The Last Straw: has Covid-19 finally broken freedom’s back?

Aug 24, 2021 | Announcements, News & Media

Best-selling author, columnist and political figure Lord Hannan of Kingsclere in conversation with Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines

Sydney, Tuesday 24 August 2021: Against the background of Australia’s most populous state going into hard lockdown, and much of the democratic world imposing unprecedented restrictions on citizens in the face of Covid-19, the Ramsay Centre is proud to announce our fourth Ramsay Lecture for 2021:  a conversation on long-term threats to liberty, between Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines and The Right Honourable The Lord Hannan of Kingsclere.

Daniel Hannan is an author and columnist who has written nine books, including the New York Times best-seller Inventing Freedom: How the English Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. He is a columnist for several newspapers, including the UK’s The Sunday Telegraph; and has been published in The Australian newspaper and The Wall Street Journal.

He was a founder of Vote Leave in the UK, and sat as a Conservative Member of the European Parliament for 21 years. He now serves on the UK Board of Trade, and is a Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, responsible for its international relations.

In a wide-ranging discussion titled ‘The Last Straw: has Covid-19 finally broken freedom’s back?’ Professor Haines and Lord Hannan discuss how Hannan’s childhood in Peru bred his enthusiasm for liberal democracy, ‘where governments are answerable to the people, and the law applies equally to everyone’.

They tease out what Brexit has meant for Britain’s freedoms in relation to trade and sovereignty, including pursuit of free trade deals with Australia, NZ and the US; Trans-Pacific Partnership membership; and a more agile COVID-19 vaccination program than would have been possible through the EU.

They discuss threats to freedom posed by China and Russia, including China’s model of deploying technology as the servant of an autocratic state – a model Hannan suggests could be exported across the globe. And they consider the impact of cancel culture on freedom of self-expression.  

Most pressingly, they discuss COVID-19, and just how many freedoms the Anglosphere has removed in its name. Lord Hannan expresses dismay over the popularity of withdrawal of freedoms, and considers that governments, once accustomed to seizing freedoms, may be reluctant to hand them back.

Lord Hannan advocates the teaching of ‘freedom’ from a very young age, as well as exposing students later on to thinkers such as John Stuart Mill, John Locke, and Milton Friedman, especially in the ‘temples of the enlightenment’ – universities. To preserve freedom, we must model freedom of expression as much as we preach it, he insists.

Due to COVID-19, this Ramsay Lecture event has been recorded. It will be available via our website as both a video and podcast from Thursday 26 August.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/

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