You are witnessing Britain come to a crossroads in its history like no other, at a time where its political leadership is in the grips of a historic crisis. While the impending implementation of the decision we made to rend ourselves apart from neighbours and change our relationship with the rest of the world hangs over every action of government, the leaders of our nation’s political parties fail to provide any course of inspiration or coherent programme agreeable to the many, and instead seem intent on inflaming passions and stoking divisions. Fear and resentment caused by great economic injustices continue to inflame the hearts of many.
History will one day reflect on this time at the beginning of our century as a time of political crisis, where decisions are no longer made for the long-term good of the people; where the mechanisms of our democracy have begun to decline; and where debates about the country’s future are increasingly held in bad faith. It will indict our democracy – as the democracies of history have been indicted – for failing to provide leadership in crisis, and allowing senselessness to reign in place of sensible thinking and intelligent thought.
And within such an atmosphere of polarisation, the liberal ideas which have almost universally underpinned the past several decades of British policy are being forcefully challenged on multiple fronts, while the current flag-bearers of that liberalism increasingly fail to defend themselves coherently. Indeed, the once high ideals of liberalism have sunk into vapidity. The people do not know what it stands for, what it means, why it is of benefit to them. The liberal sentiment which once dominated the governance of this country has been reduced almost to naught, and it is almost entirely through the inability of the defenders of liberalism to be robust, and to demonstrate what exactly it is that they stand for and wish to see.
There is much sound and fury in modern political discussion. To imagine that mere writing can persuade many or effect political change is a high ambition indeed. But, put simply, something must be done. It is my firm belief that the ideals of liberalism have much to give to our nation, and that the intuitions behind them are ones shared by the majority of the people. And in the insecure and confusing times in which we find ourselves, I think it absolutely necessary to mount a new defence of those ideals, and demonstrate why exactly they light us a way out of the political darkness.
Nor, indeed, do I think that their benefit is solely for “the metropolitans”, or “the elites”, two groupings accused frequently of being indifferent to the concerns of their fellow citizens. Considering the history of liberalism in this country, and the radical action it has taken in the past centuries against poverty and infirmity, it is particularly lamentable that liberals in recent history have allowed a narrative to be constructed which claims that liberalism – no less than the liberation of the individual from the tyranny of state or private coercion, whether economic or social – is for the urban and already well-off.
The task I set myself is a great one, then, and I make no pretence that writing these essays will be a panacaea to the problem. Many will think them pretentious, overwrought, unnecessary, and trying to stem a tide too great and already flowing. But, put simply, in what follows, I hope to offer not only a coherent defence of liberalism, but a positive argument for it. I wish to set out exactly what it is that modern liberals ought to distinctively believe, and exactly what vision for the future of our country they have.
There are four areas I wish to tackle chiefly. The first, necessarily, is to justify why the intuitions behind liberalism are true, and to build the PHILOSOPHICAL CASE FOR LIBERALISM from the ground upwards. After that, using the framework generated therein, I will discuss precisely what the liberalism I propound means for THE ECONOMY, for DOMESTIC POLICY, and for FOREIGN POLICY, and crucially, why it is of benefit to all citizens.
If there is one thing I hope to achieve by the writing and publication of these essays, it is very simply to provide a complete, mainstream defence of political liberalism. If, by that defence, discussion is sparked either internal to liberalism or external to it, about what the liberal vision for Britain is, then I will be immensely satisfied.
It is as a result of deep dismay at the state of our nation that I write these essays. The motivation for them is anger and despair about what we are becoming, and what history will think of us if we do not change course soon. Great perils loom on the horizon of the future. We must be robust enough to overcome them. I believe liberalism is the way, and I hope that my essays will help even a small way towards overcoming our country’s problems, and existing in a proverbially sunnier place in the years to come.