We are celebrating in the UK the 800 anniversary of the Magna Carta (known as "The Great Charter of Liberties") which dates from 1215 and was described by Lord Denning, a famous English lawyer and judge as " the foundation of freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot" in England. The Magna Carta is held up as the first successful defence of the rights of the individual against a overbearing and intrusive state. It is credited as paving the way for concepts such as "habeas corpus". It is therefore especially ironic that this is occurring at a time when the Government is proposing the draft Communication Data Bill which would require each ISP to keep records accessible by the MI5, the UK's internal secret service, of each internet user's browsing and social media activity, emails, voice calls and msm for 12 months. Is the 800 anniversary of the Magna Carta a good time to look at the balance between the surveillance state and the individual? Kenneth Clarke, Minister without portofolio (picture attached) says the Government is looking at it. Could this be a opportunity to draft Magna Carta 2?
The Magna Carta has taken on a greater role than ever lately in representing, in the words of Clarke, a stand against "the overbearing power of the executive and the encroaching power of the state". It sounds good. But what has been the government's response so far to the lurch towards both of those phenomena under Labour – including the ongoing controversy surrounding control orders and the creep of secrecy throughout the courts? "We are looking at it," Clarke told me today.