From the Guardian’s liberty central
Ah, sweet freedom! I’ve rarely felt so much among fellow travellers as I did at the Convention on Modern Liberty. Despite the all-parties-and-none spectrum of attendance, we were bound by a common passion. Oh, the righteous fury, the excellent sandwiches, and of course, Henry Porter, all ruffly hair and crumpled folder, swooping in and out of the hall and lobby, a sort of benign Phantom of the Convention. It was a glorious experience. And I’ll tell you something else.
I never want it to happen again.
This question popped up in the afternoon session: would the panel commit to a convention next February to review progress? Great idea, I thought. I want to feel like this some more! Gasp at the anecdotes, rage at the system, refine my Orwellian metaphors! Yeah!
The morning after, the intoxication of groupthink had given way to the hangover of self-awareness. No, the one thing we do not want is for the convention to happen again.
The convention was supposed to be the answer to the problem that brought us all together. It was supposed to hand a baton to its attendees, give them the inspiration and the courage to campaign, in their own way, in their own town. Sunny Hundal has some excellent suggestions for active involvement – join a campaigning group, do some research, uncover a shocker, and force it into the press. And talk to people – make them aware of what’s happening to them. Someone commenting on Charlie Brooker’s article yesterday didn’t know that peaceful protest is banned outside parliament – they were outraged. There’s more where that came from. Porter described Saturday’s events as “the birth of a great movement”, and a movement is what it should be.
Helena Kennedy had a wise suggestion: come the election, we should thrust a list of the most non-negotiable demands under the nose of every candidate in the land. You’d be astonished at how easy it is to put the frighteners on a politician by demanding that they explain themselves to a well-attended public meeting. Campaigning means doing this repeatedly. No one will tell you you’ve won the argument. You’ll have to bang the same drum until you are sick of it, and then bang it some more. Trust me, I’m a Lib Dem, and this much I know.
I don’t want to live in a society that needs an annual Convention of Modern Liberty. I want to live in a society that treasures its liberties, not just in law but in the active vigilance of the people. And in turning up on Saturday I accepted a responsibility to be one of those that acted. If I have to turn up again in February 2010, it’ll be because I failed. We all failed.