Some of us moderate pro Europeans are feeling marginalised and out shouted by a mad cult of Tory seperatists

9 Jun 2015 at 12:15

Sometimes I despair at the hopelessness of the Number 10 operation. Will someone please explain what on earth the policy is in relation to whether ministers are allowed to campaign for a British exit from the EU. How on earth can anyone of sound mind believe that a vote on Europe is a matter of conscience? Abortion is, so is the death penalty and also euthanasia and same sex marriage. I have no doubt that David Cameron will secure a saleable renegotiation to put to the people. Membership is not some wishy washy philosophical wet dream, it is central to economic policy. So when Cameron returns with what he believes is a good deal for the country it becomes government policy supported by the Treasury and the Department of business and innovation. He will be asking the country to back his judgement and his policy. If ministers cannot feel able to back him and government policy it clearly indicates that they have no confidence in him or government policy. They have two options. Hold their noses and stick it out or resign and campaign against their Prime Minister and their government. As a matter of logic it would be insane, politically inept and generally incompetent to let them remain as ministers. The precedent to be set is quite breathtaking. Say a minister has a serious problem with the July budget. He has a choice to remain and support it or resign and speak and vote against it. He can’t remain as a minister and vote against it. I would have thought it was pretty bloody obvious. But what do I know?

It is a total waste of time giving ground to the EU haters, who also tend to be Cameron haters. John Major learnt the very hard way that they don’t believe in compromise only complete and utter ruthless victory.

Those of us who are moderates and believe that a reformed EU is crucial to jobs and prosperity are beginning to feel marginalised. To we have to ape the Amish wing by shouting and threatening before we are heard? Who is actually going to speak up for Europe. The opinion polls are very clear at the moment that the overwhelming majority and are not seduced by our exit. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to listen to the people and not a cult of manic backbenchers? Have we learned absolutely nothing since 1997?

And now Boris backs a free vote. What a surprise. No passing bandwagon is safe from his size elevens. For God’s sake isn’t there a very clear message here? This is one of the few occasions when rebels should be faced down. Dealing with Eurosceptics is like throwing babies to crocodiles. Their hunger is insatiable. They will always want another. Time for some cojones.



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The Rampton wing of the Tory party are failing to take their medication with the inevitable results

7 Jun 2015 at 16:09

Oh dear, the Rampton Wing of the Tory Party haven’t been taking their medication again, with the inevitable consequences of carpet biting, howling at the moon, frothing at the mouth and causing mischief on the media This weekend we are rather spoilt for choice. John Redwood was booed by the Kippers because he had the temerity to give David Cameron a chance to renegotiate with Brussels. Which was ironic, because apart the threat of a thermo nuclear detonation at the Commission and the public flogging of Junker, nothing else will persuade him to vote YES. I have always been intrigued by John, personally he is a very pleasant guy, and he has the brain the size of a melon, but he becomes alarmingly Turettes when it comes to the EU. Then there was Monty at the Times, another fellow hell bent on cutting them lose. I wonder how long he can stay at the paper now that Murdoch wants to remain. I smell a job at the Express. I imagine he was the ‘mini revolt of senior executives’ at the Times. And then there was Monty’s confrere O’Patz. They both used to work for IDS so they are fairly high on the Glasgow scale. Badger Boy wrote 700 words of hyperbollocks in the MOS today on ‘why we MUSTN’T let No 10 fix this vital vote’. He is of the view that ‘the British state is in cahoots with the Brussels machine’. So, in the O’Patz view the government has to shut down as soon as the referendum is announced and his mob can flood the airwaves with dodgy information.

From the right this is not so much as a campaign as a cry for help. At the moment the opinion polls are stacked against them. Talk about a whine lake. They are even divided as who leads their campaign. Farage, like a fart in a lift, just won’t go away. And they desperately want to marginalise him. Not a hope.

And the latest piece of nonsense is that ministers should stand aside and vote with (snork) their consciences. The vote cannot be a matter of conscience as it is a matter of government policy. When Cameron comes back with proposals they will be agreed by cabinet. Anyone who is unable to do so will have to leave government. The difference between now and 1975 is that then it was a straightforward vote; remain or go. There were no renegotiations then. There are now.

