Brexit-Watch: We need less tribalism and more energetic freethinkers

I ATTENDED a funeral last week – a Covid funeral for someone who died of that terrible virus. I was heartbroken that a great force of life was robbed of that life too early. 

Even at 80, Deepak Lal, the internationally renowned economist, historian of ideas and academic, had so much more to give the world of politics and ideas. And so much to give, of course, to his family – his son, daughter, soul-mate wife Barbara and his beloved grandchildren. Apart from anything, I long to ask him what he makes of the response to the pandemic itself. An outstanding advocate for freedom, how would he deal with the challenge such a serious threat to human health poses, while defending liberty? How would he react to the lockdown’s inevitable restrictions on individuals’ abilities to exercise freedom? 

I hesitate to mention that I travelled cross-country to the funeral for fear some will point a finger, accuse me of breaking the lockdown, report me to the authorities – or worse, the media. My lazy, defensive response could be – don’t blame me, blame Dominic Cummings. But that would be cheating. If I learnt nothing else from Deepak, it was to own your own decisions and never try and evade responsibility. As it was, I am so glad I went, to honour a great man, but also because even his funeral became an invaluable lesson in political tolerance and free-thinking.

Deepak was not one for groupthink. His loyalties stretched widely and defied political labels. So, while he was an avowed and passionate Hayekian, Robert Skidelsky – an avowed and distinguished theorist of Keynesian economics – gave a fine, inspiring funeral oration. He noted that Deepak never discarded friends with different political views. And indeed he sought out people from different political traditions, even a reprobate lefty like me, both to learn from, but also as people he thought he could engage as sparring partners to pit his redoubtable, querulous style of argument. 

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