The Convention on Modern Liberty

The Magna Carta 2015 conference in Cambridge this weekend will provide the last chance to buy the book on openDemocracy's 2009 "Convention on Modern Liberty".

Stuart Weir
2 June 2015

The book of openDemocracy’s historic ‘British debate on fundamental rights and freedoms’ - six years ago but alarmingly relevant today – will be on sale at the Magna Carta 2015 conference this Saturday, 6 June, in Cambridge.

The book records the astonishing outpouring of speeches from Philip Pullman & Quentin Skinner, Suzanne Moore & Marina Warner, Lord Bingham & Brian Eno, Helena Kennedy & Francesca Klug, as poets, writers, scholars, lawyers, MPs, journalists, judges, activists, of all political persuasions joined to affirm and celebrate liberty.

This may be your last chance to buy this remarkable volume – and at only £17.50.

The conference itself is at the Cambridge Union, from 10.30am (tea and coffee from 9.45am) to 5.00pm, and ends with a reception (5.15 to 6.15). It is free and open to all. It is funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Magna Carta celebrations, but is a forward-looking event that will ‘re-boot’ the principles of Magna Carta for a modern participatory democracy.  

There will be three major debates. David Marquand, Will Hutton and Tamasin Cave will discuss defining, defending and promoting the principle of the ‘public realm’, not just protecting public services from private infiltration but arguing the case for an ethic of public service and government for the common good.  

Stuart White will present a paper, entitled, ‘Power to the People’, making the case for a new constitutional convention and settlement that puts people first in determining the shape of a modern constitution. A panel discussion will follow on the opportunities for transparent and open public involvement in government that new communications offer and combating the ‘new barons’, the global communication giants: with Anthony Barnett, John Naughton, Carly Nyst and Bill Thompson.

The conference ends with a debate on the politics of change, led by Guardian writer John Harris.You can register for the conference at but registration is not obligatory.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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