WHERE have the defenders of liberty gone? Waking up to news of ever more draconian lockdown measures – threatened by the new conduct czar, Michael Gove, if we don’t behave ourselves – made me ask.
A scan of the opinion pages was not encouraging. Charles Moore’s warning in the Telegraph last week that supporters of draconian action ‘must bear in mind the unintended effects’ was hardly an outraged cry for freedom or a defence of liberty.
Dan Hannan has made a lonely call for an end to this unprecedented curtailment of our freedom. But there’s been no outrage. The Telegraph’s editorial stance has been to continue to defend the Prime Minister’s liberal instincts, though they hardly marry with the reality. The Sunday Times’s writers yesterday were similarly dutiful.
Standing out against the panic-stations reporting of his own paper, like a Horatio on the bridge against the onslaught on the values that have defined Western democracy and liberty which once we fought for but apparently no longer cherish, stands Peter Hitchens.
Which other MSM commentators have dared express similar indignation?
‘As I watched the Prime Minister order mass house arrest on Monday night, I felt revulsion, anger and grief – as anyone brought up when this was a free and well-governed country would. I also felt terribly alone.
‘You could not have known, from anything broadcast that night or printed the following day, that anyone was unhappy with these events. But they were.
‘So, above all things this week, I would like to thank all the kind, perplexed people who have got in touch with me to say they share my doubts about the Government’s handling of Covid-19.’
Yet the truth is that the public have willingly, in their millions, fallen in behind the new restrictions. The Prime Minister’s personal approval ratings have risen. Reason appears to have gone out of the window. Britain, as I commented last week, is once again awash with sentiment, encapsulated in that paean of support sung en masse to the disastrously ill-prepared NHS. Not since the hysteria encouraged at the time of Princess Diana’s death has Britain put itself so blindly on the couch, as the psychologist, Oliver James, at the time cast the country’s loss of reason.
Lord Sumption’s warning that ‘there is a difference between law and official instructions. It is the difference between a democracy and a police state. Liberty and the rule of law are surely worth something, even in the face of a pandemic’, as Hitchens comments, was buried on page 54 of the Times on Thursday, ‘and Parliament, already supine, has slunk away after its craven acceptance of new attacks on liberty on Monday’.
Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Where are our modern-day defenders of freedom who stand by Benjamin Franklin’s sagacity?