It’s almost 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta and this wonderful line from Tony Hancock comes to mind as we launch St Albans’ District Magna Carta celebrations. Hancock Half Hour – Twelve Angry Men (Opens in new window) It just about sums up the general level of knowledge of the Magna Carta and its relevance today. However there is increasing interest in the development of law on rights and freedoms which it symbolises. This year sees the start of a series of events in the towns and cities linked to the Magna Carta Trust, leading up to a national celebration in 2015 celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.
The Magna Carta 2015 celebrations have suddenly gained new relevance with the prospect of major electoral and constitutional reform over the coming years, following the formation of the first coalition government since the Second World War. It will therefore be important to consider some of the first principles for good government, some of which have roots that go back beyond the Magna Carta. As we consider the possibilities of new arrangements, I hope that we can use the celebrations of this ancient event as a focus for thoughts about the right constitutional framework for 21st Century needs. One which balances governmental and civic responsibilities and which considers the fundamental rights and freedoms needed in a country which should pride itself on being at the heart of democracies internationally.