Did Magna Carta die in vain?

Posted on September 27, 2012

Today’s news of David Cameron’s trouble remembering what Magna Carta means on theLetterman Show inevitably recalls Tony Hancock’s classic “Twelve Angry Men” episode of Hancock’s Half Hour:

With the immortal words:

Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?

Hancock reduced the audience to gales of laughter, and secured yet another entry in the annals of comedy history.

And yet, there’s also something rather sad about that clip, echoing down from 1959. If a prime time comedy show made that gag today, how many people in the audience would laugh and how many would be left scratching their heads over what it meant?

If you go to Runnymede, where Magna Carta was signed – laying the foundation stone of English freedom – you will find a memorial. Its inscription reads

“To commemorate Magna Carta, symbol of Freedom Under Law”

But it was not erected by the British public, or by our Parliamentarians, or our legal institutions. It was put there by the American Bar Association who, it seems, value Magna Carta more than we do.

Perhaps Hancock was right – Magna Carta means nothing to us. She died in vain.

Invasion of the superblogs

Posted on July 15, 2011

I wrote when Iain Dale closed his personal blog about the potential future for the blogosphere as the balance of power shifted. As well as the upheavals in the mainstream media, the last couple of weeks has seen the first big change in the UK blogosphere for some time: the arrival of the superblogs.

With the launch of Huffington Post UK and Iain Dale and Co we’re experiencing the first tests of whether group blogging will succeed, and whether it will replace or complement the more atomised blogosphere that we’ve seen to date. My personal view is that it will be complementary – an online equivalent of the mainstream media which can afford to provide more regular and broader updating than individual blogs, but inevitably lacking the personalised character and focus of individuals (like yours truly).

For that reason, I’m pleased to say I will intermittently be contributing to both HuffPoUK and Dale & Co – writing about politics for the former and about media and culture for the latter. Needless to say, this blog will remain my focus, and the location of the vast majority of my writing. My first articles on each superblog have gone live this week, so please give them a bump by rating and commenting if you’d be so kind!

Here they are:

Iain Dale & Co: “Science Fiction should be abolished”

Huffington Post UK: “A new English politics is emerging – but which party will harness it?”

Georgia to win the World Cup?

Posted on November 17, 2010

This piece in the Indie has only just come to my attention. It’s odd stuff, reporting that apparently Georgia is making a pitch to Boer farmers in South Africa to move to their country.

There are all sorts of intriguing political, demographic and cultural implications of this, but to explore those would be to miss the point. The most crucial impact would surely be on the world of rugby – if this goes ahead, would it mean that Georgia’s notoriously hulking forwards would be paired up with some of those lightning-fast Springbok backs?

If so, we might see a team sporting the St George’s Cross raising the Rugby World Cup – just not the one we might hope for…