of the federal government that came within a mile of them...

Do we have a libertarian right in this country really? I'm struggling to think of who it might include - the British right generally seems more concerned with economic freedom rather than social liberalism and civil liberties. The Notting Hill set Tories might be, I suppose - Cameron, Boris Johnson et al - but so far there's been more rhetoric than policy.

Overthrowing the government is fun though, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I'll do whatever I can to help. My techie skills are limited, but I'm in the right mood (i.e angry) to overthrow a government! Hey ho.

I have recently engaged with my new Tory MP, when I emailed him to thank him for voting against 90 day detention without trial. He replied admirably swiftly and was insistent that he would have voted against it with or without the whip. Might write to him again to see where he stands on current issues.

MatGB said...

John, you're right that it does sound like rednecksville, but it's pretty close to what I came up with and didn't say. I think we'll just need to make sure we promote ourselves properly.

As to Libertarian right? Apart from Boris, there's Samizdata (a little extreme with the gun fetish but, well, that sort of libertarianism requires guns so can't blame them for sticking to theory), Gav at gavpolitics and a lot of younger tories (Convert, Peaks and Troughs, etc) who may be more liberal than libertarian but definately on this side of the debate.

Yes, more rhetoric than policy, which is why we need to make sure they go the right way with the policies.

Anonymous said...

What's actually going to go on the site, then? A collection of feeds from liberal blogs would be easy enough... But wouldn't necessarily get us anywhere.

Beyond that it gets harder. has a forum, runs campaigns, advertises petitions, raises funds... How much of that is potentially transferable?

Actually, might it be worth someone contacting them and asking how they got started? All I know is that it was about trying to get the media off the Lewinsky thing, hence the name.

MatGB said...

Katherine; I think a lot of Tories are very concerned about extension of police powers in that way; they didn't feel the need to go that far after Brighton, and Labour always opposed how far they did go, so why would they want to go that far now with a threat that hasn't, really, killed or threatened nearly as many domestically yet.

I think, if we do look at things on the state vs individual scale, Labour is up at state, Lib Dems down at individual, Tories are in the middle, with some statists still on board. Need to make sure the voices on our side get more publicity.

Nosemonkey said...

A pertinent liddle bit of Mill, ladiesangennlemen:

On Liberty, Ch.II - "Let us suppose... that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to excercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it."

On Liberty, Ch.IV - "there are, in our own day, gross usurpations upon the liberty of private life actually practised, and still greater ones threatened with some expectation of success, and opinions propounded which assert an unlimited right in the public not only to prohibit by law everything which it thinks wrong, but in order to get at what it thinks wrong, to prohibit any number of things which it admits to be innocent...

"A theory of 'social rights' the like of which probably never before found its way into direct language: being nothing short of this - that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever, except perhaps that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them: for, the moment an opinion which I consider noxious passes any one's lips, it invades all the 'social rights' attributed to me by the Alliance."

Locke, Mill and Paine should be the major sources. Possibly even Burke:

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little"

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle"


"The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts"

chris said...

As part of the liberal-right I would say that many in this sector of the political compass simply see economic freedom to do what you want with your money and other property as part of the general set of freedom.

A general freedom webportal would be a good idea, and will get support from us on the right so long as it remains focused on freedom. Try to use it to campaigne against economic freedom and we will probably depart. So it would probably to ignore that and consentrate on the civil aspects (ID Cards, NIR, other databases and the various democracy bypasses).

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone's really talking about economics are they? (Apols if I'm wrong) The concerns seem to be more with government authoritarianism, which is an entirely seperate issue. The issues of concern are the civil liberties ones - the national identity register, detention without trial, the weakness of democratic accountability and strength of executive power under the current political system.

Those issues are potentially of concern to anyone on the economic scale from rampant redistributionist to those who thought that Milton Friedman was too soft. It isn't an economic issue.

Unity said...


I take your point entirely about the potential divisiveness of entrenched economic arguments, nevertheless I think there are points of potential consensus on economic issues that may be worth exploring - a good example being the concept of a citizen's basic income which, from the left's POV offers possibilities in terms of genuinely lifting people out of poverty while on the right it is seen as affording opportunities for simplification of both welfare and tax systems.

What I think we have, first and foremost, is a very strong concensus on personal liberty, democracy and basic civil rights.

On other issues there is some degree of common ground which can form the basis of rational debate, even in the economic sphere - provided such debates are shaped by people who are literate in their field. In terms of economics that would include people like Chris Dillow, from the left, and Tim Worstall and Wat Tyler, from the right, all of whom share some common ground - particularly around markets - and the capacity to engage in a rational debate.

