Ian Dury Square

In these dark times are there any reasons to be cheerful?

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HOW WAS your 2021? As the year comes to a close I trust it was a good year. However, politically at least, I think many would say ‘not just extraordinary but also far from great.’

Thanks to Covid-19 almost two years on, with new variants inevitably exciting the scientists and causing fear and hysteria in the mass media.

Thanks to public spending gone awry, rewarding the abject failure felt across much of the public services from the doctor’s surgery to classroom.

Thanks to too many being paid to sit on the couch doing nothing, with the inevitable decline in health and wellbeing.

Thanks to the rise of wokeism – going mainstream with its tentacles invading much of civil society, from the Boardroom to TV advertising, from the British Council to the National Trust.

Thanks to the Orwellian ‘streets for people’ paid for by Grant Shapps’ Conservative Government and enthusiastically introduced by leftist councils – resulting in London becoming the most congested city in the world.

Thanks to the journey from sane environmentalism and conservation to net zero with demand, control and nudge.

The list of political malaise and leftist prescription goes on. This is not what one expected when that libertarian carefree Boris Johnson was elected. Politically he has gone AWOL.

To be fair much of the developed world has followed a similar and in some cases even more extreme path towards not just illiberalism but also extreme control sold as medical emergency. What is happening with our distant cousins in Australia and New Zealand is genuinely disturbing in its control and totality. Austria, Germany, Spain and France too are barely examples of tolerance and choice, such has been their lockdown and command.

Johnson, much maligned but deservedly under real pressure, has done better than many in other countries in terms of minimising the zealotry of the blob, but that is a very low bar indeed.

Up the road Sturgeon makes Johnson look like that freedom-loving chap we thought we had elected. She gives every impression of just loving being in control and bossing people around.

The Scottish Government, being responsible for more sparsely populated areas and less international traffic should have had a much calmer pandemic than the rest of the UK. Instead Sturgeon has attacked personal freedoms with zeal while presiding over the Covid capital of the European continent (as confirmed by WHO!)

Masks have constantly been mandatory beyond Hadrian’s Wall as have a list of petty and contradictory rules. The constant hectoring from the Dear Leader could not have been in starker contrast with Johnson’s approach.

One seems to revel in lockdown while the other may acquiesce but I doubt likes it one jot. Sturgeon has genuinely made many scared and with it have come fear, isolation and all sortsof social problems. The irony is despite this lockdown-plus approach the results have been appalling, underperforming the UK on almost every matrix.

As someone who travels regularly between the Scottish Borders and London I marvel at the relatively free-going capital, its restaurants and theatre compared, with the fear that has been instilled in much of Sturgeon’s Scotland. Worse, the official opposition led by Douglas Ross seems more content to trash liberal Johnson than illiberal Sturgeon, whom he seems to view as some sort of Meissen vase to be held as a semi-sacred ornament who can only be handled with great care. Pathetic.

Looking at the big picture, as we come up to Christmas, that ultimate time of hope, it would easy to be depressed with the scientific, medical and media establishment gunning for another lockdown to ‘eh, save the NHS, again.’

But the worst sort of analysis one can do is to simply follow the trend. Of course that’s the easy thing to do but it is so often wrong.

Things look bleak. The huge and illiberal lockdown, increasing media censorship outside a narrow range of pre-selected views, the re-writing of our history, culture and morality as if we are back to year zero and economic prescriptions, monetary and fiscal, that embed the State into every nook and cranny of life.

But I detect an echo, and not just from last night sizable rebellion demanding proportionality to questionable scientific deamnd. Is this great country really going to abandon the instincts that over the centuries has led us to stand out with a high degree of stability and relative freedom?

Liberty is wired into our DNA. No other significant European country has endured with a free society for so long save perhaps for some of the Nordic ones. Starting at the top Russia, Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, all of Eastern Europe, although admittedly against their will, have succumbed to periods of insanity and totalitarianism mostly within living memory. So far Britain stands virtually distinct.

Indeed why was Johnson so convincingly elected at all? I would wager it was for a wide variety of reasons but here’s a few.  General disquiet over the attempts to thwart a democratic vote with many Remainers equally fair-minded that the result should be upheld; disquiet over political correctness, as it was then called; concern over statist illiberal Corbinista economic policies; and a sense that we wanted back control not just from Brussels but from also a failing bureaucratic state. The people spoke and their instinct remained for liberty, not control.

Today it is looking bleak. There are undoubtedly powerful forces who would try and break our free spirit.  But beautiful timeless ideas do not die, they cannot die. The flower of liberty is so much brighter and cherished than the dull weed of state conformity and command.

As an example it looked bleak for Euro-sceptics not long ago. No one even considered there was a chance in a thousand the UK would leave the EU even a decade ago. Bookies offered no odds so remote was that possibility. You could have numbered perhaps six MP’s who supported that ‘lost cause.’

Today, while the blob may be in power with their clever access to the media, planted stories and manipulation of the agenda they are not even close to being a majority of the population. They are a tiny blob, with control of the levers, but with very little instinctive support.

Britain was going to the dogs in the 1970’s and it took extraordinary vision to turn the tide, but once it had been turned the fruits were soon to be seen. East Europe was destroyed by 60 years of Marxist utopia but today its countries stand increasingly for the tenets that made our society so successful; enterprise, hard work, family and the traditional Judeo-Christian values.

Perhaps we should recall the greatest would-be social engineer of them all, Oliver Cromwell, didn’t last long. Within a decade the Maypole was back up on Fleet Street to general merriment, feasting and jollity.

Who can predict then what 2022 will bring? It might be the blob continues to frustrate for a bit longer but what I can tell you is the echo against state control and illiberality is getting louder. Some one-hundred Conservatives rebelled last week, countless others from all parties are questioning the direction of this country. Yes, on a straight line analysis things look grim but the tide is turning. The blob may be feeling smug just now but mark my words we will erect a new Maypole on Fleet Street again.

Have a Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2022.

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Photo of Ian Dury by Dhphoto – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6988229

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