And now we hear that 50 Tory MPs will vote no. Or so they say. When jobs and investment are at risk in their constituencies they may be singing from another hymn sheet.

There will be plenty of time to argue the details in the next few weeks. But for those who continually argue that our salvation lies with EFTA, where we could have the benefits of the single market without the problems of being a members of the EU. Disneyland. The Norwegian minister for Europe made it quite clear that being a member of EFTA may allow you to be a member of the single market but gives you no power to change the rules. A bit like having no legs and enrolling for an arse kicking competition.



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Why is BT so bloody awful?

6 Jun 2015 at 10:58

Just why is BT so bloody awful? We have been without a properly functioning internet for over a week. My wife works from home and I broadcast from home. An Internet that works properly is therefore fundamental. Now for the boring stuff. Eventually an engineer came to the conclusion that the problem is the home hub. We rang on Thursday and were promised that one would be ordered and would arrive in two days. Oh, and they would ring us today between 10:30 and 11am about compensation. Well they tried to contact us, but on the line purely dedicated to the Internet, so shock, horror they never got through. I have just come off the phone from some technical bod from India. He was charming and helpful. ‘Ah, you need a new home hub!!’ Get away. ’ I will order you one’. But, hang on one has been ordered and should be arriving today. ‘No record of that sir. I will speed this up. However, this is the weekend and so it it can’t be processed until Monday. Your hub will then take two to three days to arrive’.

Now, I am paying a small fortune for this crap service. Last night the BBC sent a car and a producer to take me to the Cambridge studio so I could perform on Nolan. I usually do it from home. I can survive with my IPAD on 4G ( well, it’s 3G in my village), but Ali can’t work as she is on Skype. I have a horrible, sinking feeling that I will be writing a similar piece next Saturday. I suspect that there are hundreds of cases like this and flotillas of small businesses losing money and custom. I am feeling very Munchian.



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Fairwell old Friend. Your son will be very, very proud of you

2 Jun 2015 at 09:45

All politicians, no matter how loathed, are publicly loved after death. Usually through gritted teeth. Charlie Kennedy was different. He was loved during his lifetime in an environment which can be brutal, hypocritical, malign and utterly ruthless. To say he was without enemies would be a lie. But they were few and far between. The reason? He had no side to him. He was as charming and decent in private as he was in public. He was not the sort of fellow who at the age of fifteen wanted to be Prime Minister. And not the sort of greasy little chancer which seems to infest political life, whose eyes are only for the main chance, with an insatiable ambition to climb the greasy pole over the bodies that he or his cronies had murdered. For a leader of a political party he was surprisingly without ambition. I remember over a gin or five he confessed that he did not want to be leader of the Lib Dems when Paddy stood down but felt he was expected to. I believed him.

His gift was normality. Not the ghastly ‘speaking human’ that spin doctors paste onto the charmless and the dull. Charlie was human. He didn’t look at politics through the prism of an ideology. He had the gift of reaching out and connecting to people whom politics was of no interest, but living a life was. He didn’t have to pretend to be a man of the people by faking to be fanatical about football. In fact, when we used to do our weekly LBC radio show with Ken Livingstone and Michael Parkinson we all used to stun Parky that none of us were in the slightest bit interested in sport. He never understood it. We used to have some great lunches with Parky which would finish at about 7pm. Once he had wheedled out of Charlie his desire for a well known actress at the time. He invited her to join us. Sadly, he had just come from a meeting from her gynaecologist and she relayed the gruesome details. Charlie’s ardour was dampened. They never met again.

When Parky went the wonderfully fun Simon Bates took the chair. One evening we had all been out on the piss and we’re still out of it reeking of booze on air the next day. It was wonderful, surreal radio with Charlie ending up feeding lettuce to Ken Livingstone’s tortoise.

