The Convention on Modern Liberty: The British Debate on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

One year on from the Convention on Modern Liberty, the many great talks, speeches and articles inspired by that day, have been brought together in an attractive book.
Guy Aitchison
28 February 2010

One year on from the Convention on Modern Liberty, the many fine talks, speeches and articles inspired by that day, have been brought together in an attractive book edited by Rosemary Bechler and published by Imprint Academic.

You can purchase a copy from Amazon. Contributors include Philip Pullman, Quentin Skinner, Helena Kennedy, Peter Oborne, Marina Warner, Dominic Grieve, Suzanne Moore, Lord Bingham, Brian Eno, Ken MacDonald, Moazzam Begg, Mary Kaldor, Cory Doctorow, Tim Garton Ash and many more.  At nearly 400 pages long it's a decent-sized tome, but with contributions coming in short, sharp spoken passages it's ideal for those spare moments on the bus or tube. Rosemary has done a superb job bringing all the material together. Along with the video, audio and transcripts at, it's hoped this book will provide an ongoing resource and encouragement for those who wish to educate themselves on the impoverished condition of civil liberties in Britain today. 


To mark the book's publication, OurKingdom is publishing two extracts  - one by Anthony Barnett and an introduction written by me. In the foreword I discuss the build up to the event and how the terrain of debate has shifted over the last few years as Britons wake up to the threat posed by the authoritarian modernisation of the state under New Labour.

The recent publication of the annual Rowntree State of the Nations poll provides support to this analysis. Of the 2,228 people interviewed face-to-face by ICM between January and February, 53% thought ID cards a bad or very bad idea, compared to 33% in 2006. 65% are opposed to the government collecting, storing and sharing personal information across departments and an overwhelming 83% are against the government having access to telephone email and internet browsing records wherever they are held (a reference to the temporarily shelved "Intercept Modernisation Programme", which  the Home Office is determined to drive through one way or another). Alongside the political and cultural shifts I discuss in my foreword, these findings offer some encouragement to campaigners, though what salience liberty has vis-a-vis other issues, isn't clear from the polling.

What is clear is that a broad opposition is building to the attack on liberty. The potential it has to grow into a movement, and the manifold institutional and cultural obstacles that movement will face, is something discussed in a frank assessment by Anthony in the book's afterword.  

Read on - and if it takes your fancy, pop over to Amazon and buy a copy.


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