Our choice in Eastleigh 

While we don’t tend to make endorsements on by-elections and other minor elections, we have decided to express our view regarding tomorrow’s Eastleigh by-election in the United Kingdom. Unlike other by-elections, this one could have a bigger impact on British politics, the future of the Liberal-Conservative Coalition and the future of both, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats.      

It is no surprise by now that we like the current Coalition Government and most of the policies it has implemented, which we consider to be rooted in centrist classical liberal principles. It is no surprise, also, our dislike of tribalists on both the Tory Right and the Lib Dem Left, who have attempted (albeit unsuccessfully so far) from day one to fracture and destroy the Lib-Con arrangement.

Before the Eastleigh candidates were selected by the Tories and the Lib Dems, we were unsure as to which candidate should get our support. On the one hand, we have a high regard for the Prime Minister and his courageous attempts to modernise the Tory Party –most notably his unflinching support for equal marriage despite strong opposition from half of his backbenchers. So we would like to see a victory for him at the electoral level to appease those on the Tory Right trying to destabilise his leadership within the party. On the other hand, we also have a deep appreciation for the Deputy Prime Minister and his efforts to move his party from the centre-left to the sensible centre of British politics, embracing more liberalism and less social democracy within his party and reclaiming the mantra of Gladstonian liberalism. Thus, an electoral victory for the party would appease those on the Lib Dem left who are increasingly uneasy about the coalition with the Conservatives and are thinking about replacing their leader before the next general election for a more Labour-friendly –and less liberal-friendly– figure.  

While the initial situation made an endorsement almost impossible considering our eagerness to support both, David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s leaderships, the candidate selection made it a fairly easy task. We are disappointed at the selection of Maria Hutchings as the Conservative candidate.  Ms Hutchings is at odds with the Prime Minister’s efforts to modernise the party. From a (classical) liberal perspective, she’s wrong on immigration, she’s wrong on equal marriage and she’s wrong on her isolationist approach to Europe. She does not stand for Cameron’s liberal Conservative brand but for the right-wing fringe of the Tory Party. While this may just be an electoral speech to fence off the UKIP challenge from the right, we cannot support a candidate with such an illiberal discourse.  On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats’ candidate, Mike Thornton, presents a far more persuasive and centrist approach to politics –one that is friendlier to centrist classical liberals.

Therefore, even though we don’t want to see Mr Cameron weakened by this by-election, we believe the people of Eastleigh would be better served in Parliament by a sensible voice like that of Mr Thornton. We urge Eastleigh voters to support the Liberal Democrat candidate tomorrow.