Last week saw the incredible election of George Galloway in the Bradford-West by-election, sending the professional embarrassment back to the House of Commons. The election was a disaster for the three main parties in Parliament. The election has naturally given rise to speculation as to who else might be capable of winning an election. Ladbrokes, a betting agency based in the UK, has TAC contributing editor Peter Hitchens at 33/1 to win a seat before the next General Election (to put into comparison, the same website has Ron Paul at 66/1 to win the presidency). While the chances are slim of Hitchens choosing to run, his two blog posts on the subject make points worth exploring.
Hitchens would be an exciting addition to the British political scene. I have had the chance to see Hitchens in person twice, once at a Policy Exchange event in London were I had the opportunity to ask him about drug policy, and another where he argued for the effectiveness of smoking bans. While I disagree with Hitchens on both of these policies, he remains one of the strongest advocates of liberty and national sovereignty the United Kingdom has to offer. His book The Abolition of Liberty is a must-read for anyone on either side of the Atlantic. To have Hitchens running for Parliament would be refreshing and encouraging.
When discussing the possibility Hitchens makes clear that he will not be attempting to form another political party:
As I have said a thousand times, real political parties arise when there is a vacancy for them. There is, just now, no such vacancy.
Anything founded when there is no vacancy bears the same relation to a real party as a Hornby trainset does to the old Great Western Railway. You may call it a party, and make appropriate noises as you play with it on the sitting-room floor. But it will not be a party.
This observation is entirely true, and what Hitchens proposes instead seems to me to be a sensible way to move forward: the establishment of exploratory groups broadly sympathetic to the values of”Justice and Liberty.” This suggestion bears some resemblance to the Tea Party movement, though the British have an almost genetic aversion to grassroots political activism. However, small concentrations of concerned citizens, based locally and without the activism and populism of the Tea Party would be an encouraging sign. Hitchens rightly predicts that were this strategy adapted those interested should aim for a, “long, slow take-off.” Were such groups established, Hitchens claims that he would be happy to put his name forward.
Another point worth noting is the observation Hitchens makes on the diminishing of tribal loyalty in the UK. The years of the coalition government have shown Tories that their party is not much different from Labour, and has produced some of the most comically inept opposition Parliament has seen in years. Ironically, the Liberal Democrats, who have managed to implement over 75% of their manifesto, have been hemorrhaging support. Hitchens characterizes those who supported the Tories in May 2010 in the following way: “The millions of patriots who voted Tory at the last Election committed an act of self-harming idiocy.” I was one of the patriotic idiots who voted Tory in the last general election, but I think the years since the beginning of Cameron’s premiership have only confirmed Hitchens’ assessment.
British conservatives should take seriously Hitchens’ points. The Tory party is an unpatriotic, inefficient vehicle for change in the UK, and more needs to be done at the local level to institute some change whenever by-elections occur. There is no point forming new political parties, but it is worth exploring who might rally under “Justice and Liberty.”
At the moment Peter Hitchens MP is still a thought experiment, something that unfortunately we will probably never see. But at least the first step has been taken, he is open to the idea.