Why it’s jolly English to be a wishy washy liberal

Posted: 23/04/2012 in Barrister, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Police, Stephen Lawrence
Tags: , , , , ,

Happy St George’s day my English brothers and sisters.

Every St George’s day my Grandad could be found with a red rose in his button hole. Why? Because he was proud to be English. Not proud of the soil under our feet, or our ‘ethnicity’ but because of our values and history.

English history, involves, believe it or not liberalism. And my Grandad wasn’t like me, he didn’t go to Court and argue about human rights, to my knowledge he was never in a protest but I know he believed.

The most obvious example was when I was working in the US. I was part of the team defending a black man in Mississippi, facing the death penalty for raping and murdering a teenage boy. A huge distance geographically and socially away from my Grandad the retired master plasterer from Sheffield.

Turned out that my client was eventually released before trial, as he was clearly innocent but that is beside the point. Because, from the other side of the world my Grandparents sent him messages of love and support.

Why? Because a belief in liberty and equality is very English.

Liberalism is in your blood, honest guv

Our forefathers have had plenty of dark moments: slavery, the Peterloo Massacre, Bloody Sunday, Swamp 82, the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Criminal Justice Act 2003…. there’s a long list.

But, liberalism was born in Britain. In England. In Somerset. With John Locke.  Followed up by Thomas Gordon It was entrenched with the Glorious Revolution. It gave us the abolition of slavery and universal suffrage. It was how we recovered from the Great Depression. It was why we fought the Nazis.

And what does being a liberal mean?

I’m a proud liberal, what does that mean I believe:

That the Government only rules with our consent.

The Government ought not interfere with me or my property.

We are all equal under the eyes of the law.

That I tolerate and protect people having different views to me.

That we should own the corporations that they cannot own us.

Terrible things? Things perhaps you agree with?

Liberal is a dirty word

Some people now consider the word liberal a dirty word. Some people use it as an insult. Some people blame it for the ills of English society.

Why? I think there are three reasons,

1) The liberal democrats.A political party has hijacked the word, ‘liberal’. People presume that if you say you’re a liberal, you vote liberal democrat. As such you are associated with all the policies, good and bad of that party. I have no doubt that most political parties have some liberal aspect, afterall we live in a liberal democracy? Why, because we can vote, we can express our views, we can protest and so on.

So just because I’m a liberal doesn’t mean I’ll be voting for Brian Paddick at the Mayoral Election, or I believe in the coalition, or anything like that.

2) The liberals you hear. Linked to the above is the way in which other parties have used the term liberal. The left from Karl Marx onwards have used it as a term for people who don’t care about the poor, or social cohesion. They’ve used it as a way of attacking society, saying that the ‘liberals’ care only for themselves and accumulating individual wealth. And, on the right, ‘liberals’ are to blame for rising crime rates, soft justice and it is liberals who wreck traditions by allowing pluralism and indeed diversity.

Look above at what I’ve said. Am I to blame for rising crime. Do I not care for the poor?

3) The big one. We take for granted that we’re free. I think we’ve quite frankly forgotten that we live in a free society. That’s an amazing thing. We can vote for our Government. We can criticise them, in writing, on twitter, on facebook, on blogs, in newspapers, on the streets, to their faces, in songs, in banners.

We’re entitled not to be imprisoned arbitrarily. It’s illegal to torture us. The Government has to prove I’m guilty before they punish me.

The Government can’t just take my property.

Your Mother and Sister won’t be stoned if they commit adultery, they’re allowed to vote, they can wear what they want.

I can buy a share in a company which is publicly sold. But, just because I have 100 shares doesn’t mean I have more of a vote in the Government than someone who has no shares.

Again, history

Liberalism was born in England before the civil war, it was about limiting the right of Kings. The French went another step. Then of the course the Americans cast off British policies which limited their freedoms.

In World War II, the Nazis spread fascism throughout Europe. They limited liberty and freedom. We fought for that liberty and were proud.

Churchill (the Conservative) said: ‘all the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honour, duty, mercy, hope.’

So what it means to me to be an Englishman

As a English man I am a liberal. It means that I will defend the rights of others to have their view heard. To date that has meant, I have represented members of the EDL, anarchists, numerous members of Occupy.

Have represented incredibly rich businessmen and penniless refugees.

Clients have ranged from murderers to the proprietor of a noisy gay bar.

And look, please don’t miss this, because it says what is brilliant about our society. The police, often considered to be contrary to, or oppressing liberal values and some of them condemn us wishy-washy liberals, are exercising their right to protest on 10 May 2012, a very liberal right. And if any of them get nicked I’ll happily take the brief and defend them with the same ferocity I would any other client.

So – own it. Be that liberal.
Even the bard was a liberal:
This liberty is all that I request.
The Taming of the Shrew: II, i

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Comments
  1. Michael says:

    For much of his political career, Churchill was actually a Liberal.

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