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Thinking about Magna Carta, the barons and Tony Blair

In The Knight, Never a dull moment on the road to Runnymede, we observed that almost all the barons witnessed John's surrender of the kingdom of England to the papacy on May 15, 1213. This meant that in addition to pleasing John as their liege lord the barons would also have to please the Pope as their liege lord's lord. Given the heavy and capricious taxation they were already experiencing under John, they were not well pleased.

The barons did not want England to be a fiefdom of the Pope for several reasons. The most obvious is that a distant, powerful ruler is impossible to affect. He doesn’t have to listen to you, and he probably won’t. He will not understand or respond to your local affairs. He will send out legates, but they will be interested in pleasing him. They will not be particularly interested in responding to your concerns. Though there are British Members of the European Parliament and though there is a British Minister at meetings of the Council of Ministers, they have little voice, for there are 26 other nations squabbling for place in Brussels. All the power resides with the European Commissioners who are unelected and unsackable.

Then there is the problem of Tony Blair, a relatively young man. One of the dangers of electing young men to high office aside from their lack of wisdom is that they want to stay there a long time and they don't know what to do with themselves when at long last they go. It seems possible that what Tony would like to do is become the first elected President of the EU. For this to happen he will have to sell out Britain, which would be swallowed by the EU, and see its history, traditions, and future hopes come to an end.

John made the deal to advance his own interests. It seems likely that Tony will, too. He persuaded Labour Party members they could win Parliament if they followed him and he gutted their party of its core principles. To their eternal shame they agreed. (This shame, more than anything, explains their vindictive efforts to destroy the traditions of British country people whom they imagine are their class enemies. They were trying to feel better about their sell-out to Tony. Can anything else explain their obsessive concern with the welfare of foxes? Of course I except from critique those dear souls who do not eat meat and do not wear leather shoes.)

Since Tony’s only principle is winning, it is a given he will do anything he can to advance his own interests. He will, of course, tell us that it is for our own good. He will cloak his own interests in fine, false words and he will be shocked, shocked and saddened, when anyone suggests he cares only about his own vanity and success.

British history as currently taught suggests that Magna Carta was the product of selfish barons winning one over a king. This is an insult to all those clergy who supported the cause because they were inspired by Judaeo-Christian principles of justice and freedom and it is a mortal insult to the Londoners who threw open their gates to support the cause and to the people of Exeter and Lincoln who rose to support rebellion against a corrupt and tyrannical king. The barons could not have won without the English people. Without them Magna Carta would be a minor footnote in a book.

Let us make sure it does not become a minor footnote on our watch.