PM hit with social media flack for Magna Carta banalities

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By Judge John Hack on

David Cameron’s 800th anniversary message from windswept Surrey car park wins little more than derision


Britain’s prime minister — or at least one of his keyboard flunkies — has had a busy time on social media earlier today owing to an 800-year-old document that many in the legal profession reckon his government is doing its best to bury.

David Cameron’s UK Prime Minister Twitter account has been buzzing with extracts from his speech today commemorating the anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta in a field in what is now Surrey.

Twitter being Twitter, those extracts range from the banal, to the bleeding obvious, to arguably the outright ironic.

Cameron kicked off with a video link for those that find the twice-weekly broadcast sessions of Prime Minister’s Questions insufficient. Here’s Dave in what looks like a windswept car park.

Rather predictably, not all of Cameron’s fellow subjects on social media were keen to soak up the PM’s Runnymede impressions. Here’s one response to the video.

Responses on Cameron’s personal Twitter account were also robust.

Then there was this reference to Cameron’s now renowned inability to translate the words Magna Carta when put on the spot by US chat show king David Letterman.

Legal profession social media junkies also took a bite of the Magna Carta cherry. Leading the charge was commentator David Allen Green from his Jack of Kent account.

Green went on to trash Magna Carta romance in a piece on his blog.

For a supposedly fundamental document, wrote the lawyer, there is little to see of its ‘fundamental’ effect: few, if any, cases have ever turned on it. Although it is often invoked in passing, it lacks the live and real effect of an actual constitutional instrument.

He continued:

Compare this impotence with the entitlements in the US Bill of Rights, which make actual differences to US citizens every day.

Meanwhile, researchers at Thomson Reuters used the anniversary to point out that 800 years after King John begrudgingly put his seal on Magna Carta, “the right to a fair trial is still being regularly litigated over in the UK and across Europe”.

According to the research, over the last decade, the European Court of Human Rights has made 19 rulings against the UK — and 1,237 against all EU countries — for breaches to the right to a fair trial.

Last year alone, 149 violations of the right to a fair trial were recorded by the European Court of Human Rights against signatory countries to the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Commercial, tax and employment lawyers frequently make arguments based on the right to a fair trial — a concept that was one of the most significant legacies of Magna Carta,” commented Tom Hickman, a barrister at Blackstone Chambers and author of Thomas Reuters’ “Human Rights: Judicial Protection in the UK.”