Prime Minister David Cameron has singled out Bury St Edmunds for its vital role in forming Magna Carta in an exclusive letter to Bury Free Press readers.
He said: “This week we are marking a moment that helped shape Britain – one in which Bury St Edmunds played a key role.
It is 800 years since Magna Carta was sealed by King John, as his barons sought to assert the rule of law and the rights of individuals.
That great charter established the idea that those principles should be written down – and that has helped spread them through our history and throughout the world.
Though it was sealed on the banks of the Thames in Runnymede, Surrey, the seeds of that great charter were actually sown here in Bury St Edmunds.
In 1214 a group of barons met in St Edmunds Abbey Church and swore an oath to compel King John to accept The Charter of Liberties – a direct precursor to Magna Carta a year later.
That is why Bury St Edmunds has been named a “Magna Carta town”, marking the anniversary with a series of events, from “LiberTeas” at the Edmundsbury Cathedral to an exhibition at Moyse’s Hall Museum.
I’m delighted those events are taking place. Why? Because the values Magna Carta sets out have been crucial to our country.
When King John sealed the great charter, he accepted that no-one was above the law, not even the monarch.
The right to a fair trial, the fact that justice could not be sold, denied or delayed, all these flowed from Magna Carta – and they’ve echoed down the ages, through our laws and our lives.
Magna Carta has also been crucial to the rest of the world – long upheld as a blueprint for fundamental rights. Gandhi cited it when bringing rights to the Indian people. Mandela appealed to it when fighting for justice in South Africa.
The Americans even based their constitution on it.
Today, as some people around the world still struggle to live by the rule of law and to see their governments subject to that law, we see this great charter is as relevant and necessary as it was 800 years ago.
For centuries, the principles Magna Carta set out have been alleviating suffering.
But here in Britain, ironically, the place where those ideas were first set out, the good name of ‘human rights’ has sometimes become distorted and devalued – and people have seen them too often being used for the wrong reasons. Labour’s Human Rights Act and a number of perverse decisions by the European Court of Human Rights have helped to cause this problem.
That is why we will bring forward proposals for a new British Bill of Rights by the end of the year and scrap the Human Rights Act, so we restore the reputation of those rights.
Magna Carta is a remarkable achievement which has brought liberty, democracy and the rule of law to countless people – something we need to make sure continues to happen.
Everyone in Britain should be proud of this great charter.
And the readers of the Bury Free Press should feel extra pride as we mark its anniversary, because of the role your town played in making it a reality.”
- What do you think about the Prime Minister’s views and stance on the Human Rights Act?