For me, the Libertarian party of the UK has failed. It has little to do with the recent infighting – for anyone interested, my reasoning can be found here and here. Part of the problem, of course, is the inherent bias in British politics against small/new parties. After all, UKIP are still trying to win representation in the House of Commons despite years of campaigning, and after two decades years since their formation, the Greens won their first seat in the Commons last year. Both parties are still looking for some sort of breakthrough to give them real power and influence in Parliament. And that in itself becomes part of the problem; why vote for a party who probably won’t win the constituency and even if they do, won’t have much influence on the way our country is run?
Yet independents do seem to have more luck when it comes to winning seats. Martin Bell is probably the most famous example, yet others have managed to do it. I’m not entirely sure why independents are more successful than minority parties – after all, Martin Bell, for example, did very little to end sleaze in Parliament as the Expenses Scandal showed. But I guess people are more willing to buy into an independent individual, especially if they can chime with some sort of local issue, than they are with minor parties.
Which brings me to Anna Raccoon’s idea. Let’s skip the whole party thing – the expensive bureaucracy that comes with trying to run a party, however small (and, if the example of LPUK is anything to do by, is a complete waste of money anyway) and instead invest that money directly in independent candidates who hold Libertarian views. Rather then paying for the party bureaucracy, Libertarians instead could invest directly in a candidate whose views concur with their own. And that candidate (or candidates, why not?) would (if they persuaded enough people with their rhetoric and ideas) have their deposit paid for effectively meaning there was no risk in taking their ideas to the electorate. Basically, it would create an open market for liberally-minded potential MPs to take their case to those with a similar mindset, before then taking their case to a wider electorate. There’s no need for a party structure really.
Besides, parties are actually part of the problem endemic within British politics. Far from allowing people with disparate, and perhaps even radical, views to find their way into the corridors of power, they instead breed conformity and homogeneity. You want to be a candidate for one of the main parties in a seat that you might actually win? Well, you’re going to have to conform. And if you’re elected, you’re still going to have to conform – to do what the whip’s tell you, and to vote according to what the party wants rather than what you think and what your constituents might want – at least if you want to have any chance of promotion and to avoid the threat of deselection. I’ve always found it very telling that there are some issues that the more Libertarian members of the House of Commons just won’t touch with a barge pole – mainly because they fear incurring the wrath of their parties. Indeed, one of the main reasons why those who end up leading the main parties are so bland, risk averse and ideologically bland is because everything they have to do be like that in order to reach the top in politics in the first place.
So parties are expensive, inefficient and become positive restraints on the sort of radicalism that Libertarian candidates should be aspiring to. Frankly, we don’t need them. So let’s support the idea of getting independent liberals and libertarians into the House of Commons.