“Come with me and let’s seize the day,” UK PM Theresa May told an adoring Conservative Party conference overnight. But libertarians, foreigners? We can all can piss off.
It was unclear from the get go how a Remainer and not-so-closet authoritarian would handle the opportunities of Brexit. Would she plump for freedom and opening up Britain to the world? Or become a “Little Briton” and hunker down instinctively in her statist bunker. From the conference presentations, it looks like the latter: her Home Secretary telling the conference foreigners are taking British jobs and must be stopped (“Don’t call me racist, but …”) – a “sharp line of distinction” perhaps being drawn between true natives and those simply working there?; May herself declaring “it's not racist to worry about immigrants” (prompting wits to suggest It's not racist to worry about immigration' is the new 'I'm not racist but..'); and the hundreds-of-thousands in her party and across the land who subscribe to freer markets, smaller govt and lighter taxes were told their day is done. Get used to it.
Government can and should be a force for good [says Mrs May]; the state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot; we should employ the power of government for the good of the people. Time to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up – and not back – to act on behalf of the people.
Hers will be an “interventionist Conservative government,” she says, acting “on behalf of the people.” A populist interventionist statist then oblivious even to facts – the fact for instance that “British workers already have British jobs. The employment rate for UK nationals is the highest since at least '97 (as far back as data goes)”:
Guido Fawkes responds forcefully to May’s garbage populism, pointing out that “claiming to reject ideology is nonsense”:
May is advocating an ideology of “centrism”, statist, intervening in the economy, acceptance of perpetual borrowing and over-spending, coupled with greater intrusion by the state into the lives of individuals. Remember her Snoopers’ Charter, giving the state powers to intercept personal online data of every individual. Her conference speech last year, lest we forget, was panned by the Institute of Directors and described as “chilling and bitter”. May, whilst claiming the state is a “force for good,” is proposing to force companies to list foreign workers, an ominous and pointless intervention in the private contracts of business. She will also hint this afternoon at imposing price controls on energy companies, another interventionist policy for which the Tories rightly monstered Ed Miliband. Thatcher wanted to “roll back the frontiers of the state”. May wants “government to step up, not back.”
As Christopher Snowdon points out, this anti-liberty streak is very much Conservative, her predecessor David Cameron having told the 2008 conference that “freedom can easily turn into the idea that we all have the right to do whatever we want, regardless of trhe effect on others. That is libertarian, not Conservative – and it is certainly not me.”
He got that much right.
So there were hopes after Brexit that Britain might open itself up to the world, note necessarily completelyt opening its non-European borders but at least perhaps (re)joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), kicking off a Commonwealth Free Trade organisation, and even, as ACT’s David Seymour suggests, announcing a "free movement" agreement with Britain that could include the likes of Canada, Australia and the NZ …
… "Britain's revision of immigration settings is a chance to propose a free movement zone similar to what we have with Australia," said [Seymour] on Wednesday. "In the long term we could even negotiate a broader zone for citizens of Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada - CANZUK."
After May’s declaration however, any part of those dreams looks like the boldest kind of fantasy.