Last week someone mistook me for a Lib Dem, which, in my head, is the biggest political insult anyone can pay me. I acted offended - and I was, to a degree - but then I started thinking about why they'd thought that. And then they challenged me: if you're not a Lib Dem, what are you? Simple I thought.
I'm a liberal, conservative, environmental nationalist.
Erm... right. Which is, I guess, where the confusion arises. Anyone with such a varied notion of politics ultimately belongs in the Lib Dems. They are the party with wide enough principles (read: wishy-washy) to encompass the lot, right? Well, my politics are such that I wouldn't fit in Nick Clegg's merry band. And I guess my political beliefs are why I'm struggling to find a candidate to vote for in the next election (and, ironically, was leaning towards the one party not really represented below!). But that was another post. Let me explain.
I'm a liberal. I'm with John Stuart Mill on his 'Harm Principle', the primacy (and positive view) of the individual, freedom with responsibility, people as rational actors and toleration of things that you might not approve of (assuming they comply with the 'Harm Principle'). And with Hobbes & Locke on the need for a state, I'm a social contractist, providing legitimacy for the state from below - but not as far as their "strong government" model. I also part company with social liberals on the extension of welfare state beyond what is required, preferring the laissez-faire market politics of Adam Smith to intervening hand of John Maynard Keynes.
I'm a (small c) conservative. I think tradition is important, and Edmund Burke's society comprising "those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born" rings true - it is intergenerational justice (and, I guess, environmentalism) and the idea of society as an organic thing. While my view of the individual veers towards the positive liberal view, I think there is merit in the conservative view of people as security-seeking, seeing comfort in what we know. And in fiscal matters, the virtue of investing and cautious money-management has a certain draw.
I'm an environmentalist. I'm sold on climate change being an issue which
will should dominate international politics for the next few years. I also don't think it is too difficult to make a difference - a bit of recycling here, the use of public transport there, cutting the number of flights taken and we're well on the way to reducing emissions. If only it were that easy.
I'm a nationalist. I have an attachment to my wider community but also recognise that subsidiarity is a concept which is required for political institutions to function well. I think that, in the liberal tradition, the positive view of people leads directly to the notion of self-determination, of control over your own future. Not in a racial sense - I don't think there is any rational way of arguing that one nation is "better" than another - but again, from the liberal social contract, the political allegiance that arises from that fosters in me a civic view of the nation. It stems from a patriotism which has developed in me over my lifetime.
So there you go. A clearer picture of my politics. And I wonder why people are confused about me! I guess there is something to clear up, and that is what takes priority in this rag-tag of political ideology. And I don't know how to answer that - I guess it depends on the context of the debate. It's why when someone asks, I never say directly what my political affiliation is. Some view me as a "die-hard nationalist" while others see me getting "gradually Greener". Others (and I can't find the link right now) cast be out as a conservative during my US election coverage. So there - maybe I'm just confused. Or maybe no one adequately represents me.
Either way - let me make one thing clear - I'm not a Lib Dem!