My Vote

The Constituency where I live is a pretty close contest between the LibDems and the Conservatives. It is so close that David Cameron wrote to me to let me know it was one of only 23 seats the Tories had to win in order to form a majority Government (quite why someone with this loose application of maths should be trusted with the economy is another story). It is so close that the LibDems tell me on a daily basis not to vote for anyone but them to stop the Conservatives winning (which I listened to last time, voted LibDem and got a Tory Government AND Lord McNally plus Simon Hughes in the MoJ. Once bitten etc).

Last night the LibDem candidate and last MP for the area did a question and answer thing on Facebook. The Conservative candidate was invited but did not participate (albeit the whole thing was very last minute). Other candidates, including the Labour candidate and one local independent also took part. 

Somewhat predictably I typed in my question about Legal Aid cuts and restrcitions on access to justice. I reminded the candidate that this was something we had corresponded about before. I chose not to remind him that I had warned him PCT would be a disaster – and had been proved right. I did not say “I told you so” over the cuts to Grad Fee and VHCC rates. I just popped up and asked my question. 

Equally predictably this was a question he did not answer. In fairness this was not the only question he did not answer. He answered questions about the NHS, the bedroom tax, a local mosque and taxation. It would seem that access to justice remained low on his political radar. As a consequence he has disappeared off mine. (It would seem that today is a day for parenthesis so here are some more – I must confess that he was beginning to get on my wick anyway with his promotional campaign, as you may have noticed in my previous blog). 

As a footnote I should add the Labour candidate did answer a similar question. He gave a well briefed and cautiously positive response. (More brackets {fancy ones this time too} .He wasn’t the only one to answer, the independent chap did too).

This morning I cast my vote. I do not mind telling you I voted Labour. He is not going to win in my constituency but I cannot bring myself to vote for either LibDem nor Conservative. And this is the thing – I do not understand how any lawyer can. Grayling, backed time and time again by McNally and Hughes, is riding a coach and horses through fundamental rights. I don’t care what political hue you are, if you are a lawyer you must see the damage that is being done to justice, and therefore society, by the coalition. I mean, even Vincent Cable has woken up to the damage that the increase in Employment Tribuanl Fees has done and he is in the Cabinet! 

If you are a lawyer undertaking publicly funded work you cannot possibly cast one vote for either coalition party. And not just because your Bank Manager tells you that you cannot. But because you will see the way in which Conservative and LibDem policies have targeted the most vulnerable. Austerity is a heavy burden to cast on the poor and the desparate. Power is a mighty weapon when wielded in way to denude the citizen of redress through the courts. 

And if you are a criminal lawyer you would need your head feelin’ if you voted for either of these two parties at this election. The Legal Aid system teeters at the brink of disaster. Unsustainable cuts hang over the profession. The legal landscape is about to be irrevocably changed by a Government and bureaucrats chasing a pound of flesh we just do not have. And the CJS? The Conservatives and the LibDems have already brought the CJS to its knees. This has been an assault that has seen both greater harm and high culpability. Another five years of this would be a shod foot to the head of the already unconcious, defenceless CJS.  

So, you lawyers out there, still to vote – how could you make any decision that votes for either of these parties? No matter what the tactical situation in your constituency, this is a vote that has to be personal and single issue. The law is a calling, a vocation. Be true to what the law is designed to protect. Be true to justice. 

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