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Modern Liberty and the politics of hope

About the author
Tom Griffin is freelance journalist and researcher. He holds a Ph.D in social and policy sciences from the University of Bath, and is a former Executive Editor of the Irish World.

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Convention on Modern Liberty could play a key role in  bringing a sense of Obama-style optimism to Britain, Mary Riddell suggests in the Telegraph today. (Anthony Barnett is particularly pleased to find the Convention compared to the abolition of Trident!).

On freedoms, politicians across all parties are backing the Convention on Modern Liberty, an initiative launched last week in protest at an invasive state. On justice, Lord Phillips, who will head our new Supreme Court, complains that a "ceaseless torrent of new legislation" has failed to cut crime, while swamping the courts.

On defence, three former generals have denounced Britain's nuclear submarines as "completely useless". On the constitution, there is still no sign of a long-overdue green paper outlining a British bill of rights. Nor has there been any action (bar a new private member's bill introduced by the Lib-Dems' Evan Harris) to limit religious discrimination and end male primogeniture in our arcane monarchy.

On all of these, Brown could take rapid action. He would save money (£20 billion at least, in the case of Trident), reinforce values, give Britain back a sense of pride in its past and help quash a growing sense of anger, fear and impotence.

Riddell is one of a number of writers arguing that the Convention could help bring about a renewal of hope in what politics can achieve. Over at Comment is Free, Peter Facey argues that  the Government's climbdown over MPs' expenses shows what can be done:

We need nothing less than a paradigm shift in how both politicians and the people see their relationship with each other. It isn't enough for the public to continue passively accepting what their governments have to offer and it is unacceptable for politicians to encourage this notion. In place of apathy and cynicism we need pushiness and scepticism.

This week's victory has given us a small glimpse of what is possible. Savour the moment, but think about the future.

Simon Barrow makes a similar point at Ekklesia:

A key component of the Convention on Modern Liberty is its recognition of the vital role of civil society groups, and of democracy as a participatory and dialogic process. And not just among those who agree easily, either. The involvement of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance is bound to provoke some heated discussions.

As Barrow notes, Barack Obama may well prove to have feet of clay, but the spirit of democracy which he invokes is genuine and necessary in an age of growing challenges. The Convention is a great opportunity to animate that spirit in Britain. 


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