Then there was the Anglia TV Christmas Quiz. Charlie used to be hilarious as did John Gummer. One evening we were nearly all thrown out of a restaurant due to boisterous joke telling. And that was the point. Charlie was fun. He could also be quite mischievous. One morning over a drink he damned dear old Paddy with faint praise. ‘Paddy is a remarkable man. Everyday before breakfast he thinks of five new ideas. Unfortunately they all concern the Internet.’

So cheerio old friend. Thank you for your kindness, your fun, your compassion and your company. Your young son Donald, will be very, very proud of you.


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While Liz Kendall could be the Joan the Baptist for Hunt the Age of OSBO is dawning

30 May 2015 at 13:11

If an old hack like me is bored senseless with Labour’s leadership campaign I would imagine that the public are oblivious to it. What is so depressing is the sheer mind numbing banality of it all. Yvette no longer dresses like a nun on holiday, has had personality training and her newly modulated vowels suggests that she attends sessions of Speech Therapists Anonymous. But what does she stand for? Well, she hasn’t been told by the focus groups yet, so she is going to listen, unify, learn lessons and connect. Oh, and provide free child care for all. Or is this just an aspiration? A word that seems like so much in life to mystify Prescott, who probably thinks that he should take a couple of aspirants to clear a headache. But no matter how worthy she is (and you can’t get much more worthy than Yvette whose emotions run the whole gamut of A to B) she has one obvious, toe curling, toxic impediment to victory in her husband whose political ectoplasm will haunt the party for many years to come. Even Ed’s former PPS Andrew Gwynne is a Burnham man which speaks volumes for her chances.

And what about Andy? A sort of fading matinee idol of the left. Once so fluffy and adorable that to slag him off would have been like strangling the Andrex puppy. But during the election he transformed from Labrador to attack dog. A more dishonest and wicked campaign about the NHS that it has ever been my misfortune to witness. He is now settled into the comforting role of Red Len’s lap dog; probably a Shitzu. Dear old Len, an old Tankie preserved not so much in aspic as bitterness envy and bile. When will Andy realise that it is not attractive to the public to be supported by a guy who publicly applauds the government of North Korea. Did I really read that Burnham had actually said that he loves entrepreneurs as much as nurses? If so,his browsing habits will give MI5 hours of amusement. If he wins that really will be the end of Labour. The Blairites (or rather the people who are interested in getting elected) may drift away perhaps to a newly invigorated Liberal Democrat Party. Under Tim Farron? Er, no. Tim is am old fashioned Liberal. Perhaps the orange bookers will form an alliance with the Labour right. Who knows? Who cares?

So what about Liz Kendall? Whereas the other candidates have more baggage than a Heathrow carousel, Liz comes over as fresh and interesting. She may not win an election, but she could be the Joan the Baptist for Tristram Hunt. I really don’t know too much about her, but when I popped into the Strangers bar the other day I bumped into a few cynical old hacks who had seen her perform at the Press Gallery lunch and were pleasantly surprised. At least she wants to win an election. At least she is beginning to come round to the idea that the Labour election campaign was wacky bollocks. I would have thought that the unions would have destroyed her by now. Are they biding their time or do they want her in the field to give Burnham legitimacy at his coronation? It’s a risky strategy because momentum, sheer curiosity and a break with the past could be rather attractive.

To win a leadership election you have to distil in a simple way what the electorate want to hear and persuade backbenchers that you are their best hope of keeping them on the gravy train. Then you have to make a calculation of how much shit the nutters in your party are prepared to eat for a win.

But while Labour rips itself apart Cameron has to secure his legacy which is a smooth transfer of power to George Osborne. Talk about a comeback kid. When he was Shadow Chancellor he was pilloried for being lightweight. His own backbenchers conspired against him and the Tory press gleefully reprinted a collective view (well, of few guys in a bar) that he should be replaced by Ken Clarke. Lesser leaders would have panicked and sidelined him. To his credit Cameron did precisely the opposite. They shared an office so that there could be no doubt that his people were not briefing against him. There is genuine trust between these two. There is an important lesson here which prospective leaders should note. If you fall out with your chancellor over policy it is the beginning of the end for both of you. And then there was steadfast devotion the the economic plan. How Labour laughed. Economists queued up to denounce it, whilst teenage scribblers mocked and urged for a plan B. Even the IMF slagged it off. Lesser men would have considered a U turn which would have been temporarily popular but in the long term disastrous. Even after the omnishambles budget he stuck to the plan. And he was proved right.

