I hope that I can call you Tom at this stage in our correspondence. Albeit I am still awaiting a response to my friend request on Facebook, I am sure this speaks more of how busy you are at the moment rather than existing as any commentary on the depth of our bond.
And busy you have been. The Lord Chancellor and you have developed a cunning strategy. He is an elected representative. He cannot continue his zealotry of Legal Aid reform unless he is in power. You are a life peer. You do not rely upon a mandate from the people to change society. If you are left to do front of house then, in the unlikely event this all goes wrong, Chris reduces his risk of losing his seat in the House because his name is indelibly linked to a failed policy as you are the public face for this reform. And it is no risk for you as you do not have to rely upon the mendacity of the electorate. Genius.
So when this has to be discussed in public you are the perfect man for the job. You are Chris Grayling’s bullet proof vest. Ready to take one for the team. You are the Kevin Costner to his Whitney Houston (without the romantic interest).
So let us talk about your week. The Bar Council invited someone from the Ministry to Legal Aid Question Time. It made perfect sense for you to go rather than Chris expose himself again. It was right that you should make it clear that you did not regret the hysterical comment. I mean the legal profession keep referring to the Magna Carta. The Magna-freaking-Carta. It’s not like that is even a real law. When King John signed the Magna Carta declaring “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice” you, as a similarly unelected embodiment of the state, are free to ignore that. The legal profession and the judiciary referring to the Magna Carta is properly to be dismissed as histrionics. That is so different from Legal Aid. Did King John establish Legal Aid? No! So those pesky Judges should just let it lie.
If King John was around I’m sure he would have something to say about that cad Grieve. Something like “off with his head!”. He was being a very clever lawyer with the way he worded his letter to Treachery Counsel. He doesn’t “own” the policy on Legal Aid, the Lord Chancellor does. He may not own the policy but it was pretty clear to me that he was disowning it. What does he know? A fine example of what happens when you let lawyers meddle in areas like justice. Time to have a non-lawyer as Attorney-General. Can I suggest Eddie?
Now I know that when you were elected Leader of the LibDems in the Lords you said you wanted to be “the voice of conscience and reform on issues such as civil liberties, human rights, changes in the legal system and access to justice” but you should have told Nick Clegg you didn’t bloody mean it. What’s all this about it being perverse to not allow defendants to choose their own solicitor? Has nobody told Clegg about 20 year career criminals? It sounds like Clegg thinks they may, on occasion, be innocent. Time for a word with the Deputy Prime Minister. Remind him you did for Kennedy. That’ll keep him in line.
You need to make the likes of Grieve and Clegg realise where you are going with all of this. I recall you saying of Abu Qatada “The fact is, in my mind, if the Human Rights Act occasionally comes in favour of somebody who is not very likeable in terms of what they have done or who they are… that to me is a reassurance, that if even he is given the protection of our law and Human Rights Act then all the more the rest of us are going to be protected by it as well…..The law is there to protect us all and sometimes it protects those least worthy of its protection, but the fact its protection is there is part of what makes us a civilised society.” That demonstrates that you do indeed have a conscience. And you are right when you say that protecting those who we may dislike is the hallmark of a civilised society. And this is where your policy is so clever. We can have all the safeguards that show us to be a civilised society but then make sure no one can afford access to the courts so the Government are inconvenienced by hysterical lawyers. Foreigner we want to deport? Fails the residency test. Prisoner wants to review penal policy? Denied Legal Aid. Career burglar? Provided with lawyers no better than adequate and get them to plead without the rigmarole of a trial. Saving face whilst saving money. This policy is just brilliant. I can see you now at the party conference “Strong on Justice, tough on the causes of Justice.”
They should give you a Knighthood….
Read the first letter to my mate Tom here.