Freedom: Such a dirty word in Westminster

We are the people of this country; we are the bosses. And it is really about time politicians start acting with this in mind

You won't find freedom 'round these parts
Simon Miller
On 30 November 2012 14:23

The act of freedom is an abhorrence to politicians as we have seen this week with yet another pat on the head for the public and a message that the state knows best.

Freedom is such an illiberal word nowadays so it seems. Freedom from state interference, freedom of expression, freedom of thought – all these things are under attack from those in the disguise of right-thinking politics.

Don’t believe me? Consider this week’s news: the return of minimum-pricing on alcohol, the latest attempt to pave over the South-East, and the Leveson report. All three issues attack the very concept that UK citizens should be allowed to have a say in their own lives, to be treated as adults, to be able to read what they wish in whatever publication they want, has been attacked.

The fundamental principle of freedom is an anathema for today’s politician. They have been through the Westminster career fast-track that tells them the cost of nothing and the value of nothing as they have never been on the frontline of life, cosseted by council meetings, SpAd appointments and the slippery pole to the front-benches.

Of course there are always the exceptions to the rule and there are, on both sides of the Houses, honourable men and women who genuinely believe in the role of an MP.

But for the leaders, the idea that the hoi polloi can run their own lives confuses them. For them, the big state is second nature.

Take minimum alcohol pricing. Yes there are problem drinkers, alcoholics, those that die from chronic liver failure, beat up partners, and such-like; but, at the end of the day, alcohol is a legal product which adults may either choose to drink or not.

To be sure, alcoholism is a pernicious disease that grabs even the fittest of adults – some can be functional to the extent that even the closest to them do not recognise the problem until it is too late. But would a minimum price stop this? No. Those dependent on a drink would still get drunk, and other things, essential things, would be cut to satisfy the habit. Would minimum pricing stop the violence on market town streets on a Saturday night? What do you think?

All minimum pricing does is affect the poorest in society. It doesn’t affect those in Westminster, those that can afford a nice Chianti; it affects those that may like an occasional drink at home as, thanks to
government policy, they sure as hell can’t afford a good night in a pub anymore.

Then there’s housing policy. Despite the vast land banks that developers hold, despite the empty houses that councils own, despite the brownfield sites that have not been developed, the government proposes further market towns the size of Welwyn Garden City; they want it harder for people to object, they want to tell you that your opinion on your area, your environment, your lives is worth squat.

And then there’s the Leveson report. At the heart of this is state regulation of a free press. Do not be fooled by his weasel words, the proposed regulator would be underpinned by statute. Once that is
introduced, further “improvements” would be introduced, you can bet your bottom dollar on that.

These supposed defenders of the workers, champions of liberalism, hate the tabloids. They hate the idea that the average bloke on the street reads these rags. They hate that views that aren’t their own are propagated through the print.

What they want is a nice, guardianista view: pro-state, pro-big government, pro-Europe, pro-multiculturalist, pro-them. What they don’t want is what the public think at the moment – broadly uneasy about the economy, immigration, and Europe.

In their nightmares, these leaders see the British public as feckless, ignorant children that need guidance to enlightenment. In truth, the public isn’t the frothing, great unwashed monster that needs benign control by Westminster and Brussels. But that doesn't suit their narrative.

And yes, the papers have stepped over the line on occasion, but guess what? There are laws already in place that should have been used if needed. Like the drunken hooligan smashing a shop window – there are laws in the statute book for that. For a developer, there are grounds for appeal. Phone hacking and harassment? Yup, both against current laws too.

These defenders of decency are trying to place yet further encumbrances on the freedoms of the citizen. Indeed, the current parliamentary split on Leveson boils down to one fundamental issue – embarrassment. In their high castles, the politicians got brought down by a paper acting illegally (yes,
the Daily Telegraph broke the law in buying stolen goods) but in the public interest; a public interest that showed up politicians to be venal money grabbers. Freedom be damned.

Yes, there is a difference between public interest and what interests the public but it is a matter for the buying public, not politicians to rule on what is correct. If you do not like naked pictures of royalty, don’t buy the paper. If you don’t like reading about the latest non-celebrity’s big split, don’t buy the paper. It is for the public to make that decision, not some star chamber sitting in judgement about “proper journalism”.

Freedom has become a dirty word. The Fabians hate it – the idea that you don’t need to know your place; the idea that you have your own opinions, views, and actions that are in contrast with their ‘proper’ view of how society should be run.

For once, Cameron has instinctively sided with freedom over the press but in other areas he is just as much of a control-freak as his coalition partner and opposition front bench.

A friend of mine once said that all the pieces are in place for an Orwellian system if someone was intelligent enough to join the dots. Well, it is our job as the public to make sure they never do. We are the people of this country; we are the bosses. And it is really about time politicians start acting with this in mind. 

The longer this Conservative-led coalition fails to give us our money and our freedoms, and until it lets us decide what is best for ourselves, the further it underlines the fact that it is just the same as nearly every group of politicians before it.

Simon Miller is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator

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