Tag Archives: McNally

A Third Letter to Lord McNally

Dear T-Mac (I have decided you are now worthy of a soubriquet which is down with the kids, feel free to reply to Biggie-G),

So much water has passed under the bridge since last I wrote. Things have gone so Peter Tong (as the kids say) since our last interaction I am not in the least surprised that you have not had the time to respond. And I should imagine that you are spending so much time reviewing who should remain in your Linked-In profile that I can understand that you have not yet had the opportunity of adding me to your network.

I should imagine one easy choice was pressing the “delete” option for that turncoat Grayling. Such a quisling. It would seem that in the last 7 days he has been everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE, declaring that he isn’t anti-choice after all. And not only has he been saying he isn’t anti choice he has been saying that he wasn’t ideologically bound to a removal of choice. It was, apparently, only a means to an end. And, furthermore, he realised very soon in to the consultation process that he had got the whole choice thing wrong and that his instinct told him that it was wrong. It is just a pity his instinct didn’t share that with you. Or that other pedagogue of jurisprudence, Bob Neill.

If, for one moment, the Lord Chancellor had shared with you his doubts about restricting choice there is no way you would have, and pardon the expression, bared your arse on Law in Action with “No To Choice” tattooed across your buttocks.

When you appeared as part of the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Question Time you made it clear where your beliefs lie “The idea that a 20 year career criminal should have a brief of his choice is not right.” That was a plain and unequivocal statement of your belief. You state categorically that it is not right.

So when Chris Grayling wrote to Sir Alan Beith and said “One specific point in the consultation which has attracted significant response is the proposal to remove client choice in the model for competition for criminal litigation. The rationale for proposing this change was to give greater certainty of case volume for provides, making it easier and more predictable for them to organise their business to provide the most cost-effective service to the taxpayer – it is not a policy objective in its own right,” that could not be a clearer statement in contradiction to your beliefs.

What a pickle you find yourself in. It would seem the Lord Chancellor changed his mind very early on in the life of the consultation that your view on client choice was contrary to a fundamental aspect of the effective administration of the Legal Aid system. The consultation closed on 4th June and yet on the 11th June (Law in Action) and the 20th June (Legal Aid Question Time) you were expressing your deeply held principles about how wrong client choice truly is. So how early was the change of heart by the Lord Chancellor? One week? Two weeks? If he announces it in a letter dated 1st July then you would have thought he had made his mind up well before you were announcing your, clearly independent, view.

If we are left in any doubt when he appeared before the Justice Committee and said “I actually decided this a little while back, but you cannot make changes in mid-consultation. I had to go through the process of allowing the consultation to be completed, and looking at some of the responses to make sure that I got it right. It would have been irresponsible of me, and probably illegal, simply to take a decision without considering the issue, but I accelerated consideration of that issue post the end of the consultation, because my instinct was that it was the right thing to do.” he makes it clear he doubted the removal of choice before 4th June but just needed to double check before declaring removing client choice was wrong.

If we are to believe the Lord Chancellor then two things arise. Firstly he did not change his mind shortly before his appearance before the Justice Select Committee simply to avoid the embarrassment of having to defend this position but because he realised very early on that denying defendants choice in their legal representation was wrong. Why did he not share this with you? If he had simply been faced with the prospect of an uncomfortable time before the Committee and changed his mind because of this that would be a very feeble u-turn.

Secondly this had not been a statement of principle by him. He was not denying defendants their free choice as a result of an ideological belief that it was wrong. He was not doing it because that was one of the elements of the Legal Aid system that caused the public to doubt its credibility. Denying client choice was not, in itself, something he thought right, it was a sacrifice he was making as a favour to lawyers in order to trade off the cuts for certainty of volume. Compare and contrast this with his recently stated views on the availability of Legal Aid for prisoners.

All of this leads us to one conclusion. He has to go. Well, it has to be either you or him. I know friends are supposed to be able to disagree from time to time. But you are not friends. You’re in Government together. You are bound by collective cabinet responsibility. You have publicly advanced removing client choice as a cause, as being in the public interest. Turns out that was never the case. You still went on to beat that drum after the Lord Chancellor was working with those he trusted to abandon that proposal.

