Twitter and libertarianism

Prospect poll on Twitter users highlights the growth of libertarianism

Libertarianism is the ideology of the future, judging by the new Prospect/YouGov poll on the "twitterati". The survey found that Twitter users are more concerned with civil liberties than the public at large, but also that they are more likely to defend multimillion-pound salaries and large bonuses.

The belief that greater police powers to tackle terrorism are more important than protecting civil liberties is supported by 57 per cent of the public but less than half of British Twitterers.

Prospect's press release suggests that the civil libertarian bias of Twitter users contrasts with the "popular view that David Cameron's Conservatives and their blogging supporters are the most adept online force in politics".

That may be so, but Twitter users also appear to be exactly the sort of constituency that David Cameron has so assiduously courted (with some success). To its shame, Labour has consistently been more authoritarian than the Tories on pre-charge detention and on ID cards. Prospect is right to identify Twitter as a "real force in British politics"; it's not one that Labour can afford to alienate.

More broadly, it is clear that the user-driven nature of sites such as Twitter encourages a libertarian mindset. I think we can expect to see increasing numbers of Conservatives redefine themselves as libertarians, and to witness the continuing growth of new forms of digital socialism.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.