The one policy which will be a defining moment in his Chancellorship was the Northern Powerhouse. This is the most outrageous piece of political cross dressing in many years. This should have been a Labour policy. They were totally blind sided. And when it came to giving Manchester the health and care budgets to manage Burnham was so rattled that he condemned it. Utter madness. Now former Commons veteran Tony Lloyd is acting as the transitional Mayor and will be rolling out a Conservative policy which should really have been owned by Labour.

I may be wrong but I wouldn’t be surprised if the July budget parks austerity and replaces it with optimism. Because tax revenues are picking up he will have far more wiggle room than previously thought. And if we can get swift closure over the EU referendum the age of OSBO will have dawned. Never mind Labour obsessing over the heir to Blair, they should be far more concerned about the heir to Cameron.


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The CPS are so under resourced, understaffed & over worked that the system is on the brink of total collapse

23 May 2015 at 12:38

I was just scrolling though the Mail online to get my daily fix of my chum the splendid Quentin Letts, when I noticed my bewigged face staring back at me. It was when I went on strike last year. Never adverse to see my picture in the newspapers I thought it would be a good idea to read the piece written by Max Hastings. I really wish I hadn’t as it is a depressing rant about how the police, the judiciary, the church and lawyers are all dinosaurs and holding this great nation back.

I had always thought that Max was rather a good journalist. But clearly standards are abandoned when it comes to cash payment for column. I can imagine one of Dacre’s flunkeys ringing the old boy up and offering a couple of grand for a thousand words slagging off the usual suspects. Since Leveson, Dacre has had an obsession with the greed and wickedness of my tribe so I wasn’t expecting to be thrown a bouquet. But (now this sounds rather naive), it would be nice if Max had done a little research rather than reaching for the nearest MOJ press release. ‘No lawyer seems ready to accept responsibility for the soaring costs of litigation’. Oh, really? Silly me. I’d forgotten that my fees have been cut by forty five percent over the last few years, that many silks are going bankrupt and the junior end of the bar would earn more flipping burgers. Then Max helpfully tells us that the legal aid bill is twenty percent higher here than in the rest of Europe. Oh, really? Silly me. I’d forgotten that we come twelfth out of fourteen in the European tables and that the budget has fallen by about a third.

And then we get the ‘highly profitable’ human rights industry. Sadly, it seems to have passed the criminal bar by. I am not going to spend time pointing out the bloody obvious, but the President of the Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear that they are not bound by judgements from Strasbourg. Parliament just has to ‘take account of them’. So by pulling out of the Convention (which can’t apply to Northern Ireland or Scotland and perhaps Wales) we give the power to enforce human rights to the Luxembourg court. Far, far worse than the present position. It is all alarmingly bonkers and not thought through. Poor old Gove is going to have some sleepless nights over this. If the government does have a crack at it it is unlikely to win a majority.If you want to read an excellent demolition of Dan Hannan’s case for pulling out of the Covention have a look at @barristerblog.

But a word from one of Max’s dinosaurs. It is not crying wolf to say that the justice system is about to collapse. The CPS is so overworked, underfunded and understaffed that it is unable to devote the time to the proper preparation of cases at the Crown Court. Last week I was prosecuting a serious matter at the old Bailey. No brief arrived. No file arrived. I wasn’t flying by the seat of my pants, I was flying totally blind. I had to conduct the trial by borrowing the judge’s papers. And they were inadequate. Was justice properly served? You must be joking.

