Flat White

Bede and Mary’s “Battle of Ideas”

16 February 2017

7:55 PM

16 February 2017

7:55 PM

Recently, the Young Liberals put together a publication called the “Liberal Review.” It was the type of exercise youth movements everywhere can recognise; an opportunity for people to push causes they care about and update people on what’s going on. It received a response from two eminent citizens in our very own Spectator, decrying the publication as a “dumb publication,” a “lazy regurgitation of old ideas” with the prose of a “Facebook status.”

Now, on the one hand, we can recognise that this sort of thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But, on the other hand, I found it somewhat remarkable that a nineteenth-century barrister would come back from the dead and unite with an English nurse to knock the article out. Unless, of course, the authors are actually just limp wrists too pussyfooted to put their names to their overly wordy sledges.

These spectral authors seem to have two issues with the Review; that we didn’t talk about Brexit enough and we aren’t engaged in the “Battle of Ideas.” At no point do they make any effort to explain what they mean by that- only to say that we’ve put too many graphs in.

Bede and Mary begin by lashing out that the Liberal Review makes no connection to the conservative base. Here is paragraph three of the editorial introduction:

If we are to remain a mainstream alternative to the inner city elite, we must remember that we are the party who Menzies placed at its heart, ‘the forgotten people… We are the movement of J.S. Mill and Edmund Burke. We are a movement that is grounded in the classical liberal ideas of freedom that have made Western Civilization great: the idea that government is not the master of the individual but the guarantor of the individual’s liberty.

They then condemned an article about the Liberal Party’s successful contribution to multiculturalism. They said that it was “wasted space” and that the Liberal Party should “move on” from talking about success stories. It’s funny that they think that because we would have thought that reclaiming successful policy initiatives were exactly the sort of thing someone engaging in the “Battle of Ideas” would want to do. If we can’t show that our philosophy worked in the past, how can we expect people to believe it will work in the future?


They then knocked an article about devolving corporate taxes to the states. They did this by saying a different policy was being discussed (income taxes are different from corporate taxes guys) and then said that Turnbull supported it. Of course, it makes sense that if you’re the sort of person to call yourself William Bede Dalley you’d assume that invoking the Prime Minister’s name was a slur, but in reality most people don’t have the level of bile these brave anonymous writers have for him. Or maybe they just thought that the policy was a bad one because they didn’t bother to read it.

After working themselves into a state of fury, they decided that a contribution I had made about Donald Trump was particularly poor. I had written an article about Donald Trump and had sinned by not submitting myself to his greatness. He is apparently the avatar of all that is conservative, and if you don’t love him with all your heart you are failing to be the good little conservative that Bede and Mary demand.

Of course, this flies in the face of any truly Conservative understanding of governance. By definition, conservatives are cautious and measured in how they approach politics; especially true for someone as volatile as Trump. There’s a difference between being a Populist and being a Conservative, and if what we believe as conservatives clashes with what Bede and Mary imagine the silent majority believe, then so be it.

It is clear that Bede and Mary in their fit of fury only read the opening sentences of this alleged ‘dumb publication’ as a means to virtue signal on behalf of the conservative base. The effectiveness of their assessment of this ‘dumb publication’ was questionable given the adjudicators could not get through an article on tax reform for a competitive corporate tax system because ‘a series of tables’ were ‘produced to bore you.’ In fact, their scathing attack was in the direction of income tax and not corporate tax – truly hitting the nail on the head in the “Battle of Ideas.

The ‘Battle of Ideas’ is truly a magnificent piece of rhetoric. Moving hearts and minds in a movement for liberty and freedom through the voice of the conservative base like there is no tomorrow. How thankful the movement ought to be for Bede and Mary for standing up on behalf of the conservative base. What would the movement be, without Bede and Mary telling Kerrod Gream to spend ‘perhaps more time with books and less time doing the numbers.’ It is safe to say, that ‘numbers’ through the representation of ‘a series of tables’ — were apparently far too complicated for Bede and Mary’s comprehension.

We all remember when we joined the movement. We all remember why we joined the movement. We are the collective voice of the conservative base. There’s no better place to discuss ideas on first principles than the youth of the conservative movement — pure and full of hope. The battle of ideas and the discussion of philosophy is for the purposes of making change — to transform the philosophical ideals we hold dear into policy positions that we want pushed through Parliament.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all sit behind our laptops with a cup of Earl Grey and attack those who want tangible outcomes through a battle of ideas in a publication of blood and sweat from our generation of young conservatives? Get off your pedestal and take your seat at the table. Bede and Mary is a lesson for all conservative brethren to remember the purpose of the ‘Battle of Ideas.’ It exists for policy outcomes — not for an opportunity to attack each other. Next time we hear from Bede and Mary, we hope it is for a policy cause and not to attack our brothers and sisters who fight the left.

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