“Absolutely not.” Was how Andrew Withers, leader of the Libertarian Party UK (LPUK) responded when I asked him whether he thought Nigel Farage and UKIP were libertarians. “Take a look at this week’s policy statements. They are an authoritarian party with economic policies worthy of socialists.” Indeed. And what about the Tea Party in the States? “Not keen.”
LPUK was formed on New Years Day in 2008 with Andrew Withers being elected leader in November 2010. What is or isn’t ‘libertarian’ is quite contentious. But what isn’t in disagreement is that the state plays as little role as possible in our lives.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy most commonly associated with America, with its new world ethos of what Herbert Hoover described as ‘rugged individualism”. However, Andrew Withers tells me that Britain has a long history of libertarianism predating 1776.
So what in his view does the UK Libertarian Party stand for? “The rights of the individual taking primacy over that of the state; a written constitution; electoral reform on the Swiss Model. Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European union), and the full implementation of Law Commission 322 of May 2010, to make public servants liable for actions before the civil and criminal courts.”
Most critiques of libertarianism would argue that it is selfish, cold-hearted and capitalistic. Andrew Withers denies all of these tags. “That’s Anarchism, Minarchism recognizes that Humans wish to look after the sick, old and young, but believe that the state is the worst vehicle to do this by, Rotherham, Mid Staffs and the NHS, prove our point.”
I asked him what his party’s stand on immigration was (a point of contention for libertarians)? “There should be open borders, but the pull of the Welfare State means that this is impossible at present. It is in effect a Ponzi scheme; its model is that of a 1950’s Bureaucracy. It is a sacred cow, that is financially unsustainable.”
And does he believe that immigration has had a negative effect on the UK? “Mass immigration under Labour,” he said, “has put a strain on housing, medical provision and education. It has made the Welfare State even more unsustainable and caused social tensions.”
So if the state has as little a role as possible in the affairs of individuals, when disputes arise in society who decides? “An independent Judiciary.” He explains: “Judges are to be elected on a local level. Legal Insurance needs to be available to all not leaving the Courts the playgrounds of the rich and powerful.” Here Withers is referring to the time he sued Vince Cable the now business secretary in the coalition. Withers claims that Vince Cable was maintaining a file on him and in 2011 he says Cable wrote to a district judge, objecting to him being the leader of the party. “But the district judge dismissed Cable’s argument as without foundation and he had no grounds,” he claims.
“A formal Criminal Complaint was made by sworn Affidavit to the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police. This was served on Cable in the House of Commons by Liam Fox MP. The Chief Constable referred the matter to the Serious Fraud Office, where it has languished ever since.
“The Daily Telegraph has interviewed myself and Liam Fox, but the story was ‘dropped’”
And what are your plans for the future of the party? “To influence other parties on small state policy and get more district and local Councilors. We will continue to oppose foreign military adventures, and call for the full version of Chilcot and the impeachment of Tony Blair.”