Sweden showed how a liberal society should respond to a pandemic and now Switzerland is showing how liberal democracy, i.e. rule by the people, should work. Swiss campaigners have triggered a referendum to repeal the 2020 Covid-19 Act and strip the government of new legal powers to impose lockdowns and curtail public life. The result will be legally binding and a vote is scheduled for June. The vote might go either way, but at least democracy is functioning there. Unlike in the UK.
Britain didn’t invent democracy, but British and Scottish thinkers did invent the core ideas of liberal society upon which our world today is founded – individual rights, free trade, limited government, equality before the law etc. We take these things for granted, but they didn’t just come out of thin air. They are sound thinking. They are principles. They are the basic building blocks of society as we know it; of a life worth living.
That the UK’s political class, from left to right, favours autocratic and technocratic rule is a sign of just how far the UK has drifted, intellectually, from its liberal roots. The lighthouse of liberty is no longer visible. We are adrift in a foggy sea of authoritarianism.
For a good two centuries, the UK’s intellectual and political class has been predominantly liberal-minded. But we seem to have reached a stage where this is no longer the case. The majority of the most powerful and influential people in our society today are simply not liberal-minded. The liberal-minded are now a minority. Most pay lip service to liberty but are authoritarians by intellectual instinct and by action.
Our top scientists and experts are not liberal-minded. The ones in the employ of the government certainly aren’t. Take Professor Neil Ferguson, for example. You would think that after his covid model proved to be wildly wrong he would keep his head down and his mouth shut, but no. ‘Professor Lockdown’ continues to tell the world what to do and to expect everyone to do as they are told. In a recent interview, he declared that Brits shouldn’t take foreign holidays this summer. In his mind, ‘the science’ he is a conduit for entitles him to issue commandments to the whole of society. His dictator mentality is barely disguised. This is the kind of scientist whose chosen scientific field isn’t a passion, but merely a means to the end of gaining control over society by influencing government policy.
The UK’s political party leaders are not liberal-minded. The total lack of opposition to the government’s covid authoritarianism over the past year made this glaringly evident. The government’s opposition did nothing but declare its support for every draconian edict it issued. They approved of the government’s tyranny every step of the way.
The great majority of our representatives in parliament are not liberal-minded either. What happened last year showed this. MPs passed the most draconian and oppressive piece of legislation in the history of British democracy without batting an eyelid. They barely even read the hastily cobbled together Coronavirus Act, under the powers of which the government has been abusing people and wrecking lives ever since.
UK Police chiefs are also not liberal-minded. For a year, police forces across the UK have done nothing but blindly enforce the weekly edicts of a few people in government power, arresting people for crimes that don’t exist and harassing innocent people in public spaces and even in their own homes. At no point have the UK’s police forces shown any reluctance to act as a political tool rather than a protector of people’s person and property.
The majority of the people who end up working in government or else influencing policy in one way or another in British society have little regard or respect for the principles of liberalism. This is the fundamental problem. At best, they just don’t see what’s so great about liberalism. At worst, they see it as antiquated, backwards ideology from a shameful era, which is contemptible and worthless to us today. To them, the fruits of individual liberty are not sweet but bitter. They see freedom of choice, free markets, free speech, as the causes of social problems. Not as forces for social good. They see the common man’s freedom to act according to his own choices and to speak his mind as irritants, not ideals.
The birthplace of liberalism, Britain, seems to have arrived at the ultimate intellectual inversion. Liberalism reversed. Today, the individual is seen as the thing that needs restraining and state power as the thing that needs liberating. And in the name of public health, it certainly has been.
All of British politics was of one mind for an unnervingly long time, but it seems the experience of living miserably under house arrest for the best part of a year has caused some MPs to reconsider whether unleashing unlimited government was such a good idea. Finally, eventually, disagreement has emerged.
There is a group of about 35 Tories who have taken a stand against Johnson’s continued covid restrictions and his policies driven by Zero Covid fanaticism. This Tory revolt could be the only thing that saves our liberties, our way of life, our jobs, our hopes, our plans. Individual liberty in the UK is clinging to this lifeline.
We might think it would be ideal if all of British politics was of one mind. If only everyone agreed, then we’d be on the fast track to utopia. But that oasis is a mirage. If there was no disagreement or conflict within the Conservative party right now, our hopes of retaining our civil liberties would be dead and buried already.
The Tory revolt might not prevent the establishing of a public health police state in the end, but at the very least it’s a sign that UK politics has a pulse once again.