The Convention on Brexit and Political Crash was held on May 12 and 13, 2017, at Central Hall, Westminster.
The event was conceived last winter as a way of facilitating public debate around Brexit and the political upheaval in Western democracies – a debate that we keenly felt was lacking. From the start, backers, organisers and our media partners – OpenDemocracy and The Observer newspaper – agreed that the Convention should embrace all political parties and both sides of the Brexit issue. This was not to be a rally, but a forum for every possible view on the state of Britain and the future of liberal democracy in the West.
Our aim was simple – to hold free, open and respectful discussion. Over 100 speakers took part in 20 sessions, which included debates, interviews, keynote speeches, panels and one open forum. Some 1,400 people attended over two days, and a large number of audience members contributed to the Q&A sessions, debates and the big open forum on the second day. The last session in the Main Hall asked- ‘How do we reconnect people with their politics?” The Convention provided one answer – a free and candid exchange of views brings better understanding, if not always agreement.
The Convention team was nervous about the outcome. After all, it is no easy task to mount an ambitious project like this in such a short time, and any number of things could go wrong. The Prime Minister called a General Election as we entered the final weeks of preparation, but we pressed on in the knowledge that we had already structured the event with as many diverse political views as we could fit into the two days. There were a few organisational mishaps but the truth is that we could not have wished for a more exhilarating result. The consistently high level of debate in the two halls was inspiring, but even more so were the enthusiasm and engagement of the audience and the participation of young people in the open forum and Convention Question Time for the Next Generation.
We would like to thank all those who gave up their time to make the Convention such a success and the members of the audience, without whom the Convention would not exist. We hope that we convene again in the near future, but in the meantime all good wishes from the Convention team- Henry Porter, Rebecca Ashton, Julien Planté, Lucas Cumiskey, Cecilia Bicknell, Mark Choueke, Hannah Meltzer, Alexa Dalby, Dr Guy Aitchison and Silvija Doublyte.
The Convention was the first large scale, two-day public debate on the deep impacts of Brexit and the Political Crash. The vital debate that government never allowed to happen.
Only open debate can enlighten this Election and promote new thinking. The Convention is about people gathering to shape Britain’s future.
Our event at Central Hall on May 12th & 13th was held in memory of the late Georgina Henry of the Guardian.
Georgina Henry (1960-2014) was Deputy Editor of the Guardian and the founding editor of Comment is free (Cif). She was an inspiration to young women journalists. George was closely involved with the staging of the Convention on Modern Liberty in 2009.