I think our MO should be that where we agree we campaign, where we disagree we debate but rationally and with an open mind.

Anonymous said...

Anyone seen today's FT? There's a piece in there about saying that the honeymoon is over for Cameron, because some Tories are saying there are no votes in civil liberties and he should be focusing on more populist issues.

MatGB said...

Chris/Unity, pretty much agree; we have to concentrate on the issues that we agree on; I've alreayd said we need to emphasise the differences where they exist, politically necessary.

Issues we agree on; ID cards, exclusion zone at Westminster, detention without trial, etc we build cross party (and country) support.

On those we disagree on; different types of economic freedoms, Europe, etc we leave for debate and don't try to campaign on.

Chris, you're completely right in your post; such a campaign would be vulnerable to hi-jacking, ergo we have to make sure it doesn't happen. I'd be as worried about, for example, a Samizdata gun law liberaliser using it as a platform for concealed carry laws, just as you'd be worried about me using it to argue for making every business a co-operative.

So we all make sure that neither ever happens.

Justin said...

I'll play.

Has anybody approached Tim Ireland/Backing Blair?

They ran a crackajack campaign during the last general election. It might be worth checking out with a view to coalition or at least to make sure you're not overlapping/duplicating your efforts.

MatGB said...

I haven't on this (yet), it's all gone a little faster; the idea of/lack of a site was suggested in comments and I think we all just thought it was a good idea.

Love backingblair, but essentially it's time is done as Blair will be out of office soon, besides, the make LabOur party slogan isn't exactly what we're aiming for.

However, it is a good place to start, and as I said, we need to build up support from across the board, including natural Labour supporters.

Andrew said...

I, and I'd guess a lot of other young Tories, would be in if you didn't say things like this about us:

'he, like me, is instinctively opposed to them, but finding that even they can't be as bad as NuLab.'

Damning us with faint praise isn't the way to build a coalition. Still, let's write it off to teething problems as we all embrace the brave new world of tripartisan co-operation and understanding. That which unites us is far more important than that which divides us at the moment.


i) Campaigning has to be very tightly focussed on the civil liberties issues we all agree on - ID cards, OTT terrorism legislation, the Civil Contingencies Act, the Leg/Reg Bill, and so on. You'll lose an enormous amount of support if the coalition comes out in favour of a wider liberal agenda, particularly on Law and Order. Us Tories still want to brutalise criminals with lengthy jail terms, punishment beatings and hard labour. Getting New Labour out isn't going to change that.

ii) The coalition needs full time resources. A writer if it becomes a blog, a campaigner if it becomes a portal, and so on. That means:

iii) Money. Lots of it. We need it. Fuck knows how we get it.

iv) The coalition needs to be strictly non-partisan, except in its opposition to New Labour. You'll lose a lot of Tories again if you start advocating voting Lib Dem in Tory/Lib marginals, and vice versa. In fact, the coalition shouldn't even discuss that sort of situation. Even where the Tory candidate is a rabid Cornerstone member who wants to hang gays and publicly flog benefits claimants, or where the Lib wants to install revolving doors in prison cells and to legalise and make compulsory the taking of crack by 13 year olds, they'll still vote with the party whip when it comes to civil liberties issues.

v) Learn from the failure of Backing Blair. Being too strident and too paranoid just comes off as being extreme. We need to sound measured and sensible. This will be difficult given that most of us throw phrases like 'police state' around with impunity. Just remember how ridiculous all of those hard lefties in the Eighties sounded when they suggested that Maggie's next move would be to abolish elections to maintain tyrannical power forever. And enjoy the warm glow now that New Lab are suggesting exactly that... See - I'm already guilty of this point. I sound like a lunatic.

Learn from organisations like the Tax Payers Alliance - non-partisan grass-roots campaigning, and gaining lots of publicity.

Anonymous said...

Reading through these posts, I think we should stay a million miles away from anything economic. To be honest, I think even 'open and reasonable debate' would be a distraction.

And no satire. With all due respect to Backing Blair (which I thought was funny), it ran the huge risk of alienating and/or confusing people who were just clicking through.

Sorry - repetitive I know. But just some thoughts.

Bishop Hill said...

There are two strands we need to cover.

1. Getting Labour out (campaigning methods and tactics)
2. Keeping the next lot in order (Constitutional stuff, what are we after?)

I suggest we start with broad areas of principle and move on to specific issues at a later date. It will be very easy to get bogged down in detail on "social rights" or the right to bear arms.

