When I was young, in Britain, if I wrote a play, I was expected to submit it to the Lord Chamberlain for censorship before offering it to a production company for consideration. At that time, the word 'fuck' could not be printed in a newspaper or spoken on television. Homosexuality was illegal between adult males. A man's whole life could be ruined if he touched another man in a sexual way - even if both of them very much wanted it. Lady Chatterley's Lover could not be published. Far too rude. Roman Catholics, in Northern Ireland, were often done out of votes, jobs and housing to which they ought to have been entitled. Blair Peach was beaten to death in the street by a British policeman during the course of a political demonstration in 1979. Before I was a teenager (before teenagers had really been invented), it was a national scandal that the Queen's sister consorted with a man who had once been divorced. When I was very very small, Britain ruled India and huge chunks of Africa and other territories and denied self-determination to most of their peoples. Anyone who advocated free speech was thrown in jail (as Gandhi was, on several occasions.)
Britain was, in my memory, in my lifetime, a deeply repressive country, in spite of the gloss of liberty and anarchy which came (especially during the Sixties) to lap up over the authoritarian mechanisms on the beach like the tide rising towards high water.
Currently (October, 2008) - the tide is falling again. We are in for another dose of repression, with the added sophistication of computers to accelerate its spread.
The leopard does not change its spots. The British government is an extremely dangerous sort of animal, especially in hard times, which is what we have to look forward to.