The Christmas message makes sense for people of all religions and of none

The message of Christmas, that love can conquer hatred and vengeance, is a powerful and attractive one to people of all creeds and of none. Fear comes of hatred and begets more hatred.

This UK government seems to be rooted in fear – fear of the reactions of people, fear of England, fear of the people they call middle Englanders, fear of terrorism, fear of being blamed, fear of the truth coming out when they make mistakes. It lashes out in a less brutal way than Herod, ordering more and more controls over the rest of us, and centralising more and more information about us in the hope they can use it to exert their will and protect themselves. It tries to terrify the rest of us into thinking we do need to surrender our freedoms because of some threat or other.

Fear leads to authoritarian responses. It leads to the wish to micromanage and control everyone and everything. The government pursues secrecy, coming to regard public information as it own bank account, to be spent only when it sees fit in ways it wishes to. Otherwise it is a miser with public information, hoarding it in case it falls into the "wrong hands". Paradoxically, its incompetence at times means the legitimately private part of this information does spill into the wrong hands on a regular but unpredictable basis.

Better government trusts people more. It lets them make more decisions for themselves. It does not constantly challenge their lifestyles and hector them to change the way they eat, look, live or think. It tries to do a sensible number of things well, sets out what it is doing, and is honest and apologetic when it makes a mistake. It leads by example and incentive, more than by additional regulation and penal tax.

It is difficult to govern well if you do not like many of the people you are governing, or think them wrong about many of the issues that matter. This government is learning the hard way, that if you take on the Briths people and try to make them something they do not want to be, you just antagonise them. Try liking them, warts and all, and you might find there is less to fear.

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  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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