COVID-19 is destroying the foundational ethos of individual liberty and small government, to the point where conservatives have been at sea, unable to respond effectively to the health crisis. It comes down to serving the public interest versus the self interest of elites and vested interests, which is not a conflict confined to conservatives: centre-left parties are fully capable of ignoring the public interest and looking after their mates. But in a pandemic, it seems, left-wing governments are more inclined to impose the restrictions necessary to control the virus. Two current illustrations of that are the mess in New South Wales and the crowds at Lord’s this week watching England v India, mask free. The NSW Liberal government was reluctant to lock down hard enough and deprive its citizens of liberty, with the result that the Delta version of COVID-19 is now out of control. The federal Coalition supported that, and criticised the Victorian Labor government’s hard lockdown, but is now forced into embracing total lockdown, along with Gladys Berejiklian.