I am told that the blogger known as Old Holborn intends to stand as a parliamentary candidate for the Jury Team in the forthcoming general election.
I say ‘I am told’ because I know nothing other than the fact that Boaty & D keep banging on about it. My understanding of the source of this beef is basically zero.
But because Old Holborn has historically called himself a libertarian, John Demetriou is (perhaps understandably) concerned that non-libertarians might make inferences about the rest of us based on Old Holborn’s very public campaigns and his well-known online presence. JD has called on the UK Libertarian Party, despite not being a member, to sever its links, whatever their nature, with Old Holborn, and on libertarians in general to distance themselves publicly from Old Holborn, certain of his attitudes, and certain of the Jury Team policies he is obliged to support as one of their candidates – all in an effort to demonstrate as clearly as possible that Old Holborn is not representative of libertarians as a group. Indeed, Demetriou does these things himself, so he is not demanding from anyone else what he is not willing to do himself.
A couple of evenings ago, he and I had quite an instructive conversation on the matter, in which he outlined the basics of his position and made various suggestions. My response, however, was evidently unsatisfactory, as he mentioned on his blog this afternoon:
None of the other top 20 libertarian bloggers have any issues whatsoever with OH and his campaign. It’s ‘ends justify the means’ ‘so what?’ all the way to the bank.
The hypocrisy and inconsistency inherent in the lack of questioning going on here about OH and these others is incredible.
And when I press the issue home, certain other bloggers make out like OH is nothing to do with them, the LPUK or libertarianism.
This, despite the fact that the Treasurer of the LPUK is OH’s mate and fellow blogger and the leader of the LPUK and his wife went on a London demo at Parliament together.
But no, no, no links at all, OH is nothing to do with this cause at all.
I’m obviously mad or deluded. Yeah.
It is not my intention to get into a blogwar, or to take personally these remarks. I understand entirely where JD is coming from and I have a great deal of sympathy for his position. It is not enough for me to say that I am not one of the top 20 libertarian bloggers, and that I am not a member of the LPUK. It is not enough for me to say that I speak only for myself, not for libertarians in general or LPUK members, when I refuse to do what he thinks I should do. He is a fellow libertarian, and he deserves a better answer. And as there are probably many who share his view, they deserve a better answer from me too. And I deserve better than what JD’s comment implies about my views.
In the first instance, I will not question OH’s campaign or policies because I know nothing about them. I have not informed myself of the matter. Politically, it is an irrelevancy. I do not live in the constituency where OH is standing, and even if I did, I could neither vote for him nor choose not to vote for him.
Not so with the Jury Team. Some of their 30 key policies are attractive; some are not. As I feel this way about most political parties, I am hardly going to go out of my way to make a particular attack on the Jury Team on that basis. However.
JD feels that the Jury Team’s participation in the Alliance for Democracy taints it, because its partners the Christian Party and the English Democrats are proposing some truly unsavoury stuff. He points out the Christian Party’s commitment to upholding lifelong marriage between one man and one woman, and the EDP’s belief that the public culture of England should be that of indigenous English. The Christian Party also advocates the death penalty, banning abortion, prohibition of drugs, censorship, and public health campaigns to ‘discourage’ homosexuality.
Not only are these policies un-libertarian, as JD says, they are personally repugnant. They are not the policies of the Jury Team, but although it is cunningly buried, the Jury Team’s official website does state that they are a ‘full member of the Alliance for Democracy’ and the leader of the Jury Team, Sir Paul Judge, is also the leading spokesman for the Alliance. Although I cannot find it explicitly stated, it appears that members of the Alliance have agreed, as they did for the 2005 election, not to stand competing candidates in the same constituency. From this, I infer that Jury Team members and candidates are comfortable enough with CP and EDP policies to be satisfied with CP and EDP electoral victory.
And it is for that reason that I do not like the Jury Team, would not vote for them (if I had the vote), and find it utterly puzzling that a self-professed libertarian would stand as a Jury Team candidate. But nobody has to share my views, or even sympathise with them, and if OH believes he can support the Jury Team without supporting its allies, who am I to say he can’t, even if I couldn’t?
But there is more, because JD clearly objects to Old Holborn himself in addition to the Jury Team and its allies. Something about Old Holborn himself is obviously poisonous enough to corrupt the image of the UK Libertarian Party because its treasurer happens to be his personal friend and its leader (and his wife) went on a ‘demonstration’ he organised. Moreover, the very fact that Old Holborn calls himself a libertarian is sufficient to taint libertarianism in general and all libertarians everywhere unless they publicly state that they don’t agree with his poisonous views.
I am not entirely clear on what, exactly, JD doesn’t like about Old Holborn. I do not know the man personally, despite having spent an afternoon in his general vicinity and participated in a short conversation with him. I have little familiarity with his personal or political views; some of what I know, I agree with, and some I don’t agree with. He may not be an anti-Semite, but I do not agree with what I understand are his opinions about Israel or Jewish influence in politics. But because I do not really know the man or his views, I allow for the fact that I may be wrong about what he thinks, and I will not go on the attack or make public assertions about him when my knowledge and understanding are incomplete. Nor will I advise anyone else to do so.
I think these are all good explanations for why I will not do as JD suggests. But the ultimate reason, really, is that libertarianism is about principles, not personalities. Either the principles are sound on their own terms, and will remain sound no matter what sort of person advocates them; or the principles are unsound, and not even an army of saints urging people to adopt them will make them right. JD, I think, would argue that libertarian principles are more likely to be given the fair hearing they deserve if their public advocates are reasonable people, and probably he is right. But that is not a good enough justification, for me personally, to attack an individual from a position of ignorance. I want the libertarian movement to succeed, and I want its members to be well thought of, but I will not join a public crusade against an individual to achieve that.
This may be hypocritical, given that I denounce people like Ed Balls left, right, and centre with equally imperfect knowledge. Maybe JD is right and I’m permitting my tribal libertarianism to overcome my good sense. Maybe I just don’t want to get on Old Holborn’s bad side. These things could all be true, and my ‘reasoning’ just rationalising some base, gut unwillingness to go against another libertarian, especially one who is more well-known and more ‘powerful’ than I am.
But maybe it’s just that, deep down, I would not respect myself if I jumped on this bandwagon, however justified it might be. I hold libertarian principles to be right and good, and I try to persuade others of their rightness and goodness, and I try not to discredit the movement in my personal behaviour. But that is the only contribution to the ’cause’ I am willing to make, because the only person whose views and actions I’m responsible for is myself. I don’t place the libertarian ’cause’ ahead of my self-respect, and my personal code of integrity tells me it is not appropriate for me to follow JD’s course (although I do not say it is not appropriate for him). And so Old Holborn may be ‘something’ to do with libertarianism, but he is nothing to do with me.