So I am excited by the prospect of your resignation and move to bring a motion of no confidence in the Lord Chancellor. I know you are a man of beliefs. And I don’t mean by that you are a man capable of holding a multiplicity of beliefs. All that changing of political parties must have been because each time you decide on matters of principle you stick to them. So given that both the Deputy Prime Minster AND the Lord Chancellor are opposed to your view I guess another change in party membership is due. UKIP perhaps? Monster Raving Loonies?

I know some lawyers compare his dome-headed, cold-eyed appearance to Lord Voldemort but in this instance perhaps true believers like you, Bob and I should start referring to him as Lord Volte-face, or He-Who-Should-Be-Ashamed. I tell you something else, the Prisoner of Azkaban did not get Legal Aid to complain about the softness of his mattress and nor should the Plumber of Azerbaijan if he hasn’t been here twelve months (if you can’t keep up you either haven’t read enough JK Rowling, a single mum but otherwise really quite acceptable, or you haven’t read the consultation). He performed a u-turn, now is the time for you to send him round the u-bend!

I pledge my support to the cause. I reckon the way forward is an e-petition, some badges and dressing Bob Neill up as a badged badger. All proclaiming your “No to Choice” mantra. We will win. We must win. Our cause is right and just.

Yours, as ever, and with increasing affection,

The Gardener.

PS Successive Home Secretaries spent £1.8 million on the legal fight to deport Abu Qatada then achieved it through diplomatic and political means. It really is terrible when clients run litigation isn’t it?

PPS In your motion of no confidence you might want to ask the Lord Chancellor how he is going to deliver PTC without removing choice? And how is he going to make his cuts without guaranteeing volume? And how does he guarantee volume without removing choice?

For a look inside the mind of Lord Volte-face read my Iolanthe blogs. You can also read the first letter and the second letter to our hero.

A Letter to Lord McNally

With apologies to the Intrigant. A pale imitation of your correspondence. Never had an original idea myself, that’s why I am a lawyer.

Dear Lord McNally,

I write to you today to offer my unconditional support to you. We have all had our hearts warmed by the Intrigant Letters (as history will record the totality of the support for our beloved Lord Chancellor at this time). We all know that when you told Joshua Rozenberg that “of course the Lord Chancellor had received some support” you were referring to the good sense and kind words shown to him by that worthy correspondent.

However behind every great man is a great Lord. How often do the public fail to recognise the genius of the right hand man? People fall over themselves to worship George Michael but where would he be without Andrew Ridgley? We marvel at the intellect of Shelock Holmes but ignore the contribution of Dr Watson. So this is my paean to you, the power behind the throne.

It has long been my intention to write to you ever since you robustly rejected the vogue-ish movement to have Alan Turing pardoned in relation to his conviction for homosexuality two years before his suicide. At that time you said,

“A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted. It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.”

It was a true believer in the rule of law who would resist calls to recognise the contribution made to the war effort by a great intellect who also happened to be homosexual. It was entirely right that, notwithstanding calls for the Government to give a free pardon to a man prosecuted for his sexuality who was barbarically chemically castrated as a result, you should recognise that your hands were tied by precedent. You may not be a lawyer but you know how law should always be followed, no matter how unfortunate the consequence.

All of that does bring me to the rather delicate issue of choice and LASPOA where section 27(4) states,

“An individual who qualifies under this Part for representation for the purposes of criminal proceedings by virtue of a determination under section 16 may select any representative or representatives willing to act for the individual…”

I must confess this had me worried. How would you get round what your new law said when it came to your next not-quite-law-because-that-would-require-the-assent-of-parliament? But I should never have doubted you. I should have known that a man that started out as a Fabian, was elected as a Labour MP, defected to the SDP, joined the Liberals and then became a minister to a Tory-led coalition Government would not allow a tiny little law to stand in his way. Where others seek to make virtue out of commitment to an ideal, you show the true path that expediency is the key to political success.