Yesterday I had to offer no evidence where a mentally damaged young man was allegedly being tortured and beaten by his brother. Crucial medical evidence couldn’t be obtained. There was just not the time or the staff to do it. Is this justice? Is this protecting the public? Like hell it is. And these are not isolated incidents. Walk into any robing room and you will hear the same story, over and over again. Speak to any circuit judge and they will share their total frustration at the hopelessness of it all. If the public were told the truth about what is really happening in our courts there would be an outcry. And rather than be revered, our legal system would be the laughing stock of the civilised world. In 2012 forty five homicide trials failed because the CPS provided insufficient or no evidence after a not guilty plea. God knows what the figure would be last year.The poor guys just can’t cope

Like many barristers I really love my job. If I won the lottery I wouldn’t retire. Not only has it become an expensive pastime it is a tragedy to see the system on the brink of total collapse. Can I honestly put my hand on my heart and claim that the Overriding Objective is being fulfilled? Of course not. Oh, Max you might like to know what the Overriding Objective is. ‘Acquitting the innocent and convicting the guilty’. Unfortunately the Mail won’t pay you to write about it.


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UKIP & Labour are fighting over an ideology. If you want a religion go to church. Cameron's ideology free zone is a strength not a weakness

16 May 2015 at 10:32

I don’t believe for one moment that the Edstone is laying unloved in a Woolwich warehouse guarded unloved by its engraver who is a Tory supporter. This must be a wicked lie told by the Tory press to a cowed and desperate people whom Rupert Murdoch and the Conservative fear machine has terrified into submission. The truth is that the Edstone has been secretly moved to shrine in Andy Burnham’s basement where once a day Len McLuskey, Yvette Cooper, the shadow Health Secretary come for inspiration, meditation and prayer. Polly Toynbee and Owen Jones are allowed to preach about its powers. For surely like the stone in 2001 it possesses the mystical ability to grant life or death. Hooded and robed in scarlet the last priests of socialism perform their rights and incantations to curse their enemies to eternal damnation. In a puff of red incense the political career of Chuka exploded into a billion atoms helped by a nasty little piece in Labour List. Kendall should not be too much of a problem to liquidate. They will smear her as lightweight and a joke candidate. Tristram will take a little longer. They will smear him with faint praise, plant stories by aides that he was never quite up to the job of even being shadow education secretary. Maybe leak a few Cambridge photos of him looking posh, languid and entitled. And anyway, ‘he is far to nice’, they will snigger.

So unless something radical happens there will be just two serious players in the field. Cooper and Burnham will slug it out as to who will be leader and deputy. All the while the unions will be stuffing the ballot boxes with their placemen. They will make misty eyed speeches about the beating heart of Labour, about how families will be trodden under the vicious Jack boot of Osborne and how soon the NHS will be owned by fat cats putting profit before care. The depressing thing is that nobody on the left has contemplated what would happen if they are proved to be wrong. What on earth would they tell voters if Britain’s economy continues in a upward path, if more families are taken off benefits and into the world of work, if the NHS does flourish? What is their narrative? Praying for a disaster rarely works as the Tories found to their cost post 1997.

But this is nothing compared to the genocide that is happening within UKIP. Casting Douglas Carswell as some sort of manipulative villain is almost beyond parody. He seems the sort of fellow who would be perfectly at home as Dean of a run down school of theology. And now the money men are issuing conflicting orders on whom should be executed. There is something deliciously Daily Mash about a party being financed by a spread better and a pornographer. And the more the Eternal Leader snarls, shouts and barks in thin skinned aggression the more he morphs into the Munchian picture painted by O’Flynn.

But the KIPPERS seem to be in the midst of an ideological war just like Labour. The old guard, decent old Tory sorts versus the aggressive tea party neo con types. It has always struck me that the aides that surround the Eternal Leader look as if they have just returned from the terraces of a Millwall match.

The problem the Labour and UKIP is that they are fighting for an ideology. A belief system which the faithful can unswervingly worship. It is pathetically out of date and out of touch. What gripes the Amish wing of the Tories is that ideology has been off the menu since Cameron took over. They always crowed that this was his weakness. This election has shown that it is his strength. If the British people want a religion they can go to church. If they want jobs, prosperity and social mobility they want a party that can give them hope of delivery.



