22 November 2004

New Party II

Follow up to "A New Party?"

"stoatman" commenting at Samizdata points to The New Party. I've never heard of them, but their web site hides their platform under a mass of something-for-everyone waffle. Digging down, the only policies that aren't a total fudge are withdrawl from the EU, and tax cuts funded by social security cuts. Not bad policies, to be fair, but not practical in an electoral sense.

A large majority of the electorate has a firm positive commitment to the current welfare state. We're stuck with it until there's a major fiscal crisis making it obviously unsustainable, or until there's a real revolution in attitude among the population, which I cannot see happening in the near future.

A fringe party cannot attack on that front. It can only gain influence by using an issue or group of issues where the majority are either opposed or indifferent to the positions of the major parties. UKIP has done that. Greens have done it in the past.

I don't think there's a large positive commitment by voters to the removal of the individual freedoms that were normal thirty or forty years ago. A party that made its main platform the reversing of all the pointless restrictions on individual freedom that have come in during the last decades might draw a large enough vote to encourage other parties to take on the agenda.

Of course, many of us would want to go a lot further, but once we get as far as, say repeal of drug prohibition, the influence of the party would wane. Every vote gained by a major party taking that policy would lose them one. The same goes for much of the economic liberalisation we would like to see. A policy of allowing people to smoke in pubs would not be a vote-loser with the electorate at large in the same way. Every political issue outside the core "freedom" policies would have to be fudged in the normal way: adopt the same positions as Labour and Conservative (they're mainly the same).

To come from nowhere to challenging for worthwhile numbers of votes there has to be a very clear core platform, not a broad bit-of-everything manifesto. A few clear slogans pushing basic freedoms, and a name to match ("The Civil Liberties Party"?).

There are arguments against taking this approach. It would cannibalise the UKIP vote to some extent, and UKIP is doing a good job — in the long run EU membership is a bigger issue than foxhunting or email interception. The party could not become explicitly pro-withdrawl without alienating a large proportion of its potential support.

Another argument against is that if we as activists devote our effort towards this compromise platform of relatively popular freedoms, it could weaken the struggle at an intellectual level for a full and logically consistent level of freedom.

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