Back in March, The Freedom Association (on whose Management Committee I sit) held its first Freedom Festival.
Among my reflections on the weekend in Bournemouth was the following:
‘[TFA is] a crucial piece of neutral territory in the divided right.
With a split between the Conservatives and UKIP, it’s right that we argue our corners – but it is also important that reasonable people on both sides have a place to meet and discuss what we have in common.
Even the North and South Koreans have those huts at Panmunjon, which straddle the border and allow somewhere for both sides to talk with words rather than bullets. The Freedom Association is one of the few places where Tories and UKIPers currently rub shoulders.’
In short, if we hope to ever reunite the right then TFA is a likely venue for the first talks about having talks.
As a non-partisan organisation campaigning from a libertarian, eurosceptic, small state perspective it counts like-minded Tories and UKIPers among its members already, including MPs and MEPs, as well as others of all parties and none. It’s one of the few places I know where true blues and soldiers of the people’s army can sit down to work out how to promote their common concerns, without either taking chunks out of each other or having their respective loyalties called into question.
That position is bolstered by the news that the organisation’s new Chairman is Sir Mark Worthington, who was private secretary to Baroness Thatcher for the last 21 years of her life.
As well as his considerable talents and connections, Sir Mark’s experience working for the Iron Lady is a powerful piece of symbolism. One of the values which the Toryish elements of UKIP and the libertarian wing of the Conservative Party share is their admiration for her – sometimes it is admiration for a retrospective idea of her, but it is deeply felt nonetheless.
His appointment will no doubt bolster TFA’s credibility in the eyes of both groups as a place where they can discuss their shared principles, and as a trustworthy dealer. His experience is a hefty reminder of what the right can achieve when it is united. I gather Sir Mark intends to reach out to like-minded people in other parties, too.
With the Association’s fortieth anniversary coming up next year, I know there are some great plans underway for a reminder of the importance of freedom, and the importance of TFA in protecting and promoting it. Within a few years we could well see it extend its importance even further.