We should be for – the rule of law!

Liberal self identity, or libertarian self indulgence? Personal autonomy vs political authority? Subjective rather than objective? The individual not society? Where is the balance in pitting things, one against the other, and where is the harmony in the lack of balance?

The Covid-19 crisis, has led us to where the fears, concerns, obsessions, priorities, of years, are questioned, or should be, in weeks. No ideology fairs well in this, from left to right. My own view is, the centre ground so many decry, has never had a try. We have had extremes, in tandem. Moderate societies, that have had fewer disruptions, lacked dictators, been democracies, much of their history, have not strayed too close to the edges of extremism. But they, and the political parties, have flirted thus.

So too it is necessary to even question, that hallowed word, freedom. As with much, it can be like the weather. Not only good or bad but, neutral. There is no use pretending that, one person’s freedom to do something really silly, is as important as that of another, to do something really sensible. And there is no way that we can say that common sense, the view of , “ most people,” is always either the yardstick, or never is. It is a question of judgement. Yours and mine. Not us and them.

Boris Johnson is not the enemy of liberals, because he has made stupid comments and supported Brexit. He is a liberty loving Tory who has aspects of thinking and reacting, in common with them, in many ways. Despite some saying, this is the most right wing government, it really is nothing like it. It is a mix of left, right and centre, with too little of the latter.

A centre ground attitude should let us listen, not to all or none of, “ the experts,” but use our judgement, after hearing many opinions. It should not mean doing things, “ our way,” or, “their way,” but as a result of consultation with colleagues. This, whether at home or afar.

The site of people in pubs rather than at home, led to their closure. Now they are outside. Perhaps they think they are carrying out the will of Churchill, warding off the virus, by an away day return, to “fight them on the beaches!” Once it was spitfire power, a country alone in the air, now it is flyer power, a country almost alone, in not banning flights! Because this great country is and was different to others, sometimes, and rightly, must it be so different to others now? Are the French who have rioted in violence, better able to cope with their new self discipline, while self isolating? Are the ever sociable Italians, more at ease with social distancing? Why are reports of panic buying, hording and profiteering, not being heard from Holland as much as in the UK, but are from the US?

We need the valued liberty of the UK as ever, not the statist authority of China, as now. But in this crisis we need the ancient discipline of the Chinese, of the East, more than the modern indulgence of the British, and the West. But as the old song, sang, something’s got to give!

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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  • Simon McGrath 23rd Mar '20 - 3:41pm

    Bit puzzled by how LDV allowed this to be published . It appears to be meaningless

  • Barry Lofty 23rd Mar '20 - 3:42pm

    Lorenzo Cherin: A very interesting piece and I must agree about giving a more centrist government a chance to prove its worth but please don’t ask me to support Boris and his crew although I appreciate that they are the party tasked with this present dilemma, so we must hope and pray that they make the right decisions and get things back to some normality as soon as possible.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Mar '20 - 3:54pm

    Some people seem to not only like mean commentary, but make it, some of us Simon like reflection and consideration.

    There is much of meaning here, merely, as ever from those like me,nothing mean spirited comment. LDV is a forum for ideas and one some like me have contributed to for years. Not Liberal to deny individual freedom of expression, in the support of giving up individual freedom of movement!!!

    I am wondering in this piece, why this country thinks everything has to be one extreme or other. I posit the possible idea, that we are much like most, but are not doing what most are.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Mar '20 - 4:00pm

    Thank goodness we have Barry with a pleasant response. The very centre ground I favour is served by such as that rather than the extreme reaction first, merely proving my point. If Simon had reacted like Barry he would have found meaning. Because he did not, he revealed my point. We here see extremes too often, though not as much as on farther left, right sites. Liberalism must avoid libertarianism. Or some of us are or would be, only social democrats, in response! Too many Liberals, progressives, are know alls with little of the liberalism of old.

  • This country thinks everything has to be one extreme or another! Evidence?
    And how often do we have to insist that the “centre” is a hopelessly fluid concept, certainly not the site of a political philosophy?

  • As I understand it, from tomorrow if the police decide they don’t like the look of you they can take you off to be tested for coronavirus… but they will be taking you somewhere that is awash with the virus so are endangering your life for the greater good of the community.

  • Jonathan Coulter 23rd Mar '20 - 4:13pm

    I agree with Simon MaGrath. This article fills column inches, but there’s no clear message.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Mar '20 - 4:20pm

    Geoff, it is a question, rather than a view, put strongly. It seems to me that this crisis reveals the obsession with extremes.

    Either we say , me first, trip to Cornwall, don’t care if I infect people.

    Or, NHS staff, risking their health for that of others.

    Similarly we say, or some others do, Keep the pub, cafe, bar, opening hours as normal.

    Or, we cry, we must have a lockdown!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I think we could say, let’s stay home, it’s what others are trying. It’s exactly as the NHS want us to . A measured reaction. Far less extreme than a stance for herd immunity or calling being relaxed with television, lockdown!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Mar '20 - 4:25pm

    I think if you reckon, Jonathan, only a clear message is acceptable or sensible in an article, then there is no room for much in essay or journalism, other than sledge hammer polemic. I do not write opeds, here, perhaps I am on the wrong site these days, or in the wrong party these years?

  • Barry Lofty 23rd Mar '20 - 5:03pm

    I sometimey think the same as you regarding the wrong site and wrong party Lorenzo but I don’t think I can change my beliefs or party at this late stage in my life!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Mar '20 - 5:27pm

    That is great Barry, stay put and maybe those as decent shall keep me here, with our many wonderful members, as one in middle age, Clegg age , but not any one stance, or of left, right, only, want us to be broadly moderately progressively radically, inclusive!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sue Sutherland 24th Mar '20 - 12:51pm

    I agree with you Lorenzo that the situation we are now in requires Lib Dem philosophy but, rather than centrism, it’s the work of JS Mill that we should promote. Because of the corona virus we are in the situation where one person exercising their rights to freedom can cause the death of another. The harm principle at its most extreme.
    Neither Tories nor Labour have the answer to this but we do. For the good of the community, in this situation, many people have to give up their usual freedoms.

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