Thursday, February 08, 2007

Phil Willis for President (of 'Liberals Against Choice')

Magpie-like, I shall seize on a couple of items from Liberal England that highlight stories I missed when I was away.

Phil Willis’s opposition to parental choice in schools is predictable but still annoying. It is a similar attitude to that displayed by Don Foster on casinos (see previous post). Both seem to have a paternalist, almost Fabian, attitude, with a touching faith that experts know best. ‘You see, the people, the poor dears, they don’t know what’s good for them.’ I can’t imagine that Willis or Foster stop for a second to consider how their pronouncements relate to liberalism either with a small or large L.

And yet somehow they escape the opprobrium that many defenders of Liberalism within the party pour on the likes of Mark Oaten. Although I have by no means always agreed with Mark, at least he genuinely did try to think about the nature of Liberalism and much of what he said was simply about changing how we present our views. By contrast, I find it almost impossible to recognise anything Liberal about many of the public views of Willis and Foster.

1 comment:

Tom Barney said...

While I agree with the essence of your position I think

1) You should ensure you are not begging the question. It does not follow that because a local authority has submitted an application for, say, a casino that "the community" wants it: it may be that residents are furious with their council for submitting the application (though I understand this is not so in Blackpool). The real argument for local decision-making is not that local politicians make better decisions but that if they make bad ones the people know whose heads to knock together, dismiss from office at the next elections etc. (and can dismiss them - governments are not usually dismissed as a result of a decision affecting only one locality). Councillors feel the blast more powerfully and are more ready to make concessions.

2) The party probably needs a debate on what is the essence of a Liberal but I hope it will not take the form of some members accusing some others of not "really" being Liberals - this just poisons the air and raises the suspicion that some people (not you) would prefer less diversity and fewer awkward corners - and more power for themselves. I would prefer a look at how the different aspects of the party fit together: is there a common core or rather a chain of shifting resemblances, and what of Liberalism is retained by people who might appear to have shed some parts?