THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Philip Pullman on the nation's virtues
A tiny ripple

Was it worth it?

DSCN1302 Yesterday's Convention on Modern Liberty was, in many ways, what I expected. The surprise - and the undoubted highlight - of the day was David Davis's closing speech.

He was generously credited, by Henry Porter in introducing him, with having stimulated the whole event by resigning his parliamentary seat last year. His speech was warm, funny and sincere and dispelled my last doubts. He is clearly serious about civil liberties, though in appealing to his own party to "honour my promises", he did not sound very sure of the Conservatives' commitment.

 It was apparent all day that "liberty" was being used in two different senses. The statists of right and left were legitimately interested in the liberty to dissent from their own party line, but far more in characterising their every wish as a "human right." The rest of us (a minority, I suspect) were interested in being left alone by the state as much as possible. The politicians present - with the honourable exception of Davis - deftly confused both uses so as to appeal, dishonestly, to everyone in the room. This much was no surprise.

DSCN1300What I did not expect was that the Labourites present would be confronted with such strong, passionate arguments. Lord Goldsmith was so beleaguered that, were he not so utterly contemptible a specimen, one might have felt sorry for him. Chuka Umunna (later to be heard chanting the ridiculous party line recited by all Labourites yesterday that it was as important to protect citizens from "corporates" -with whom dealings are optional -as from the state -which has the power to compel) had to practice his poker face throughout Davis's speech. It will stand him in good stead in the House of Commons one day. The only thing that united the various strands of thinking in the room was contempt for a government that has denied "liberty" in every conceivable sense.  I am sceptical that the Convention will lead to a new dawn of liberty in Britain, but if it does full credit must be given to Messrs Blunkett, Clarke, Reid and Smith, who have clearly played the Daily Mail card far too often for most to stomach.

 Outside the Convention hall, I had the pleasure of drinks with Ian Grey, DK, Katabasis and other LPUK members, as well as with one of my "tenants" in Second Life. The plan is to hold another Convention next February, in order to set the agenda for the General Election; ensuring that candidates know they need to treat our liberties with respect. Sceptical or not, that is something I will have to support.

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