Those of us fortunate enough to live in the demi-paradise of England got to taste true freedom in July. Freedom Day! Nothing speaks more truly to the liberty men harbour in their hearts than a state-approved celebration of minor changes to the rules surrounding hospitality businesses. Suddenly, on 19 July, we were freed from the shackles of Covid-19 restrictions – subject only to the tens of thousands of other laws the government insists on enforcing every day.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive! But to be young also meant you could run around Leicester Square heaving street furniture at other half-naked men, unaccosted by the police, who were wisely waiting for you to do something dangerous like hold a candlelight vigil for a woman murdered by a serving police officer.
You could celebrate however you wanted, as long as you didn’t shout about how free you were with a loudspeaker at Parliament, which the freedom-loving government made illegal earlier in July. Or by joining the RNLI, which they’re currently planning to criminalise in the upcoming Nationality and Borders Bill.
Boris Johnson is often described as an “instinctive libertarian” by the permanently incurious – or “journalists”, as they’re sometimes known. Fortunately, with the government’s proposed revisions of the Official Secrets Act to criminalise whistleblowers by removing a “public interest” defence, hacks will be liberated from the burden of having to do any journalism at all.
Boris Johnson is not a libertarian, instinctive or otherwise. His first act as London Mayor was to ban drinking alcohol on the Tube, thus condemning commuters to sober knowledge of how long, loud, rickety and boring the District Line actually is.
The most famous thing he did as mayor was to buy an illegal water cannon. Yes, he’s the kind of instinctive libertarian who spends public funds on the Chinese regime’s favoured tools to crush dissidents.
Believing that rules shouldn’t apply to you doesn’t make you a libertarian, any more than believing that gravity shouldn’t apply to you makes you a bat.
The government of an instinctive libertarian wouldn’t legalise state security forces raping and murdering citizens (Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2021). It wouldn’t legalise all crimes – including torture – committed by state security services more than five years ago (Overseas Operations Act 2021). It wouldn’t seek to criminalise protest (PCSC Act 2021) or outlaw seeking amnesty from vicious, overweening states (Nationality and Borders Bill 2021).
When it came to it, no nation in the world was keener to fall in line, do what they were told, and inform on their neighbours than we English. We couldn’t wait to Stasi each other out on social media
It’s almost as if – and you may want to sit down for the rest of this sentence (I do. God, I love sitting down) – it’s almost as if Boris Johnson isn’t an instinctive libertarian at all. As if he doesn’t believe in the power and goodness of the individual. As if a man who once said he’d track down a journalist’s address for a friend who wanted to have that hack duffed up might not, automatically, be a robust defender of a free press.
Which, of course, means he’s the perfect figurehead for the English.
We’re told at the beginning of the pandemic that government advisers assumed we couldn’t consider measures like lockdowns, mask wearing, or travel restrictions because the English just wouldn’t wear it. They were too doughty, English, and liberty-loving.
Of course, when it came to it, no nation in the world was keener to fall in line, do what they were told, and inform on their neighbours than we English. We couldn’t wait to Stasi each other out on social media. We discovered that our nation – contrary to popular belief (by which I mean a belief popular among English people) – appeared to have no more lust for an individuality than the bureaucratic French, the efficient Germans, or the regimented South Koreans.
The English don’t love liberty, they love shouting “LIBERTY!” before going to work as a prison guard. A nation of narcs and Mosleys that despise actual movements for liberty like the French Revolution, the American Revolution and their own Civil War. We’re happy to spout Magna Carta, while knowing all its important provisions (apart from the ones about fish ponds) have been legislated out of relevance.
An Englishman’s home may well be his castle (state security forces permitting), but his actual castles are regularly interfered with by Oliver Dowden, a dough-faced lisper with a semi-permanent erection for slavery. They’re not allowed to hire who they like, tell the history they want, or put up useful signs without being overseen by a grasping mediocrity whose only talent is that he can ejaculate in red, white, and blue due to an unfortunate coincidence of haemospermia and haemosmurfia.
The English – and those who govern them – are servile and pathetic. Johnson admitted he still sees The Telegraph as his real employer, because he’s still grubbing for pennies. Cameron is reduced to shilling for cheap loans on Whatsapp. Our Etonian ruling class is just as concerned as anyone else about where next month’s mortgage payment is coming from. The robust, English yearning for freedom is always a poor second to an actual cheque signed by a billionaire.
George Orwell imagined our dystopian future (well, the past – it was meant to happen in 1984) as being a boot stamping on a human face forever. Unfortunately, he hadn’t realised that the English would be desperately trying to lick it as it did.
Shakespeare saw it, although he put it in John of Gaunt’s mouth, as he ruminated on this other Eden: “That England, that was wont to conquer others,/ Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.” Indeed, and shoved a flare up its arse while it did.
Nathaniel Tapley is a comedy writer and performer on the TV shows you hate