Later this morning, Britain will pause for a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of Monday night’s barbaric terrorist attack in Manchester.
Leaders of the UK’s main political parties say they will resume some understated constituency campaigning this afternoon, following the mark of respect, with full national activities re-starting tomorrow.
This is the correct course of action, and has been well handled by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the leaders of other parties such as Nicola Sturgeon and Tim Farron. It was right that campaigning stopped – a necessary and sensitive measure, as people at home and abroad tried to come to terms with horrific stories that emerged from Monday’s atrocity. But now we must resume the process that underpins our centuries-old liberal democracy.
The core of that democratic tradition is the freedom to debate and determine how we should be governed; to scrutinise and challenge the policies proposed by candidates who put themselves forward for positions of immense power.
This newspaper will continue to argue for a more liberal direction of travel across all corners of government policy – from civil liberties, to migration, to fiscal responsibility and the facilitation of open markets that allow people to trade goods and services, thus creating wealth for themselves and future generations alike.
To this extent the campaign, so far, has been extremely disappointing. The Prime Minister has reverted to her instincts, as a social conservative with huge faith in the ability of governments to successfully intervene in all aspects of the economy. The Conservative manifesto sets a direction for the party not seen since the decades preceding Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power, lashing out – unprompted – at “untrammelled free markets” and “the cult of selfish individualism”, while pledging “a belief...in the good that government can do”.
Meanwhile the Labour party’s hard-left policies, while deterring enough of the electorate to ensure defeat, gain mainstream traction. Just a few years ago, such ideas seemed consigned – in Britain, at least – to the past.
With the Liberal Democrats proposing tax hikes and higher spending, we seem to have entered an era reminiscent of the post-War consensus known as “Butskellism”, during which all parties endorsed collectivism, nationalisations, higher government spending, and increasingly powerful trade unionism.
The campaign has acted as a timely reminder that there is no liberal consensus leading us towards freer markets and a more globalised world. Those of us who believe in that path must re-engage in the ongoing battle of ideas that forms such a crucial part of our democracy, and try to convince both voters and politicians with compelling evidence on the merits of our thinking.