Citing the Magna Carta, whose signing 800 years ago will be celebrated in June, Hannan hailed the English-speaking people for introducing the rule of law—and in this way, freeing men and women from arbitrary rule. The site where Magna Carta was sealed, at Runnymede, lies in his constituency, and Hannan spoke passionately about ‘the greatest bargain ever struck’. For the first time, thanks to this extraordinary charter, the ruler learnt that he was not above the rule, and no government would be able to bend the law at will.

Hannan urged his fellow guests at the lunch to contemplate how different Britain would be, had the barons not forced King John to sign the charter in 1215. The importance of the Magna Carta, he said, had gone ignored for too long in its birthplace: the site remained unmarked until 1957, when a memorial was finally erected there by the American Bar Association. The spare inscription on that memorial: “To commemorate Magna Carta, symbol of Freedom Under Law.”

Hannan contended that freedom is inextricably linked to personal responsibility—and if you give people more responsibility they tend to act more responsibly. The discussion then explored contemporary threats to democracy and freedom to the Modern English-speaking peoples. However, Hannan drew out a golden political lesson from history: politicians must offer hope—negativity repels, but optimism always triumphs.

The discussion was moderated by Cristina Odone, Director of Communications at the Legatum Institute.