800 Years later – The Magna Carta and our freedoms (updated)


15th June 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta

In a ceremony today, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the document “set the bar high for all of us today”. This seems perhaps surprising given that it was signed 800 years ago? One might think that in all that time we’ve far exceeded the expectations of such a primitive document. The most quoted parts are often said to under pin the liberties we hold so dear in this country now, namely that no one will be punished or imprisoned “except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land” and “to no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice”. Magna Carta marked the end of absolute power being concentrated in the hands of one man; namely the king.

The archbishop’s comment highlights the fact that, though in some senses we have come a long way since 1215, the basic freedoms it guaranteed are under threat today in 2015. I believe the Archbishop is issuing us with a caution that, even in these supposedly enlightened days, the threat is still there that our freedoms will be bull-dozed by the regime in power over us.

In 1215 the regime was the King. Today, it’s the government.

We live in a time when the Government is considering tearing up the Bill of Human Rights, bringing back sadistic blood sports, signing a TTIP treaty that will erode the rights of Britain to protect itself against profit-motivated international companies, and … a whole lot of things which the British Man in the street didn’t vote for. Most people thought they were voting against the ‘frightening’ prospect of being ruled by men with kilts ! Didn’t Theresa May say that such a prospect would be the most awful thing since the abdication ? Didn’t we laugh at such an absurd piece of scaremongering ? But the man in the street didn’t laugh. He was convinced that a bomb was about to drop unless he voted for a Conservative. Hence the landslide that has seemingly given this government a clear mandate to do what the Hell it likes.

The Archbishop, I believe, with members of the Government present at the ceremony, was reminding us all that it is STILL vital to keep the balance between the power of a Government and the power of the people. We must not, not, not, allow our freedom to speak up, protest, disrupt, strike, present an alternative view, or the freedom envisaged 800 years ago will be destroyed. Yes, the democratic freedoms we enjoy are that delicate, so fragile, and even as I write, there are people in high places plotting to take those freedoms away. We must be vigilant every day.

I believe we are already in a situation where some of those freedoms are dangerously eroded, not by arrest and balls and chains, but by distortion of the truth in unchecked rampant propaganda, backed by huge spending by a rich elite whose ultimate aim is to keep their riches and their power.

Hear what the archbishop says. The Magna Carta “set the bar high for all of us today”. Fighting for our freedoms, for truth and for decency is STILL, in 2015, up to US, the People. And the forces arraigned against those who DO fight are frighteningly powerful.

© brianmay.com