Remember where you were when you saw it. Remember who you were with, what you were doing. Remember that you were there, in front of your television at 5pm on a Monday afternoon when freedom finally came home.
On a strictly factual basis, what you saw was a fat-tongued chancer in a suit that didn’t fit, refusing yet again to fulfil the most basic function of his office, which is to seek to keep his people alive, but don’t get too bogged down in that for now. Just focus on the freedom.
They’ll build a statue of it one day, that press conference. There’ll be Johnson in the middle, no longer behind the podium of his pointless £2.9m briefing room, but carried aloft like Bobby Moore, on the shoulders of Vallance and Whitty. Perhaps they’ll even sculpt some flashing lightbulbs on to his jacket like David Hasselhoff on the Berlin Wall. Oliver Dowden’s already drawing up a rota of Facebook trolls to guard it from cultural Marxists.
Because make no mistake about it. Freedom is coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming. It really is. The confirmed, appointed date on which freedom can simply be made to wait at the gate no longer is 19 July. It’s happening.
There were times when it felt like this day would never come. Can it really be only a year and a bit ago that the BBC made a stirring advert imagining this exalted day? Over the sound of soft piano notes, Dan Walker straightened his tie, Fiona Bruce cleared her throat, and one by one they stared down the barrel of the camera to tell you this day would eventually come, one day.
Have a look at it. It’s on YouTube. You might be surprised to hear the very first words, which is Sophie Raworth saying, “One day I’ll tell you there were no new cases,” because on the day that day finally arrived, what Sophie Raworth actually did was announce there were 27,334 new cases and another nine deaths but seriously, you have to stop worrying about all that. Now’s not the time. Not on Freedom Day.
This is a new kind of freedom. This is the kind of freedom you really only get once in many generations. It is the freedom that comes when a prime minister just absolutely, 100 per cent cannot be bothered with any of it anymore. When, in the end, he decides it would be easier, at least for him if not for anybody else, not to send coronavirus packing, but to open up the door, throw its bags down upon the fourteen-grand-and-four-public-inquiries sofa and tell it to make itself at home.
From now on, everyone gets to fight their own very personal war on Covid, just like the Viet Cong but with nasal swabs instead of IEDs.
“We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions,” the prime minister explained. If you want to wear a mask on public transport, you can. If you don’t, then don’t. These things are up to you now. Look, it’s not the government’s job to keep on top of basic public health.
Good old-fashioned British common sense can do that. And now it will. That’s also why, from 19 July, there’ll also be no more speed limits on the roads. If you want to do the school run at 90 miles an hour then you can, and if you don’t, then don’t. And if you wipe out the odd pedestrian or two then they were making an informed decision to cross the road, that’s their problem not yours.
If you’re scared that other people might accidentally kill you then don’t go crying to the government for help, just stay at home and then get sacked from your job. That’s what real freedom is. British freedom, and it’s been away too long.
British freedom, don’t forget, is about data not dates. British freedom follows the road map but only when it’s going where it wants. British freedom follows the science, right up until the science launches it up the latest terrifying graph with it’s 99.9 per cent vertical gradient.
At that point, British freedom tells science to do one, because it has had enough of experts and the British people won’t stand for it any longer, even though they remain overwhelmingly pro lockdown every single time they’re asked.
But as Jean-Jacques Rousseau almost wrote, sometimes, every so often, if the people can’t work out what’s best for them then they must be forced to be free.
Freedom simply can’t wait any longer. It’s back whether you like it or not. So suck it up, enjoy it. Freedom is coming for you. It’s time to feel the hot breath of freedom down your neck on the 07.48 from Basingstoke to London Waterloo. Live life to the fullest and every day like it’s your last, which who knows, it might very well be.
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