Dear T-Mac (I have decided you are now worthy of a soubriquet which is down with the kids, feel free to reply to Biggie-G),
So much water has passed under the bridge since last I wrote. Things have gone so Peter Tong (as the kids say) since our last interaction I am not in the least surprised that you have not had the time to respond. And I should imagine that you are spending so much time reviewing who should remain in your Linked-In profile that I can understand that you have not yet had the opportunity of adding me to your network.
I should imagine one easy choice was pressing the “delete” option for that turncoat Grayling. Such a quisling. It would seem that in the last 7 days he has been everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE, declaring that he isn’t anti-choice after all. And not only has he been saying he isn’t anti choice he has been saying that he wasn’t ideologically bound to a removal of choice. It was, apparently, only a means to an end. And, furthermore, he realised very soon in to the consultation process that he had got the whole choice thing wrong and that his instinct told him that it was wrong. It is just a pity his instinct didn’t share that with you. Or that other pedagogue of jurisprudence, Bob Neill.
If, for one moment, the Lord Chancellor had shared with you his doubts about restricting choice there is no way you would have, and pardon the expression, bared your arse on Law in Action with “No To Choice” tattooed across your buttocks.
When you appeared as part of the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Question Time you made it clear where your beliefs lie “The idea that a 20 year career criminal should have a brief of his choice is not right.” That was a plain and unequivocal statement of your belief. You state categorically that it is not right.
So when Chris Grayling wrote to Sir Alan Beith and said “One specific point in the consultation which has attracted significant response is the proposal to remove client choice in the model for competition for criminal litigation. The rationale for proposing this change was to give greater certainty of case volume for provides, making it easier and more predictable for them to organise their business to provide the most cost-effective service to the taxpayer – it is not a policy objective in its own right,” that could not be a clearer statement in contradiction to your beliefs.
What a pickle you find yourself in. It would seem the Lord Chancellor changed his mind very early on in the life of the consultation that your view on client choice was contrary to a fundamental aspect of the effective administration of the Legal Aid system. The consultation closed on 4th June and yet on the 11th June (Law in Action) and the 20th June (Legal Aid Question Time) you were expressing your deeply held principles about how wrong client choice truly is. So how early was the change of heart by the Lord Chancellor? One week? Two weeks? If he announces it in a letter dated 1st July then you would have thought he had made his mind up well before you were announcing your, clearly independent, view.
If we are left in any doubt when he appeared before the Justice Committee and said “I actually decided this a little while back, but you cannot make changes in mid-consultation. I had to go through the process of allowing the consultation to be completed, and looking at some of the responses to make sure that I got it right. It would have been irresponsible of me, and probably illegal, simply to take a decision without considering the issue, but I accelerated consideration of that issue post the end of the consultation, because my instinct was that it was the right thing to do.” he makes it clear he doubted the removal of choice before 4th June but just needed to double check before declaring removing client choice was wrong.
If we are to believe the Lord Chancellor then two things arise. Firstly he did not change his mind shortly before his appearance before the Justice Select Committee simply to avoid the embarrassment of having to defend this position but because he realised very early on that denying defendants choice in their legal representation was wrong. Why did he not share this with you? If he had simply been faced with the prospect of an uncomfortable time before the Committee and changed his mind because of this that would be a very feeble u-turn.
Secondly this had not been a statement of principle by him. He was not denying defendants their free choice as a result of an ideological belief that it was wrong. He was not doing it because that was one of the elements of the Legal Aid system that caused the public to doubt its credibility. Denying client choice was not, in itself, something he thought right, it was a sacrifice he was making as a favour to lawyers in order to trade off the cuts for certainty of volume. Compare and contrast this with his recently stated views on the availability of Legal Aid for prisoners.
All of this leads us to one conclusion. He has to go. Well, it has to be either you or him. I know friends are supposed to be able to disagree from time to time. But you are not friends. You’re in Government together. You are bound by collective cabinet responsibility. You have publicly advanced removing client choice as a cause, as being in the public interest. Turns out that was never the case. You still went on to beat that drum after the Lord Chancellor was working with those he trusted to abandon that proposal.
So I am excited by the prospect of your resignation and move to bring a motion of no confidence in the Lord Chancellor. I know you are a man of beliefs. And I don’t mean by that you are a man capable of holding a multiplicity of beliefs. All that changing of political parties must have been because each time you decide on matters of principle you stick to them. So given that both the Deputy Prime Minster AND the Lord Chancellor are opposed to your view I guess another change in party membership is due. UKIP perhaps? Monster Raving Loonies?
I know some lawyers compare his dome-headed, cold-eyed appearance to Lord Voldemort but in this instance perhaps true believers like you, Bob and I should start referring to him as Lord Volte-face, or He-Who-Should-Be-Ashamed. I tell you something else, the Prisoner of Azkaban did not get Legal Aid to complain about the softness of his mattress and nor should the Plumber of Azerbaijan if he hasn’t been here twelve months (if you can’t keep up you either haven’t read enough JK Rowling, a single mum but otherwise really quite acceptable, or you haven’t read the consultation). He performed a u-turn, now is the time for you to send him round the u-bend!
I pledge my support to the cause. I reckon the way forward is an e-petition, some badges and dressing Bob Neill up as a badged badger. All proclaiming your “No to Choice” mantra. We will win. We must win. Our cause is right and just.
Yours, as ever, and with increasing affection,
PS Successive Home Secretaries spent £1.8 million on the legal fight to deport Abu Qatada then achieved it through diplomatic and political means. It really is terrible when clients run litigation isn’t it?
PPS In your motion of no confidence you might want to ask the Lord Chancellor how he is going to deliver PTC without removing choice? And how is he going to make his cuts without guaranteeing volume? And how does he guarantee volume without removing choice?