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Farage is the Archie Rice of British politics. Dead behind the eyes. He has a dangerous enemy in O'Flynn. His card is marked

14 May 2015 at 10:43

I imagine that The Eternal Leader will be lining up his field guns for a mass execution of dissenters. I suspect that the gilt has worn off the Farage gingerbread. You can be a dictator when you are winning, but once you lose the magic dust, once your party gets fed up with your thin skinned snarling tantrums the circling sharks will sniff your blood and come in for the kill. The time for the defenestration of Farage is when the public finally cotton on to the fact that his bonhomied, hail-fellow-well-met is an artifice. Look at his eyes when he laughs. Dead. He is the Archie Rice of British politics.

To take on Douglas Carswell on a matter of principle is an act of insanity. Trying to trouser £650,000 quid a year off the taxpayer is a jape too far. The British public probably secretly approve of the Kippers plundering the Brussels coffers, but they draw the line at them slurping from our trough. Short money is given purely for Parliamentary activity. I have always wondered how long Carswell could put up with Farage’s posturing. I would imagine the time will soon come when he renounces UKIP and sits as an independent praying that the Tories will take him back in 2020.

Patrick O’Flynn’s broadside make Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech a pean of praise. I suspect he was itching to deliver it since his economic policy was snatched away from him and he was publicly humiliated. Patrick is a very big and dangerous fish in a small pond. He, as former political editor of the Express, is a Westminster insider. He is an expert in where to plant the poisoned daggers. And this morning’s stiletto will be the first of many. He also has the ear of Richard Desmond whose £1 million pound investment has not produced a yield.

And what of Suzanne Evans? She has just had the leadership stolen from her in the most cynical and brazen way. She is nobodies fool. She must be smarting. In the interests of unity they might just stick with him until after the referendum. But I doubt it. His card is marked. The plotting has begun. I’ll give him six months. Tops.


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Farage has become the Eternal Leader, union barons are trying butcher Chuka & Tristram while Farron will make it Jeremy Thorpe without the sex

12 May 2015 at 13:55

Now that the dust has settled and the stretcher bearers and grave diggers have gone home, it is time to see which way the political wind might blow. I can’t understand why Labour needs to search it’s soul and find out what went wrong as it is so blindingly obvious. There was no great enthusiasm to vote Conservative but there was a terror of letting socialism in. Labour strategists should have woken up to the total distrust the electorate have of them when Ed refused to accept on Leaders’ Question Time that Labour had overspent. The titters and sharp intake of breathe by the audience really summed up the mood of the country.

Cameron has successfully rebranded the Tories as the the aspirational party. Proper One Nationism may drive the Rampton Wing to distraction but they are in hardly any position to complain. All those yellow bellies who flirted with the Kippers and wanted a deal must be feeling very foolish indeed. We know where you live.

So what of Labour? If they chose Cooper, Reeves or Burnham the champagne corks will be popping at Number 10 because it would have shown that they they have learned nothing. Dan Jarvis, who would have been formidable, has ruled himself out of the leadership but not of the Shadow Cabinet, is a lost resource. But what of Chuka and Tristram? Smooth, good looking, articulate and reasonable. God, how the left will hate them. Chuka has more baggage than Tristram, that Wiki rewrite will always come back to haunt him, and he can be a bit clunky on the telly. My money is on Tristram. What’s the worst you can say about him? Posh, academic, er, that’s about it. But the unions will want to butcher these these two. And it has started. OMOV (how did Hattie let them get away with that piece of gratuitous sexism?) will be in place in time for the leadership election. This means the union barons are frantically signing up their goons (the count so far is 22,000 and rising) to get Burnham or Cooper in. They might succeed.

And what of the Lib Dems? Of course Tim Farron will win. Personable, witty, and left wing he is the darling of the grass roots. Most important of all he cleverly managed to be semi detached from the coalition. Poor old Norman Lamb hasn’t a prayer. Oh, and the latest count for new members is 3,000. I would imagine that this is down to theTim machine. But what would happen to the Orange bookers? It will be Jeremy Thorpe Liberalism without the sex.