For issues like this it may well be better to leave doors open rather than to try to slam them shut and risk alienating potential supporters.

Anonymous said...

I think Justin's right - this sort of thing is going to require someone who's worked on this kind of project before. We need to get existing web campaigns on various issues - No2ID being the obvious example - to up sticks and join the broad coalition, and at the same time any press or political coverage/support it could attract will be vital.

It requires caution, though - we need to define clearly exactly what it is we're standing up for. As I think was mentioned previously, a possible outcome from this could be seeing the kind of insane "libertarians" you get at Samizdata getting in under the radar.

Unity said...

I think we're clear on the objective - a new constitutional settlement.

On law and order, I think we can all find a point of agreement in the principle that juries convict and judges sentence.

On non-partisanship I'm please to seek acknowledgement that this should be anti-New Labour - lets not forget that there is a constituency in the Labour Party, like myself, who're just as pissed off with Blair as everyone else and have just as much to gain by joining the coalition of the willing.

We need the Labour dissenters as much as anyone else - not least because it will prevent us being written off as just a Lib Dem/Tory coalition.

Our aim should be for the Great Reforming Parliament - after that we can go back to business as usual on all the other stuff.

MatGB said...

Unity, you are of course correct, not sure how or if we can break the partizanship, but those within Labour that want to sort things out need to be acknowledged.

Another follow up post here in response mostly to Andrew, I'll just go check it and add your comment, because that is important.

Anonymous said...

Count me in. If you need help on the technical side, setting up a site & server etc., give me a shout, I can probably lend a hand.

Nosemonkey's post above quoting Mill gave me an idea - as well as a blog, why not have a wiki with source texts and notes on liberal theory and the history of democracy - you can add annotations, summaries etc. to make it a more accessible resource (hopefully without dumbing down in the process). A good corpus of text would back up the campaign side of things with some substance - show that it's not just anti-Blair/New Labour but pro- the great tradition of democracy & liberality in this country.

MatGB said...

Gah, I've just done an update post, and now you come up with another good idea. To be honest, I think the server side is for Unity, I can just about get a blogger template working reasonably, anything else is for people good at this stuff.

But a Wiki on liberal theory is a great idea, it's not like we don't have enough people that know a bit about it posting around the place.

Tristan said...

Just my tuppence-worth:

I think something to look at is campaigning for the 'Rule of Law'. That is taking away the ability for government to act arbitrarily for or against any particular group. Setting up a constitutional framework which limits government and sets out what government can and cannot do so individuals know where they stand.

I am a liberal so this is second nature to me, 'Equality under the law' is the basis.

Laws should be made and revoked by Parliament, both houses (preferably both reformed to reflect the nation and its diversity fairly - effectively removing a majority for any party in the Lords (at least)), not by executive powers (which this government is more and more in favour of). Royal Perogative needs to be examined and restricted (the perogative on issuing and revoking passports is being abused to provide the basis of the identity register).

Also, nulla poena sine lege- no punishment without a law expressly prescribing it as opposed to the nullum crimen sine poena- no 'crime' must remain without punishment, whether or not any law prescribes it. The latter is dangerously close (ASBOs already form a beginning of this). (Hat tip to Hayek's The Road To Serfdom for that).

Someone else to look at is Charter 88, although they are obviously more focused on their objectives many seem to be similar to the longer term objective of trying to keep the next lot in line :)

Anonymous said...

Something like this might be useful?

MatGB said...

Unfortunately Rob, my PC refuses to acknowledge that I have speakers installed, so until I've fixed that, it's just a slow animation.

Looks ok though, not sure completely about ISIL, new to me, lots of stress of markets on the front page, common consensus is to keep economics out of the campaign, and instead stick to social & political liberty in order to keep a broad consensus.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I wasn't suggesting that ISIL (I don't even know what ISIL is, in all honesty) was a model to follow. The animation, however, gives a reasonable (if somewhat slow) explanation of the basic principles of liberty.

Could we produce something similar, in other words an easily-digestible explanation of what liberty (in a broad enough sense that we can all agree on it) is, and why it is important?

MatGB said...

ISIL appears to be a libertarian group, very much about economic freedoms as well, and consensus is we wont' get a consensus about them, so we're concentrating on what we can.

As to doing it? It's a good plan. Beyond me, but there are others involved that have already proven themselves good with the old flash animator. I'll pass it on.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make a post to persuade a few recalcitrant LibDems that we're for something.

*Of all the people to think this is a bad thing, I dunno... mutter mutter mutter*

Rachel said...

I'm in: what do you need me to do?