MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Truss is a breath of fresh air in a stifling world of nannyism
Even as the last traces of the Covid pandemic linger, with many still wearing masks and even more working from home, the Government and the Meteorological Office have reached once again for the weapons of warning and restriction.
Yesterday, thanks to ‘extreme heat’, we were urged to stay out of the sun and carry water. And official drought declarations mean weeks, perhaps months, of hosepipe bans, flannel washes, dirty cars and the rest.
Most people will have accepted all of this with a sigh of resignation. In truth, everyday life in the modern world is far more regulated than our ancestors could possibly have imagined.
This is why Truss’s single-minded campaign for the Tory leadership is so significant. She seized from the start on the issue of reducing taxes, and has never let go of it since
It was wartime that first made people used to this, with food and fuel rationing, identity cards, gas masks, evacuation, conscription and countless bossy notices, ranging from ‘Is your journey really necessary?’ to ‘Eat more carrots’.
But we have never really shaken off this mentality, and it is tempting to wonder whether we have come to like being told what to do. Indeed, it is often comforting, in a way, to think that someone is in charge.
Although things change – football results are no longer read out on BBC radio at Saturday tea-time, bus conductors and park keepers have long ago faded into history – the sight and sound of a reassuring voice saying ‘Keep cool!’ , ‘Carry a bottle of water!’, ‘Stay at home!’ or ‘Wear a mask!’ might provide a warm, nostalgic feeling of community and solidarity against a manageable danger.
For a definite minority, such circumstances also offer the chance to boss others about. Those who defy a hosepipe ban or whose cars look suspiciously clean may find themselves reported by others who think it actively virtuous to do so.
All this is a profound argument about what sort of society we want to be – and it is a debate Margaret Thatcher very much tried to have. She reckoned that, by 1979, this country had become far too controlled, and that a brisk blast of freedom would do it no harm and a lot of good
The lockdown period saw rather too much of this sort of thing. And it inevitably led to the Government taking and spending more of our cash.
It is unfair on nannies to call this arrangement a ‘nanny state’. Nannies may boss the young around for their own good, but they do not take away their pocket money and spend it for them.
Shouldn’t we be trusted more to take our own intelligent and responsible measures? Is it healthy for us to be so used to regimentation and instruction, rather than be expected to act like grown-ups?
All this is a profound argument about what sort of society we want to be – and it is a debate Margaret Thatcher very much tried to have.
She reckoned that, by 1979, this country had become far too controlled, and that a brisk blast of freedom would do it no harm and a lot of good.
And so it proved. Freed from 1940s-style restrictions, Britain flourished economically, culturally and socially.
Today, we need another, similar strong draught of liberty.
Liz Truss gets this, as so many others, inside and outside the Tory Party, do not.
This is why Truss’s single-minded campaign for the Tory leadership is so significant.
She seized from the start on the issue of reducing taxes, and has never let go of it since.
At first sight, it may seem to be a narrow piece of ground on which to fight for such a huge all-embracing job. But, in truth, it goes to the heart of what sort of country we should be – one where the State dominates all, or one where people make as many individual, responsible choices as they can.
This is much more than a handout to stimulate a flagging economy, though it should also have that effect.
It is a declaration that under Liz Truss’s leadership, Britain would let its people take many more decisions about their own lives, and compel the Government to reduce its interference in our daily round.
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