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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 13:16 GMT
Liberal elite: Free and uneasy?

liberal elite noun, derogatory. Used to denote the establishment, partic. the arts, the law and the media; liberal used not in the sense of open-minded, but rather in the sense of licentious, i.e. "anything goes", esp. relating to sex, drugs, law and order.

USAGE 1: Tory leader William Hague, 14 December 2000, in condemning impact of report into death of Stephen Lawrence pledged to "take on and defeat the attitude of the condescending liberal elite that has never trusted the police and now wants us to believe they are all racists". Liberal elite as shorthand for New Labour and its supporters, particularly well-paid lawyers and journalists (cf "people at Islington dinner parties", "Guardian readers", "chattering classes").

Related to: metropolitan - a word used frequently by Mr Hague in relation to the government in his claims that it is out of touch with the "ordinary" man or woman; (cf cosmopolitan - a word applied in Soviet Russia to discredit "subversives")

USAGE 2: Not just used by Conservatives. A variation - "Hampstead liberals" or alt. "woolly liberals" - was used by Home Secretary Jack Straw earlier this year, saying that they were the main opponents to his policies on judicial reform.

QUOTATIONS:

PRO: David Aaronovitch, Independent, 15 November 2000 "I am, of course, a member of the metropolitan, liberal elite. I am for gay rights, asylum-seekers, the euro, metric measurements, devolution, feminism, dearer petrol, fewer cars, intervening in Sierra Leone, change, reggae and experimenting with exotic foods."
ANTI: Peter Hitchens, Daily Express, 2 October 2000 "Bit by bit we are finding out that the law - which once served us - is now used to oppress us and force us to abide by the do-it-yourself morals of the liberal elite."

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH 1: liberal economics - a term meaning classical, free market or laissez-faire theories, championed in the early 1980s by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Reader Francis Korzeniowski adds...
NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH 2: classical liberalism - the sort of free-trade, socially-tolerant utilitarianism preached (par excellence) by The Economist.


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14 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague takes aim at Lawrence report

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