There was nothing ‘illiberal’ about David Cameron’s speech on multiculturalism

Cameron: Best and most important speech


David Cameron’s Munich speech on the failure of multiculturalism and the threat of Islamism is his best and most important since becoming Prime Minister.

What are puzzling me are some of the reactions. Of course, an opportunist leftie like Sadiq Khan MP could have been expected to play the minority grievance card. (Though as Toby Young notes, many on the left are so far playing a very cautious game; see eg today’s mealy-mouthed editorial in The Observer) What surprise me far more are some of the responses I’ve seen from avowed libertarians, such as the mighty, deliciously outspoken blogger Old Holborn.

Usually, I agree with Old Holborn on pretty much everything. Government is a conspiracy against the people, etc. But not with what he says on Cameron’s speech.

Today, Dish Face will tell an eager press that “Britain” (he means you and me) must rejoice in being “British” (he means being like him). It will be lapped up by right wingers and nationalists as a way to ensure conformity, if necessary by force.

What he will not say is “do as you please, as long as it does not adversely affect the lives of others”, the Libertarians motto. He will insist it is for the good of the “State” that he inflicts a thinly veiled attack on Islam. He will insist that the “British” have values that all must adhere to (whilst roundly ignoring the very same values as he bombs wedding parties in far off lands). He will insist that all are welcome (whilst quietly cancelling the 30 year direct debit that supported an authoritarian regime in Egypt) as long as they aspire to be “British”. He will give succour to the thousands of EDF marching in Luton against “the Islamification of Britain” whilst continuing to fund Somali pirates.

I am not a Nationalist. I do not celebrate my “Britishness” whilst adoring roast beef, fine ales and my stiff upper lip any more than I celebrate my “Britishness” when drinking Margaux, feasting on Lamb Madras or listening to heavy dub with a joint.

In his attempt to stamp “conformity” on the tiny percentage of radical Muslims in this country, he will alienate huge swathes of the public that do not wish to watch cricket on a Sunday afternoon or prefer to grow dreadlocks and smoke weed. The harmless pastimes of those who choose their own lifestyles will be crushed and derided as “un-British”.

I do not understand the logic of the “libertarian” argument here. Are we to assume that the Islamist terrorists who murdered 2,750 people on 9/11 did so as a kind of protest that their ‘lifestyle choices’ had been disregarded by big, bullying America? And that the Islamist suicide bombers who blew up 52 commuters (and maimed dozens of others) in the 7/7 atrocity had been denied the right by hateful, fascist oppressive Britain to worship as they chose?

If that is the argument then it seems to be in serious denial of something I’d always thought libertarians were good on: ground truth.

When I travel on the tube and glance nervously at my fellow passengers to assess whether or not this will be the journey when my eyes and entrails get spewed over the track, it’s not the people with dreadlocks who bother me. When I go through airport security, I do not worry about the horrendous possibility that an active dope-smoker might be sharing the flight with me. The idea that we all just want to be left in peace, man, and so long as that happens, hey, there’ll be no more violence, no more war may pass muster among the kind of people who think John Lennon was a visionary seer, but it’s not borne out by observable reality.

I wrote about precisely this problem with “libertarianism” in theSpectator, recently. (Too many people seem to confuse it either with libertinism or anarchy)

Libertarianism is not some free-for-all where the only badge of authenticity is how far you are prepared to let it all hang out. But there are quite a few self-professed libertarians who think it is. If you don’t want Dutch donkey-porn broadcast on BBC1 before 9 p.m., if you don’t want heroin vending machines in every classroom, if you’re not fighting to help enable Islamist suicide bombers to blow themselves up when and where they want, then you’re not keeping it real.

Here’s the definition of libertarianism by the US libertarian party (America’s third largest):

‘Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.’

Note that phrase “protecting individuals from coercion and violence.” It really shouldn’t need spelling out. But nothing is less conducive to  liberty than having your legs and arms torn off, your torso shredded and your brain atomised by a suicide bomb. Anyone who can’t appreciate this surely needs his head examining.

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