The British High Commissioner to Australia has outlined her vision of a modern Magna Carta in a speech in Canberra, Australia, today but it more strongly resembles the wish list of a standard Green party voter than a fundamental legal document.
Speaking at an event to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, senior British official Her Excellency Menna Rawlings CMG outlined the different clauses she envisioned taking prime position in the updated document.
Setting the tone for the rest of the charter she told the audience the very first clause of a document that had traditionally defended the rights of free Englishmen should lead to more homosexuals in positions of power in government:
“No one should be discriminated against on the basis of gender, race or sexuality,” before lauding the positive discrimination that the British government now employs: “We have come a long way on this in recent years – with around 40 female Heads of Mission around the world and a growing number of ambassadors who are from minority groups or who are openly gay.”
Fixating on a particularly modern phenomenon, she then stated the internet should feature prominently as clause two. Arguing freedom of speech on platforms like Twitter should be curtailed to engender harmony, she said:
“The internet – particularly social media – should be used to promote closer relations between peoples and states, not to propagate hatred and violent extremism… in recent years we have been provided with ample evidence that the online communication can also be used to spread poisonous ideologies and hatred… It is important that we take effective action to protect some of the most vulnerable in our society from these influences”.
“…the Internet is a powerful force for good in the world. But it also relies on each of us to behave responsibly, to call out the trolls. It also requires collaboration between government and the technology giants – Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google, Apple – to shut down the voices of extremism and hatred, without suppressing freedom of expression. I recognise this balance isn’t an easy one to strike, but in my 21st century Magna Carta, we should at least try”.
Her third idea? Freedom of religion. But we already have that in the Western world, so she made it about ISIS. Because obviously ISIS is going to adopt a “modern Magna Carta” delivered to them by a gay-friendly British diplomat who has previously served in Israel.
In a clear swipe at the United States, Rawlings fourth Magna Carta claim states the death penalty should be abolished, while failing to recognise the practice remains popular in the USA, and even in her native United Kingdom – despite it having been banned last century.
Finishing with a wish-list worthy of a Miss World Finalist, the High Commissioner lays out how her re-imagined Magna Carta would compel by law a commitment to “long termism”, by which she of meant more government intervention on climate change, poverty, and world peace. She said:
“Two issues I’m thinking of in particular. One is climate change, which can only be tackled holistically as an international community of nations, working collaboratively and beyond our own borders… The second is the fight to end poverty… but I think this work sits neatly within the framework of a 21st century Magna Carta”.
“I was heartened to see that, before the recent UK general election, the three main party leaders issued a letter which basically said: “we all agree on climate change, so it isn’t an issue in this election”. This could be a model applied more widely to long-term issues, with party leaders campaigning only on things they can actually change within a three year time-frame. That would be a refreshing change!”
Of course it’s all okay, because although it was an official government speech, by a government official, on government (read: taxpayer) time and money, she issued the following caveat before delivering it:
“Firstly, a disclaimer. This isn’t the work of a high-level committee of the finest minds in Great Britain, it isn’t necessarily the official policy of the British Government and it is neither fully formed nor definitive – feel free to suggest some more ideas in our discussion afterwards.”