I blame Thatcher.
In fairness I blame Thatcher for most things. I am of that generation – she snatched our milk and we will not forget such deeds. I am also that way inclined, I possess a left leaning streak that some times manifests itself in outbreaks of Labour voting and always ensures an antipathy to M H Thatcher.
But this bit of Thatcher blaming is quite specific. I blame our former premier for a political mindset that traces its direct lineage back to Maggie. From the moment she uttered the words “the lady is not for turning”, politicians have recoiled in horror at the thought of the dreaded U-Turn like pre Christopher Eccleston Daleks reacted to stairs.
The “U-Turn” has become politician shorthand for weakness and lack of leadership. The odd thing about it is that the deathly accusation of a U-Turn is reserved for things that have previously been put in train. It seems you can promise to do something and then not do it. That is, after all, just a broken promise and why should we hold that against our political classes? You can break promises with impunity but woe betide the politician who performs a U-Turn once they have embarked upon a course of action.
Which is a crying shame because we desperately need the Lord Chancellor to perform a U-Turn. He has demonstrated a willingness to think again. He has demonstrated a willingness to think differently from his predecessor. Suadi prison contract? Ripped-up. Huge Youth Prison? Scrapped. Book ban? Reversed. Criminal Courts Charge? Days are numbered?
A prudent Lord Chancellor would pause the Duty Contract process whilst claims from a whistleblower are investigated. This is absolutely crucial. He cannot look back at this a year from now and realise they have got it wrong.
Yet he seems wedded to TT. Today the contracts have been awarded. We step closer to the precipice. There are so many good reasons why there should be a whopping great big, tyre-smoking, handbrake turn on this one. The consequences of getting this wrong are not capable of retrospective repair. Which is why an intelligent Lord Chancellor should be for turning.
There are so many reasons why this process has to be paused:
- The MoJ have a poor history of procurement (interpreters??);
- This procurement process has already been amended by reason of the JR;
- Questions are now raised as per the whistleblower above;
- This is the same MoJ that were simultaneously entering into disastrous contractual agreements with Saudi Arabia;
- Just about every informed observer raises concerns over the procurement model; and
- The recent consultation on advocacy recognises that quality assurances provisions need to be put in place, sense dictates you do this before altering the market place and in more than just Crown Court advocacy.
There is no prospect of action being taken by those who have been awarded the contracts to derail the process for the greater good. We are left only with the hope that good sense will prevail. It is the only way we have left to turn.