Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Burstow on Liberalism

Paul Burstow was the latest guest to grace the 6th. Form Lecture programme at SGS. The Lib Dem Chief Whip - and local MP of course - focused on the defence of freedom for his speech. He gave an eloquent survey of what he saw as the overweening power of the state threatening individual freedoms, and it is not surprising that his talk should have generated some good questions from the audience. His view of freedom is certainly classically liberal - to the extent that he was happy to accept that freedom must come with risks; that some 'anti-terror' measures should be consigned to the waste bin because their impact on individual freedom is more significant than whether they might protect us from external attack. He was clear about not wanting to live in Voltaire's "gilded cage".

The key question for any modern liberal, of course, is how to resolve that tension between protecting individual liberties and promoting empowerment for all. Opposing the power of the state as manifested in its security apparatus is not essentially difficult (although too few still do so nonetheless). Opposing the power of the state when it is more becomingly clothed in its nanny outfit is much more daring. To say that the state has no role in telling us how we should live, how much we should drink, who we should have sex with, what drugs we can smoke....these are the gradual encroachments that are just as iniquitous to individual liberty as the security apparatus. Paul Burstow illustrated his effective case with some high profile, and clearly outrageous, infringements on certain individuals. If you want to see a more low level attack, just drive past any pub of an evening and see the poor sods who have been forced, like naughty children, to take to the cold pavements to enjoy their cigarettes. Freedom comes in many guises, and they are not qualitatively different.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You could alternatively haved used another low level illustration. Ask Burstow about his support for the closure of the alley from Carlton Crescent to Church Hill Road in North Cheam - a public right of way - because a few kids lik to smoke their cigarettes down there on their lunch break and the fish shop owner doesn't like it. Some nonsense about protecting small businesses and combatting 'anti-social behaviour', I think it was.

The man is a weasel. Never liked him since he ignored my questions about shifting respite care outside the borough and decided to chat about bins for an hour instead.

You know what Giles, you should run against him!

Anonymous said...

Not if Philly Stroud gets him first. But yeah, good idea.

GM said...

Anonymous 1 - I remember that exchange very well!!

Anonymous said...

The patronising letter:

"Dear adolescent, thanks for you question. Paul takes all questions very seriously. Love Paul."

What a rat.