Doc 5: 19 Sept 2008, Minutes, First Sponsors Meeting

CML Doc No 5: 19 Sept 2008, Minutes, First Sponsors Meeting

Minutes: Convention on Modern Liberty Meeting

September 18, 2008


Anthony Barnett – oD/ OurKingdom

Shami Chakrabarti – Liberty

Sabina Frediani – Liberty
Georgina Henry, Guardian
Stephen Pittam – JRCT
Henry Porter, Guardian
Elisabeth Ribbans, Guardian

Mark Ross – JRRT
Ros Taylor, Guardian

Stuart Weir – Democratic Audit


Guy Aitchison – oD/Our Kingdom

Claire Preston – Democratic Audit and oD


Laura Sandys – openDemocracy

  1. Introductions and apologies
  2. Approval of agenda
  3. Update

AB: Ran through update as per paper provided: the proposed team, the website spec, the budget overiew. On state of play on funding: £23,000 has been raised from non-Rowntree sources, conditional on full-funding confirmed and applications are out to cover the £12-22,000 still needed.

  1. Overview of aims and statement of aims

SW: Gave an overview of aims. Said idea originally came about with David Davies resigning over 42 days. Aim is to raise public awareness and consciousness about the state of civil liberties in Britain including the Human Rights Act (HRA). Asking the question of how well protected they are now and in the future. The understanding is that HRA plus is the only possible legislative basis. The growth of the database state is of great concern along with traditional threats to liberty. Focus on 42 days is slightly misleading because the Counter Terrorism Bill is full of threats. Need to reassert the need to protect liberties (definition of which would include human rights). Aim is to rally the interested and spread the word and to make the Convention as broad as possible, including actors from across the political spectrum. Should be all embracing.

HP: Underlined that the pace of attack on privacy is increasing distinctly. This amounts to a crisis

MR: Said that from a Reform Trust point of view, the issue was heightened by the David Davis by-election. Felt need to take that debate and make it national. This is an opportunity to bring together a lot of organisations the Reform Trust and Charitable Trust fund.

SP: Asserted his belief that unity in this meeting is achievable. This is what the CT wants. We must be clear about the political context, we don’t undermine achievements already made. Important to support Tories who unite with this agenda.

GH: Guardian’s role is as media partner. They want to make sure debate is open. Must engage with critics of this agenda as well. The debate should not only take place in a meeting in London, the Guardian’s role is to help widen it.

ER Agreed and added that a lot of the issues chime with the leader line.

HP: Asked what will emerge from the day – the outcomes?

AB: Said not trying to create another organisation. The aim is to show the links and raise the whole level of discussion across the country. We want to show politicians that they can engage with the public on this issue. Want a shift in political culture. The videos and webcast are vital in spreading the debate.

  1. Liberty’s possible support

SC: Said that if everything said so far is effectively reflected, in terms of the speakers and the agenda this is very exciting. Within the two main political parties there are libertarian and authoritarian groups – hawks and doves. The xenophobic streak is one of the biggest challenges to the HRA. Talk of Bill of Rights does not necessarily endorse HRA plus. Need to be smart about the tone of language for the Convention. The parameters must be how to protect our rights and freedoms, rather than asking whether we are for or against human rights. There is a big and diverse tent of those who support this view. But the parameters must be reflected in the language of the title, subtitle and description of the vision as well as in the selection of speakers for the plenary session. Discussion should be couched in terms of rights, freedoms and democracy, not liberties and human rights – the latter suggests HR are divisible from liberties and plays into the hands of detractors. One context is the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (DHR). This should be highlighted.

ER: Asked whether the ambition was to reach passive supporters between the hawks and the doves or to find common ground between those in the tent

SC: Her view is that finding common ground is paramount. Sceptics can be brought into Convention but must be billed as such.

SW: Agreed with all SC said but said there is also a need to reflect the dark side too. Suggested that the plenaries should shape the dialogue and that the fringe sessions should be the place for vigorous debate. Said the title should be short and succinct and the strap used to nuance the message.

SF circulated a reworking of the statement of aims to fit the parameters SC had outlined.

SW: Said the reworking too long and diffuse but he agreed with the principles behind it.

