Wednesday 13 May 2009

Did Magna Carta die in vain?

Magna Carta 2.0 is a new independent campaign being launched at Runnymede on June 14th, which I think is the 794th anniversary of the charter being signed by King John

The campaign seeks to build on the recent Convention on Modern Liberty. (The Fabian Society and Compass session 'The Left and Liberty' can be viewed online alongside all of the other sessions).

Guy Aitchison sets out the aims of the campaign at OpenDemocracy.

The time is right for a renewal of our democratic self-confidence. The coming general election is unusual in that issues of democracy, modern liberty, and human rights will figure alongside the acute economic circumstances. This makes it an ideal moment for a cross-party educational campaign promoting widespread open-minded, public debate, research, education and understanding of the threats to fundamental human rights and freedoms, and how they can be countered. This is what Magna Carta 2.0 aims to be. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries members of parliament replaced the barons as representatives who would hold power to account. The question we want to take to the public is this: isn't it time to stop relying on barons and start relying on ourselves?

We want to launch with an event at Runnymede on Sunday 14 June this year; inviting people to bring picnics and enjoy - if it can be arranged in time - a modest public meeting. At the same time we want people to hold their own Runnymede meetings at pubs, bars and tea-rooms across the country ... The aim will be a Parties and Candidates Audit across the whole civil liberties and human rights agenda before the next election, conducted by local meetings. After the election we aim to hold a convention or similar event in June 2010 to debate the commitments of the incoming government on these issues.

Anthony Barnett writes at Liberal Conspiracy calling on people to get involved "on your own terms and in your own way and whatever your political affiliations if you are a democrat concerned with how we’re governed"

Barnett also writes about the dangers of paranoia, weak government and the need for a liberties campaign to challenge corporate power and big media, which appears to acknowledge of some centre-left and liberal left concerns about the danger of an unnuanced anti-state agenda being pursued under the banner of protecting our liberties.

I want to emphasise two things. From climate change to the digitalisation of our identities we are facing huge changes. These create inadvertent as well as deliberate dangers. It is right to be very suspicious of who is doing what. But not to be totally paranoid.

Indeed a big part of the problem is the weakness of government, as a civil culture of honest public service and public values has vaporised. We need to research, investigate, debate and map what is happening. As Calvino once said, we need an open frame of reference as there is no longer a well-proven system or working tradition we can link to. Also this is not just about government. Corporate power, including big media, gain as parliament crumbles.

The organisers have been in touch to say that they are keen to work with the Fabians and many other groups on public awareness and education of civil liberty issues. Fabian local societies may also want to consider meetings and discussions about the campaign's themes. Further ideas are welcome.

UPDATE: Here is Tony Hancock.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for your generous post Sunder. Glad you like MC2. Looking forward to talking to Fabian local groups!