Interview with Simon Richards, Chief Executive of The Freedom Association

In the second of a new series of weekend interviews our Online Editor, Matt Snape speaks to Simon Richards, Chief Executive of The Freedom Association.

Simon became a Member of The Freedom Association in 1976, when he was a school student. In 2002 he was appointed Editor of TFA’s magazine, Freedom Today, and, from 2004, also ran its web sites. He was made Director of TFA in 2008 and Chief Executive in 2014.

Matt Snape (MS) – Hi Simon, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed by Parliament Street. Could I start by asking you to explain to readers who do not know what The Freedom Association is:

  • what it stands for?
  • what its objectives are?
  • and how long it’s been around for?

Simon Richards (SR) – Of course. The Freedom Association was founded by Ross and Norris McWhirter CBE in 1975 to promote and defend individual freedom and national sovereignty. Initially, it campaigned successfully against excessive trade union power. In 2006 it launched its Better Off Out campaign, to put the positive case for leaving the European Union. It believes that people should be free to live their lives without too much state interference, and that Britain should be independent from anti-democratic EU rule.

MS – What, would you say, is your proudest achievement with the organisation so far?

SR – Definitely, preparing the ground for the EU referendum and encouraging pro-Brexit people from different political parties to work together for the common good.

MS – As a libertarian organisation, what would you like to see more of from this Conservative government in terms of policy?

SR – Theresa May’s Government increased state interference in almost every aspect of people’s lives; Boris must reverse that, through lower taxes and leaving people to get on with making their own decisions about their own lives.

MS – Speaking of our new Prime Minister, do you have faith in Boris’s ability to deliver Brexit by October 31st?

SR – I believe in Boris and I am convinced that he will take us out of the EU by 31st October. He understands that the consequences of failing to do so would be disastrous for him, his party and his country. If he is prevented from leaving the EU, he will take on the Remainers in a general election and I would expect him to win.

MS – You are also a big supporter of the ‘Axe The TV Tax’ campaign. Why do you think politicians of all colours seem to keep dodging this issue? Do you think Boris could axe it?

SR – The BBC has such immense power and influence, it would take a brave politician to take it on – and there are not many of those around! David Cameron surrendered to most of the BBC’s demands last time the BBC’s Charter came up for renewal, perhaps hoping for sympathetic coverage in the EU referendum in return – which he certainly received. The TV Licence is an anachronism and the BBC acts as a dampener on fair competition. After an election victory, Boris might be the man to tackle an organisation which is wasteful, biased and has lost touch with reality.

MS – You have been critical of our last Prime Minister, Theresa May; do you think there was anything distinctly ‘conservative’ during May’s time as Prime Minister, or was she just ‘Blue Labour’ in your view?

SR – Theresa May swallowed every aspect of the left’s ‘right on’ agenda. She was a socialist in all but name. She was not so much ‘Blue Labour’ as ‘Pink Labour’ – and deep pink at that.

MS – Finally, do you think libertarianism can ever be sold to the British people in a country that values state-run institutions like the NHS?

SR – I do not think that the word ‘libertarian’ goes down well with most British people, but ‘freedom’ does. People choose freedom in so many aspects of their lives, from health and education to travel, shopping and entertainment. When Margaret Thatcher reduced state interference and encouraged deregulation, she was in tune with people’s natural desire to own their own property and to take their own decisions about their lifestyle and their family. Those instincts are just as strong, if not stronger today. All that is needed is for a government to speak up for freedom, for the first time in almost thirty years. Boris and his cabinet are beginning to do just that; I wish them well.

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