A Christmas Carol
Stave Five – The End of It
Dear Reader, A Christmas Carol is a tale of redemption so beautifully told by Charles Dickens. The final stave of the Carol sees Scrooge importune a street urchin (and all you lawyers can put that kind of importuning out of your mind) to buy a huge turkey and then visits his family with joy in his heart. Upon his return to work he is a new man.
So the final stave of this pale imitation could have seen Ebeneezer Grayling visit his Junior Official with seasonal cheer. He could sit down with the wife of his aide and discuss with her the travails of working at the coal face. He could instruct his staff to cancel the changes and the cuts and instead order that a proper examination of the criminal justice system be undertaken. He could realise that the appropriate starting point is proper remuneration for the work undertaken. He could have behaved exactly the way someone should behave when they have learnt some valuable lessons.
Would he learn these lessons? Scrooge was a man moulded by events in his life. He lost the essence of joy. He lost the meaning of family. However there was still space in his heart for the Spirits to sow the seeds for their re-emergence. He was just a man that needed pointing in the right direction.
The difficulty with the main character in this version of A Christmas Carol is that he is not just a man. He is a politician. Not only does politics allow greatness to flourish it also allows defects to magnify. That is never more true than when the politician is ambitious. And not just a decent degree of personal ambition but a visceral, all consuming appetite for power.
Something which is beyond the influence of supernatural visitations is the modern career politician. Back in the day of Hailsham or Elwyn-Jones The Lord Chancellor was a lawyer of considerable experience who became a politician. In many ways the modern career path of the politician – student politics to party politics via a brief sojourn in PR or a role in “Head Office” – is least suited to filling the role of Lord Chancellor.
Other officers of state are responsible for a “thing”, Health, Defence, Business, Education et cetera. The Lord Chancellor is there to upheld a concept, an ideal – justice. Due to the importance and enormity of his responsibility it is not a job in which he is the departmental head in control of a budget. He sets the tone for democracy. Which is why visits by three Spirits with hamfisted attempts at showing him the error of his ways bears little prospect of success.
The present Lord Chancellor will not heed a lesson that requires him to accept that, in terms of justice, value to the taxpayer should be calculated by the quality of the system that is there to prosecute the case when they are the victim or provides them with representation when they stand accused. Justice is not a business and cannot be governed by economic principles.
So I am afraid this Christmas Carol is not concluded with a cheery scene to warm you on a cold December night. I return to the original version. Dickens writes in his final paragraphs;
“some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”
I doubt that the present Lord Chancellor would ever allow the world to laugh at him because he had the strength to change his mind. But this would not be a U-turn, this would be a wise man changing path. If he fears laughter then the only prospect of him making the wise choice is because he fears he is being laughed at because people are coming to realise that he presides over a crumbling system. The only way to achieve this before it is too late is by Direct Action.
Unless anyone does have a direct line to three time travelling ghosts…..