History teaches us many lessons. Do not invade Russia in the winter. Never invade Afghanistan. Do not marry Henry VIII. Turn the television off before an English side start the penalty shoot-out.
When it comes to “bar politics” we should not be slow to learn the lessons of recent history. And we have been here before. The Government poised to make cuts, the legal profession up in arms. We have had revisions to fee schemes, cuts to graduated fees and cuts to VHCCs. We have had defence cuts, prosecution cuts then defence cuts based on the prosecution cuts.
So what has happened before when we have been in a state of such revolt? We have failed to act with unity. We have either been talked down by wise heads who think there is a different way or we have been defeated by a failure to act with common purpose. I am afraid the wise heads have always been wrong. It is because we have never taken action before that we find ourselves in such a desperate fight for our very future.
What has been remarkable so far is that the leadership of the CBA have taken their cue from the rank and file. First Turner and now Lithman have recognised the need and the desire for direct action. Cross has been elected to his post on that very ticket. The CBA national delegates rally gave the opportunity for each chambers to be represented and have their say. We spoke. The CBA listened. There was a clear mandate for immediate and direct action.
So I am afraid the wise heads will have to keep their counsel. There is obvious room for discussion but the greater imperative is that once action is declared we all get behind it. Some may think that a proposed action has its flaws. Put it to the back of your mind and get behind the action. Some may think that what is being done is too little. Have your say, make your views known but then put it to the back of your mind and get behind the action. Some may be concerned about taking action. Put it to the back of your mind and join the fight.
Many people will have reservations based on protecting the most junior. This fight is all about protecting the future for those individuals. It is impossible to devise some form of direct action which creates problems for the system that does not also create difficulties for practitioners. Those difficulties are nothing compared to not existing any more. Let me share with you the views of a member of the bar of less than ten years call;
“I want a mortgage, I want a pension and if someone is daft enough to have children with me, I want to be able to provide for a family. Strictly speaking I suppose these are “selfish” aims but it’s only the same as what most aspire to. With the new fees, I will be renting for the rest of my life and will be retiring the day before I die.
I actually care quite a lot about having a fair justice system and I also care about my future. Going to a meeting on a Saturday will say nothing to this government. Waiting until the fees come in and then refusing to work, will firstly be too late…and will lead to my bankruptcy.”
One thing that everyone can agree is that if we do not fight, we cannot win. And surely we can all see that action has to be unified. I am certain that the majority, democratic view is to take such action. Any sign of disunity, any sign of reluctance will hand the initiative to the MoJ straight away. If we stand firm, if we stand together, we can make history boys and girls. And in making history we can protect our future.