Tag Archives: diual contracts

When is a Vote not a Vote?

Last night a group of barristers had a monumental decision to make. I refer not to the CBA but to myself, Mrs VFTN and our friends, all of us criminal barristers. We had to choose accommodation for our holiday. We had a number of options. We discussed the pros and cons. We then had a vote. We adopted a preferential voting system and all agreed to be bound by the result. And hey presto! A decision was reached. 

At about the same time the CBA Exec met. The result of that meeting is captured in a message which you can read here. The upshot is that the current CBA position is that they will not be calling for any direct action from the Bar at the present moment in time and they believe work can be done with the Government that puts the Bar, and the public, in a good position. 

I say “hmmmmmmm”.

I actually said a lot more. But “hmmmmmmm” sums it up in a way that seems more reasonable and even handed (and slightly less David Cameron down with the kids) than “WTF!”

For the time being I am going to leave to one side what “hmmmmm” says about the wisdom of putting all our eggs into the wisdom basket of the MoJ. I don’t necessarily blame my baldness on being patted on the head by wise and cool coves who tell me that the news from the Ministry is encouraging but it has happened often enough for it to be a contributory factor. And it has certainly happened more often than the actions of the Ministry being encouraging. 

No, my “hmmmmm” is mainly expressed as a surprise at what it says about democracy. I am a real stickler for it. That was why, despite my personal opposition to “the deal”, once the membership had voted that was the end of that episode. 

So I am little confused. You see back in May the Bar were asked this question;

Would you support action, ‘No returns’ and ‘Days of Action’ if the new government decides to proceed with the Duty Provider Scheme, reducing the number of solicitor providers by at least two thirds? 

The response was overwhelmingly in favour. You will note that the question was not predicated on the positions adopted by solicitors. This was the Bar’s response to Dual Contracts and the threat it posed to us. And our willingness to take action to change proposals that we viewed as damaging to the Bar. Not “will you strike if they strike?”. 

The response was communicated to the world in a press release which included these words;

“The Criminal Bar Association has conducted a survey of its members in order to gauge better the depth of concern amongst the profession about the Government’s proposals for the Dual Provider Scheme. The response for such a survey was unprecedented and 96% of those who responded have urged the CBA to take action to press the Government to think again. 

I make, if I may, three observations. The first is this – the Government must really quake in their boots now at the thought of the power of the Criminal Bar. We roar like lions and act like mice. The second is this – I do not see in today’s message the route that we have travelled from the membership urging the CBA to take action to the exec ignoring their urgings. The third is this – hmmmmmm.

When is a democratic decision not a decision? Well I guess the answer is when a vote is a survey. 

So I am not going to worry my pretty little bald head over such things as my future, the future of the professions and the future of the Justice system. I am going to leave it to those who know best and the man who wreaked havoc in Education. 

So this morning I have booked the villa. When I say “the villa”, I in fact mean the villa I wanted to go to. Yes that wasn’t the villa we chose last night, but that was only a “survey”. And what are my friends going to do about it? Not be my friend any more? Who needs friends anyway, when you have a lovely big empty villa to enjoy all on your own?