by Ben Wright
In the opening scene of Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys a clever academic advises some politicians on how to sell a “tricky” bill that will restrict trial by jury. He suggests that MPs tell the public that the new laws will mean miscreants are swiftly punished, ensuring that people have the freedom to walk the streets unmolested. The bill can therefore be portrayed as one that increases, rather than diminishes, civil rights.
“‘The loss of liberty is the price we pay for freedom’ type thing,” says Irwin (for that is the character’s name). “Paradox works well and mists up the window, which is handy.”
The time is surely ripe for a West End revival of the play. Never has paradox been employed so methodically and successfully in the furtherance of a political cause than by the campaign advocating that the UK leave the European Union.