Now the KIPPERS. Farage has become the Eternal Leader. And his style is very North Korean. Dissent will not be tolerated. But UKIP is pretty well finished. They may have won 4 million votes and that’s why they will flog that dead horse of voting reform. Too late matey, we’ve had the referendum. If you can’t win Thanet, Thurrock and Broxtowe when you are riding high in the polls you are stuffed. And what happens to them if the good sense of the British people prevails and we remain in a reformed EU? The rock on which they were built would have shattered. They would revert to form as the shouty men in the saloon bar party. Rather annoying and odd.

So now Cameron can mould the Conservative party in his own image; decent, compassionate and doing the right thing. Some won’t like it. But the new intake of Tories seem to be a very sensible bunch. So what will be his legacy? Hopefully to have kept Britain in the EU and the United Kingdom intact. And ensure the torch is passed to George Osborne. None are forgone conclusions.



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Grayling's problem was not having a legal qualification but not having a heart. Gove has and must use it to bring back humanity to our system of justice

10 May 2015 at 07:39

Nobody can be more delighted than me that Michael Gove has been made Secretary of State for Justice and that the gothic horror of Grayling has been finally exorcised from the department. I am not suggesting that the legal profession should be dancing in the streets; for the time being lets just concentrate on Grayling’s grave.

The spin is that Gove is to oversee the abolition of the Human Rights Act and replace it with some sort of British confection. To be honest it’s all smoke and mirrors. The new British Act won’t be much different from the old one but at least we can claim it as our own. The real problem is how not to bugger it all up by pulling out of the European Convention which is not as easy as it seems. My advice? Long grass and have a drink with Dominic Grieve. He will tell you how to fudge it. Let’s get the referendum out of the way first.

The reason Gove is there is because sorting out the MOJ is one of the biggest and most dangerous jobs in government. Grayling left a toxic wasteland where civil servants roam the smoking rubble bayoneting the wounded. Officials control their ministers with policies that are destroying our system of justice. They have to be reined in or sacked. Gove is a master of this. Political control of policies must be restored.

His first day brief will be jaw dropping. He will discover that the legal aid budget has not been spiralling out of the control but was reducing well before the Grayling cuts. He will realise that the brief that the whips had to swallow that we the most expensive legal aid system in Europe is a lie. We come twelfth out of fourteen. He will read reports from HM Inspectors of prisons that incarceration in Britain is dangerous and unsafe with a record level of self harm and suicides. He will see that those contracted to run our system are inefficient , corrupt and fraudulent who have been ripping the taxpayer off for years. He will see a gradual attempt to silence the judiciary. And he will be horrified that the independent bar where most of our judges are drawn is not just on its knees but faces extinction. Michael Gove is a decent man. He will be angry, he will wonder how any Conservative Secretary of State could let this happen on his watch. Worse, encourage it to happen. Grayling was the Dementor who sucked humanity and hope from our prisons. The most despicable trait about him is that he regarded it as a badge of honour when every senior judge or barrister warned him of the havoc he was wreaking.

His problem was not having a legal qualification but not having a heart. When a backbencher warned him that his reforms would put our legal system into the hands of the likes of the Co-op he leered that ‘they have very good funeral services’. That is the measure of the man.

Michael, you will not be short of advice but here is some. Build bridges, listen, consult. Find out from those who really care about our justice system how it can be repaired. We will help you with efficiencies. We will help you breathe life into a creaking system which is on the verge of collapse. We are not your enemies; just battered, bruised and confused how a Conservative government could dismantle the most revered system of justice in the world.

And it is not too late. You can turn this around. Even officials at your department recommended to Grayling that there be a moratorium on rolling out the destructive system of two tier contracting for solicitors which will wipe out three quarters of High Street firms, eradicate the independent bar and place legal advice into the hands of those who don’t give a damn about quality just profit. All I ask is put this on hold before it is too late. Then make up your mind on the evidence. You may not be legally qualified but you do have a heart and a soul. Let this be an early priority.

And to my colleagues I say give Gove a chance. Let him consult, let him listen. But if he is sucked into the seventh circle of hell by a cabal of dangerous officials and ignores us let loose the dogs of war. This is a battle for survival.

I trust Michael Gove. I believe that he can deliver. I hope to God that I am right.



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