Saturday, 24 April 2004

The EU constitution referendum

Earlier this week, the PM made a noted u-turn by stating that a referendum would occur regarding the UK ratifying the proposed constitution for the European Union. The Conservatives have cited this as a 'victory' for them, since Howard and co. have been advocating a referendum for some time. As yet, no date has been set or outlined for the referendum.

Referenda generally (it could be argued) are 'alien' to British political culture and traditions. The last referendum involving all parts of the UK was in 1975, when the Wilson Labour government asked the electorate whether they wished Britain to remain a member of what is now the EU. Evidently it was a 'yes' vote. We are also 'promised' a referendum relating to whether the UK should join the Euro, once the 'five tests' have been analysed and met.

To me, why Blair has changed his mind on this issue is irrelevant. At the least, we have an opportunity to decide whether the UK should cede EVEN MORE sovereignty to the EU. The greater the amount of governmental self-government that is surrendered could equate to more personal sovereignty. Obviously as a libertarian, I oppose such a notion or occurance.

Monday, 12 April 2004


I often seem to 'slag off' and rebuke the Conservative party in this blog. When I do so, it is not based on any hatred or ill-feeling towards the party, but more on (what I perceive as a) a misrepresentation of the party. The Tories consistently state they are the 'party of freedom'. Yet I seldom see any tangible evidence of such a claim. Their stance on the re-classification of cannabis cannot be seen as being overtly 'liberal'.

Let us examine the history of the Tories since the end of WWII. The Churchill government from 1951 onwards largely adopted the economic reforms of the Labour Attlee administration (thus starting the 'post war consensus'). What did the governments of MacMillan, Eden and Sir Douglas-Home do to increase freedom in Britain. Little. Keynesian macroeconomics is actually more interventionist than other schools of economic thought, such as monetarism, neoclassical economics or the Austrian school. In terms of social freedom, little changed. It was not until the Wilson Labour government of the 1960's, that the UK saw some expansion of social freedom. In this period, capital punishment was abolished and homosexuality and abortion were legalised.

Ted Heath? Well supposedly, the Heath government was to undertake a slightly greater laissez-faire economic policy. This ceased however, when the Heath administration was forced to re-nationalise a blue-chip company. Under Thatcher, well yes in an economic sense, the country experienced a greater sense of economic freedom. Her governments persued more free-market oriented policies, in addition to privatising state industry. The post war consensus of 1945-1970's had died, even before Thatcher won the 1979 election.

Major continued Thatcher's economic reforms and it can be argued that the UK's economic record under him was far superior to that under Thatcher. But in terms of social freedom, only a reduction in the age of gay consent (from 21 to 18 at the time, now 16) could be considered a socially liberal view.

So we can see that the Conservative party has done very little in past decades to increase freedom and liberty, despite their claims of upholding such notions.