The Westhoughton Question

Deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Justice this conversation has not happened, it is completely imagined….

A young civil servant bursts into The Lord Chancellor’s office. He clearly has news….

Civil Servant Minister, I have news. (see I told you he had news) The Northern Circuit has just voted in favour of independence.

Lord Chancellor What are you talking about?

CS The lawyers. Up North. They have voted to go independent. They want to break away from the MoJ, the LAA, the lot.

LC I’m sorry?

CS They reckon they have had enough of decisions being taken in Westminster and the Temple that impact upon them. They began the “Bugger Off” Campaign.

LC What makes them so special? Anyone would have thought that the Trade Union movement and Socialism had its roots up there.

CS Err, it kind of does. They have always been a bit, well, awkward. And the lawyers are no different. What with their “No To QASA” meetings and badges.

LC We’ll judicially review it….

CS I’m not sure we can.

LC Why not? I always have my decisions overturned by it.

CS I think you need grounds. Like lack of consultation. And it looks like they consulted a lot before they made their mind up. They consulted, they revealed all the evidence and they voted. Fairly.

LC That sounds a bit….. amateurish. Much safer to make your mind up first.

CS Well they have consulted and they have decided they want to go it alone.

LC How do they think they can survive without us? What have they contributed to the legal scene?

CS Leveson.

LC What’s that?

CS Lord Justice Leveson

LC What about him?

CS He came from up that way. The North.

LC Well okay, other than Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division and famed for the press thingy, other than him, what have the North ever contributed to the legal scene?

CS Mr Justice Edis. He prosecuted the phone hacking case. You’ve just appointed him to the High Court Bench.

LC Okay, other than Lord Leveson and this Edis fella who prosecuted one big-ish case, what has the North contributed to the legal wealth of this country?

CSMr Justice Henriques, retired now. He prosecuted Shipman and was the Judge in some pretty big trials.

LC Okay. Stop. I get it. I’ll just say they seem like a pretty sexist lot up there with all there Mr Justice this and their Lord Justice that…

CS Well they also produced Dame Janet Smith who did the Shipman Enquiry and then, if you think about it, there was Rose Heilbron who was one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel in England, the first woman to lead in a murder case, the first woman Recorder, the first woman judge to sit at the Old Bailey and was also the second woman ever to be appointed a High Court judge….

LC Other than a few Judges what have the Northerners ever done for us?

CS Viaducts.

LC Sorry?

CS Viaducts. They have good viaducts up there. I suppose you could say that was actually the Romans…..

LC You’re not helping now. I’ll have to send Jeremy to sort them out. He is from up that way.

CS Jeremy?

LC You know, the new A-G. He’s from the North.

CS He is from the Midlands, isn’t he? I am not sure that counts as the North to Northerners…

LC I’ll send Buckland then. He has an accent.

CS He’s Welsh….

LC Is he? But he’s in Parliament here. With me. In England.

CS And?

LC And he’s foreign.

CS I am not sure that is going to placate them.

LC Right, make them all Judges.

CS What?!?

LC (The Lord Chancellor enunciates his words slowly and deliberately) Offer… to… make… them… Judges. It usually works to quell trouble.

CS There is over a thousand of them. A thousand members of the “Bugger Off” Campaign. And you want to make them all Judges?

LC Well maybe Judges of the First Tribunal Tier or Parking Adjudicator. Anything. With a pension. They love a pension.

CS Well it turns out that it isn’t just the North….

LC What else is there?

CS Well this morning, outside Newcastle Crown Court, there was a horde of barristers, with woad on their faces and one was giving this speech, “dying in your bed many years from now,” he was shouting at the collected lawyers, “would you be willing to trade all the briefs from this day for one chance to stand here as middle aged hacks and tell our enemies that they may take our uncontested divorces but they will never take our red corners!”.

LC That bloody Ian West….

CS But what are we going to do?

LC Make them a lot of promises. Of stuff that we can’t do until after the election. Then either we will have lost the election and it will be someone else’s problem or I’ll be in the Home Office and it’ll be someone else’s problem.

CS Yes Lord Chancellor.

LC The last thing I want to see is an independent Bar….

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