Tomorrow the Convention on Modern Liberty meets in London having sold in the region of 1300 tickets for a wide range of events. Other co-ordinated meetings will take place across the UK, linking up via video broadcast for a variety of keynote addresses. The aim is to promote the defence of civil liberties in Britain - so my natural instinct is to wish it well. I'm reserving judgement however until I can identify clearly what its true objectives are.
The reason I am cautious is because the main sponsors include the Guardian newspaper group, the Rowntree Trust, and Open Democracy, and I'm not convinced that an event sponsored by what might be called the "progressive Left" will address those areas of civil liberties that are of special interest to Forest and The Free Society.
A lot will be said with which I agree. Many speakers will talk about the threat to our freedoms from the excessive use of CCTV and the introduction of biometric passports and ID cards and so on. But will they address other issues that matter to me and many readers of this blog - attempts, for example, to control our driving, our drinking, our eating and our smoking. I may be wrong, but looking at the programme I can't see it.
A number of libertarian-leaning Conservatives are involved in the Convention, including the likes of Iain Dale who asks HERE "How committed is the Right to civil liberties?". Good question, and one that can be applied equally to the Left. The truth is, most people are extremely selective about which civil liberties they support. (At the Conservative conference last year I was shocked to hear smokers applaud attempts to ban drinking in public parks. What were they thinking?!)
Is the involvement of people like Iain a good thing - giving the Convention some balance - or is it mere window dressing to give the event respectability (what my old boss Julian Lewis MP used to call the "figleaf syndrome")?
I'll return to the subject once the fog has lifted and we can see the outcome of the Convention more clearly. Brian Monteith is also writing an article for The Free Society website.
I genuinely hope that the event will be a force for advancing a more liberal approach to civil liberties in general ... but I have my doubts. What I fear is that we are about to witness a "liberal" love fest, a political Woodstock high on rhetoric, with Shami Chakrabarti as the carnival queen. I hope I'm wrong.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'm off to Cambridge to attend one of the satellite conventions organised by NO2ID. See HERE.