You want to know where we go from here? We need a new Magna Carta. Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy recently said he wanted “an insurgency to take our rights back from the state”. This now includes our right to honest government, though I think we always knew that. The emphasis needs to be on achieving this.
In February the Convention on Modern Liberty in London and across the UK showed a clear public concern with the threat of authoritarian power and a hunger to debate and confront it in an intelligent and democratic way. Guy Aitchison, Clare Coatman and Tom Ash are, from today, launching Magna Carta 2.0 with the aim of taking the spirit and intelligence of the day to the country.
They have a post setting out the idea here on OurKingdom. I’m joining them. We need you to as well if you have a moment – 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.
Here are six problems they set out:
1. The corruption and suborning of parliament as a check on the executive, which accelerated after the Iraq invasion.
2. The rise of a surveillance society: from the blanket logging of all our electronic communications to CCTV to travel scrutiny
3. The sharing of personal information on official and commercial databases: the rise of the so-called database state.
4. Growing police autonomy, both nationally – the Association of Chief Police Officers, for example, is an independent corporate entity not a public body – and internationally, especially within the EU.
5. Exploitation of the threats of crime and terrorism to excessively enhance state power and undermine our fundamental rights often accompanied by encouraging populist fears and alarms
6. The exercise of arbitrary and unaccountable power by government agencies and quangos.
Here is what we want to do about it: launch Magna Carta 2.0 on Sunday 14 June at Runnymede, or at a place near you, on the anniversary of its signing. Then, take the issues to candidates everywhere and draw up a Parties and Candidates Audit across the whole civil liberties and human rights agenda before the end of the year, not by questionnaire but by meetings, public and private, in pubs, tea rooms and bars. Then, hold a convention of some kind in June 2010, face to face with the incoming government.
And then? The point is to start as we need to carry on: in an open, cooperative fashion, sharing concerns, building energy, learning not lecturing, facing the big issues, being cross-party not tribalist, confronting the big picture.
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.
MC2 is about what we do now and how we govern ourselves. But it goes wider than the political system as we have known it. It isn’t exclusive, on the contrary it’s about linking up organisations, campaigns and blogs.
It’s a chance to make a little history the way you’d like it to be. We’ll launch on June 14th. Add your sword!
Cross-posted on Liberal Conspiracy