The vague policy that prohibited a pardon for the man considered the father of computer science may have been insurmountable but you demonstrate that section 27(4) is less of a stumbling block when you made it clear that PCT would still allow the criminals to choose a barrister. A master stroke! Hopefully nobody will notice that the majority of cases will be dealt with at the magistrates court with no separate fee for advocacy and the slim likelihood of a barrister being instructed there. It would take some one mean spirited to suggest on the one hand that Chris Grayling’s portrayal of criminals as being no connoisseurs of legal services would suggest on the other that they may not even know that they could have a barrister in the Crown Court. I bet, like me, you wish Chris could be a little more “on message” at times – which is why you are so wise to keep him out of the spotlight at this delicate time. Let him do the vulnerable witness stuff whilst you handle these administrative changes.

Your stance on choice would make Henry Ford proud, “you can have any colour, as long as its black”. You can make the public realise they can have any lawyer as long as it is the one you choose for them.

For a moment I was confused about your appearance on “Law in Action” when you described the response of the professions to the consultation as “hysterical”. I confess that, despite my admiration for his zeal in creating a new Legal Aid order, the Grayling/Downfall videos that had been popping up on the Internet had made me chuckle. It surprised me that you agreed with this.

On reflection I realised you meant a different type of “hysterical”. I should have realised you we’re being pejorative, after all we are talking about lawyers here. After all their bleatings about choice, quality and driving talent away from the profession you have always met it with a straight bat, a casual “that is a worse case scenario that I don’t recognise” line. You are right not to pander to them. They are just trying to win over the public with their concept of “justice”.

It is not as if you have tried to deflect public attention away from issues surrounding civil liberties and the acknowledged altering of quality by planting misleading information in the press. I am sure the headline figures of the monstrous earnings of a Legal Aid civil firm popped up in an article about criminal Legal Aid by accident. I am sure that you consistently brief journalists how about much has already been contributed to the deficit reduction by the cuts already imposed on the advocates. I bet this morning you were on the phone to Quentin Letts telling him that describing the “£200 per hour” lawyers at the JSC was the sort of misleading information that could whip up hysteria in this area where you would only welcome reasoned debate.

It would appear that the lawyers’ hysteria is working. I know lawyers are constantly persuading judges about stuff, you had the nous to warn Grayling they were a tough opposition, but they have only just gone and persuaded the Council of Circuit Judges that they are right about choice and quality. Bastards. And then those pesky Treasury Counsel. Whipping up hysteria with their well reasoned concerns. They are meant to be on our side! Treasury Counsel? More like Treachery Counsel! (feel free to use that one to lift Chris’ spirits in the bunker).

That blessed e-petition has been cranking up too. It is now mass hysteria. The only sane ones left are you and Chris. Don’t listen to those who have experience in such matters, their experience just leads to self interest. Do not listen to the public, they are no connoisseurs of civil liberties. Just plough straight ahead with your plans and hopefully Chris will take you with him when he moves to a big job.

You are bang on the money when you said that you did not want your taxes to be spent on the 20 year career criminal having his choice of regular brief. Neither do I. The robbing scum bag. I mean 20 year career criminals are never innocent are they? Not totally. They are, after all, criminals. I appreciate that this is a discussion document so I am sure you have some whizzo ideas about how we can make sure that a nice taxpayer still gets the choice of a decent lawyer. Oh, and the innocent. And the Liberal part of me (like you, I am a man of many parts) would quite like it if the vulnerable could have access to a lawyer who understands their needs. I am sure we can do all that without creating a two tier system can’t we? After all when addressing lawyers in St Petersburg you told them “every citizen must be fairly and equally treated before the law”. Now I appreciate that you were on a junket about trade there but it sounds good doesn’t it? We just need to make sure we treat criminals less equal than nice people.

Anyway, must go now. I have another letter to fire off to Bob Neill. You and Chris must just keep looking everyone in the eye and saying “we are right”. I hope you are making good progress through the consultation responses. You don’t have much time until you have to announce how wrong they are. Probably best if you and Chris give the Internet a wide berth for a while. It may distract you. Oh and that chap Turner. Don’t talk to him. And you might want to add McGowan and Scott-Moncrief to the banned list too.

Yours, in total wonderment,

The Gardener.

PS I think Hague’s strop with you was unfair. It wasn’t your fault there was a spelling mistake on the posters advertising the benefits of a custodial sentence. How were you to know that the slogan “Prism Works” would be so controversial? Thank God they didn’t hit the streets *embarrassed face*

Find the second letter to Lord McNally here.