Chris R. Tame, Obituary from The Guardian, 5th April 2006
Chris Tame, who has died aged 56 of bone cancer, devoted his life to radical individualist politics, principally as founder of the Libertarian Alliance, manager of the Alternative Bookshop and later director of Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Tobacco). A prolific publisher and writer, in the mid-1980s he was a producer on Channel 4's Diverse Reports series, which alternated between libertarian and socialist perspectives on topical issues.
His political beliefs were initially, as he explained in a 1985 essay, The New Enlightenment, culturally driven. A childhood love of science fiction and popular culture provided escapism from drab postwar Britain and stimulated admiration for heroic individuals, such as pioneering scientists, space explorers or defenders of justice. His other early enthusiasms were for surf music and rock'n'roll (he was a devoted Elvis Presley fan), which cemented his predilection for free-spirited individuality. High culture, he argued, was supportive of social hierarchy or of collectivist values.
It was the Russian emigre writer Ayn Rand who provided the bridge from Tame's individualism to full-blown anti-statist politics. Rand articulated a radical individualism based upon self-ownership and "objectivist reason". Her aggressive style appealed to Tame's uncompromising personality. He came to believe that the social democratic consensus entrenched the status quo rather than bringing about economic and spiritual transformation in the lives of people from his own background.
He had been born into a working-class family in Enfield, London, his father a process engraver and shop steward, his mother a nurse. The family then moved to Godalming, Surrey, where he was educated at a Church of England primary school, the local secondary modern and finally a grammar school.
It was while reading American studies at Hull University that Tame became active in the Conservative students' organisation (then led by future journalist Andrew Neil). Since it was dominated by Heathites and authoritarians, he found this an ideologically arid environment. True to his propensity for controversy, he announced his departure from the rostrum at an annual Tory student conference in the early 1970s. He never went back. The Conservative party was in his opinion too dominated by a "corporate elite" wedded to lobbying for state handouts and restrictions on the rights of trade unions - in his words "corrupt state capitalism".
Having left the party, he focused on building and formalising the Libertarian Alliance (LA) that he had created in 1967 as a discussion forum. In 1979 Tame became its director and instigated a regular journal, Free Life, together with public meetings and campaigns. During the Thatcher era, the alliance exposed the contradictions of Conservatives who claimed to support free market economics yet demanded that "obscene" publications be censored and other civil liberties compromised.
At the 1990 Tory conference, Tame masterminded an invasion by scantily clad models claiming to be "Conservatives against sex censorship" at a rally organised by Mary Whitehouse. Another campaign was aimed at equalising the age of consent for homosexuals.
The alliance's influence was greatly assisted by Tame's setting up of the Alternative Bookshop in 1979 in Covent Garden, London. A magnet for those seeking libertarian, classical liberal and anarchist literature, it provided a salon atmosphere in which Tame could often be found in debate with socialists and other opponents. Some on the left took things a little further; members of the Socialist Workers party would periodically knock over display stands and throw books from the shelves. Once, the shop had a Molotov cocktail thrown through its windows. It was shut in 1985 by market forces driving up rent rather than by Marxist direct action.
Tame found a series of short-term jobs until his appointment as director of Forest in 1988. His credentials to fight anti-tobacco prohibitionism were impeccable: he was a devout non-smoker. He believed smokers' rights should be based on respect for private property rights. In 1995, the tobacco industry, which funded Forest, removed Tame as director, believing his approach to be too confrontational and abstract.
He succeeded in one of his last ambitions: to give a presentation with his friend Sean Gabb on "cultural revolution" at the Libertarian Alliance International conference, held last November at the National Liberal Club. He was married and divorced twice, and is survived by his mother.
Christopher Tame, campaigner, born December 20 1949; died March 20 2006