HP: Clarified that the UN DHR is a context for the event and the 42 days issue the reason for it

There was general agreement and it was decided that SW, SC, HP and AB would together rework the statement of aims.

On the title Modern Liberty OK. The ‘call’ amended to:

“Calling together all concerned with the crisis of our fundamental rights and freedoms in the era of counter-terrorism and the database state”

SF: asking about how best implement any agreement.

AB: Proposed that the four principles (SW, SC, HP, AB) should agree – i.e. each have veto rights on:

a) those invited to the plenary sessions

b) organisations invited to host fringe sessions. These could be guided but the bodies organising them would have some leeway

GH: Said they should not have a completely free hand and there was general agreement with this point

GH confirmed that the Guardian was happy with the idea of the Four agreeing this

  1. Keynote spots and plenary speakers

AB: Suggested that each plenary should be preceeded by a 5 to 10 minute maximum length keynote address. Suggested SC should open and invite Philip Pullman to do second. This was agreed. Discussion of the third. HP? A well-known cultural figure  to raise the profile of the event? Various suggestions were made including Ralph Finnes, Colin Firth, Mark Thomas, Jeremy Clarkson , Zadie Smith

Panels should be respriced to a maximum of 4/5 speakers.

GH: Agreed to chair opening Plenrary. Raised the issue of which government ministers to invite. Agreed were Diane Abbot, Dominic Grieve, Tony McNulty, Nick Clegg, Boris Johnson

SC: Said that in cases where she knew well people who were being invited the process should be: 1. that they are sent an official invitation by the organising team 2. SC will follow that up with a phone call. She can be alerted that they have been invited either by copying her in to the invitation or sending her an email. (SC named David Davis, Diane Abbot, Dominic Grieve)

ER: Suggested a local authority figure should be invited to one of the plenaries

Discussion of second plenary on ‘Does the Publc Care?’ Agreed that Nick Sparrow should be asked. GH: Said she would phone.

Agreed that Sunny Hundall asked to chair Third Plenary. Agreed David Lammy asked to be part of this one.

  1. Possible Session Partners (doc to be tabled)

AB: Drew participants attention to the Google page set up by GA, which shows a list of organisations and individuals who are either proposed partners or speakers. Access of this page will be open to all present who can thereby keep track of what is happening, input into the process, or raise objections. Everyone should note that this will be the way that progressed is tracked.

SW: Said that a fringe session should be organised to address the xenophobia issues SC mentioned earlier.

Discussion followed of who should run this or be involved and suggestions included Adnan Siddique of Caged Prisoners , the Runnymead Trust, John Sweeney.

Other suggestions for who should run fringes included: Private Eye, The Liberal, Iain Dale (Total Politics). AB reported that John Jackson of Mischon de Raya hoping to hold session on who rules on national interest, government or judges, inviting Lords Bingham and Goldsmith and Cherie Booth.

  1. Budget

Discussion moved to the budget and cost of tickets

SC: Said it was very important – reputationally and ethically – that if people are charged to be clear that all the money goes on the event

AB: Said ‘yes’ ticket revenues projected at best to cover a third of the costs. Main unknown costs of AV and video and webcasting.

SF: asked if the projected income assumed full sales.

AB: said yes, ticket revenues based on full sales. If  didn’t sell out would emigrate.

SP: stressed the need to keep everyone fully informed about the budget.

It was agreed that the four should have full access to the Budget and say over any surplus

GH: Asked whether people would be charged to run fringe sessions

AB: Replied that those running fringe sessions would be expected to cover the costs of speakers and advertise and market the event. If wealthy like Mishcon perhaps. Problem with these things is also costs of administration, i.e. if you say people can bring own sandwiches even if the Logan Hall would allow this you then have to police the distribution of food.

  1. Announcement and sponsorship

In reply to a question from ER, AB said the ideal launch date for the event was October 1st. Web site had to be up and running. Plan needed for Guardian coverage etc.

Should it be called by Guardian, Rowntrees, openDemocracy and Liberty?

ER and GH: Said they were happy that the role for the Guardian was clear but they would run it past Mark Sands as to how it is presented as G is the media partner

SP and MR: Said they would check and report back how Rowntrees participation should be reflected