Is Britain a free country?
Oi mate! You got a loicense for that opinion?
I’m old enough to remember when ‘it’s a free country’ was a phrase people used in conversation. It feels like it was the kind of thing they said regularly, either when someone asked permission to do something or when commenting on some particular eccentricity. Can I sit there? It’s a free country. You want to walk around dressed up as a pirate? Well, it’s a free country.
Perhaps it reflected a self-conscious British sense of themselves as freedom-loving people – which isn’t really true, or at least hasn’t been since 1914 – or maybe it was a Cold War thing. But I don’t think I’ve heard the phrase in at least 20 years, and perhaps that’s because it’s just not true anymore. If that sounds like the sort of hysteria you’d expect from a conservative commentator who’s been on the sherry, just consider a few recent cases.