There is a saying that democracy dies in darkness. Well, I think 2020 shows liberty dies in the open. Yes, it’s a strong start but honestly I think it's true. Of course some measures can be justified but if we’re honest, we are no longer free.
In the history of political thought there are those in the ‘safety’ camp and those in the liberty camp. However, that is a false dichotomy as human freedom can be a greater strength to mental health and wellbeing.
This piece is not on whether or not lockdown is the way to deal with the pandemic, but about how easily in 2020, the British gave up our birth right of liberty.
The history of Britain in recent years has been a fight for liberty and freedom for all. Whether it was William Wilberforce in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who led a parliamentary campaign to abolish the Trade Act of 1807 and slavery with it. Or Emeline Pankhurst who led the suffragette movement that gave women the franchise. There are many others I could mention, yet I chose these two as people on the centre-right. Today however, it is the centre-right Conservative Party, aided by Labour, that has done away with our liberties.
What interests me most is the silence of so-called liberals. It seems like today’s liberals do not believe in limiting the state’s authoritarian tendencies and attacks on our civil liberties. Freedom matters because humans are at their best when they are given the freedom to be who they truly are. The state this year has stopped Christians from worshipping together, arrested the elderly for protesting against the government and in doing so, have been cheered on by citizens, media and the establishment.
Let me address these individually. First - the establishment - those in charge of the country. I voted for Boris Johnson at the general election, I am a Conservative Party member, and I am generally supportive of his government. Yet conservatism has been ransacked for nanny state, proto-authoritarian corporatist statism. And who has enabled Boris Johnson to do this? Most of parliament.
Both the cabinet and shadow cabinet have failed to say ‘no’. No to small businesses having to close whilst big businesses get extremely rich. No to Conservative donors who make money from this crisis and no to allowing private companies to use £600,000 of taxpayer’s money on PR. I’m tired of being told Boris Johnson is a libertarian and does not want to do this. He is the Prime Minister. But Labour and Keir Starmer are no better. They too have a tradition of doing away with our civil liberties. Remember the Blair years?
The second cheerleader has been the media. Stephen Pinker rightfully diagnosed the media as having a negative bias and 2020 has proven this correct. The media’s job is not to let the state do what it likes but to actually challenge everything it does.
Now to the final ‘cheerleaders’ - the public. Their cheerleading is not of the same nature as theirs is of silence and passive support. According to polls, the government has kept its support around 50%.
And this is what troubles me, I don’t think people believe in the necessity of freedom anymore and I believe that 2020 will indeed be the year liberty died. I hope I’m wrong, but Tony Blair passed draconian laws that damaged many of our civil liberties: the Equality Act made hate speech a legal issue and did away with freedom of speech. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has allowed corporatism to take over, mental health to decline, suicides to rise, educational inequality to grow, regional divides to worsen, the breakup of the Union seemingly inevitable and to top it off, threaten to break international law.
Perhaps in 2021, Liberty will become a relic of history.
Bradley is a Burkean Conservative and Associate Editor at Liberal Base. His interest are in tribalism, relationship of liberty and order, western political parties and the rise of China.You can follow him on twitter @burkeansmithite
(Image Credit: Danny Lawson/PA)