There has always been a sensitivity to humour amongst demagogues, dictators and fundamentalists

8 Jan 2015 at 16:04

There is a justified sense of horror and outrage in the civilised world at the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The real question is why are we at all surprised? In our cosy, reasonably well fed Western European comfort blanket satire and the freedom to cause offence is deeply embedded in our culture. It never has never existed anywhere in the Middle East with the exception of Israel.

Fundamentalists of all religions tend to be a humourless bunch. There are some pretty dreadful and barbaric punishments in Leviticus. Stoning to death children who disobey their parents, women who are menstruating near a temple and homosexuals, to name a few from quite a long and vaguely ridiculous list of capital crimes. And the Koran has plenty of smiting, smoting, and beheading for an equally ridiculous list. But the overwhelming majority of believers appreciate that these reflect a barbaric time and consign them to the eccentricities of history. Of course, those who want to promote their own warped causes cherry pick the bloodthirsty parts and turn them into some sick badge of honour. Like the American pastor who recently came to to the conclusion that God had the solution to AIDS; just kill off the gays. He quoted Leviticus.

The Muslim world is really going to have to get to grips with what happened in Paris and speak with one clear voice. It is not good enough to condemn and then add, ‘but the Prophet is more beloved to believers than parents or children, to insult him could lead to consequences’. In other words although we don’t condone this sort of behaviour don’t be too surprised if the nutters take the law into their own hands. The subtext being feel free to satirise anything but our religion. It should go without saying that this is contrary to everything that we hold dear. Dictators, demagogues and those who manically believe in a cause have one thing in common; they don’t like the piss being taken out of them. In Western Democracies satire is our escape valve and in rock and roll language ‘sticking it to the man’ is a helpful way of exposing pomposity and corruption. So how do we react to what happened in Paris?

There is the embryo of a thesis by some commentators that our newspapers have been engaged in collective cowardice. That they haven’t taken head on the fundamentalists. That they are afraid of causing offence. And there was some criticism that Private Eye didn’t reprint the Danish cartoons that caused such uproar. I don’t buy this for one moment. There has always been a degree of self censorship by the British Press regarding causing gratuitous offence to people’s religious beliefs, but never self censorship of the fight against Islamic extremism. Already the Internet is teeming with satire and I suspect that the next few days so will the main stream press. It’s risky but its the price we must pay for democracy and freedom of speech.

But I feel desperately sorry for the overwhelming majority of law abiding Muslims through Europe. There is a dangerous awakening of deeply unpleasant and right wing sentiments emerging in many EU countries. Paris plays into their dangerous hands. In Britain we must do everything we can to support and protect our Muslim communities. But we must stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against extremism. There can be no equivocation.



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May will be livid at being called 'once loyal' by Tim Montgomerie

22 Dec 2014 at 18:36

Just as I had thought that John Witherow had unbuckled the final strap of Tim Montgomerie’s canvas jacket and administered the final dose of Maggadone (a fairly painless method of weaning people off of a deadly addiction to Thatcherism), his latest piece in the Thunderer made me realise that he still needs help. And sadly, in this age of austerity, there have been cuts to the Gove Programme of Enlightened Re-education. So it’s going to be a tough Christmas for Monty. The counselling may not be there for him. It could be cold turkey.

And the piece in question? ’Don’t vote for David Cameron at the next election’. You, of course, may vote for him in Witney, but only with fingers crossed and a garland of garlic. Well, thank heavens for that. ‘You might think that your’e voting for a Cameron government, but the Tories may change leader within days of the election and almost certainly within two years. Mr. Cameron may choose to quit himself in 2017, assuming that he is still prime minister. By then he’ll have been Tory leader for a gruelling 12 years. It’s just as likely that he will be forced out earlier. As recent days have shown, the Cameroons are at war with once loyal colleagues such as Theresa May.’

Oh, how Monty’s old bosses such as IDS and O’Patz will be creaming in their jeans! No doubt he will argue that all he is doing is trying to persuade all Cameron haters and swivel eyed Euro carpet biters that they don’t have to fall into the poisonous embrace of the Faragistas. Vote Tory and you can nail that pinko, husky hugging anti-marriager for once and for all.

But this analysis is a fantasy worthy of Kim Wrong Un. Cameron is going to fight for a fair deal from Brussels and he expects Hammond to deliver it for him. And the portents are not at all bad.

And I am certain that Theresa May will be positively glacial as being given a name check as ‘once loyal’. To say that the two camps are at war with each other is fanciful silly season gossip. May is a formidable, successful and valued Home Secretary. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that Cameron wants her out of the way. Like David Young she does not bring him problems, only solutions. She is an asset and a vote winner. Day by day she shoots a KIPPER fox and like a gamekeeper hangs them outside the Home Office.

The problem the Tories have at the moment is entourage creep. Some little boys at No 10 are furious that she is getting such rave reviews and some of the little boys at the Home Office are not helping her cause with silly briefings. I would imagine that Cameron is irritated by the scribblers who are looking for splits, plots and bids. And so he should be. Labour is in disarray, they have no credible economic policy, Milband is a joke and Balls a thug in denial. Even better, the KIPPERS are being found out for what they really are and Farage is in a hole at the controls of a JCB digger.

Perhaps that is what is worrying the right. There is a real possibility that Cameron will win with a working majority. The horror of it all! And now the mantra is that it is all George Osborne’s doing. Bonkers. If Cameron is stuffed so is he.

If there are any manoeuvres going on at the Home Office I would be amazed if May doesn’t put the kibosh on them. She would be foolish not to.The last thing that she wants is to be blamed for division. She was party chairman and knows that the voters and the grass roots despise it.

Now a radical thought. Why don’t the entourages bugger off for Christmas and maintain a vow of silence? Perhaps indulge in a New Years resolution only to brief the press about unity and successful policies. If not there should be sackings on all sides. An election victory is becoming more possible each day. It would be bordering on the criminal to sabotage it.

And as for Monty? I am sure that intensive counselling can be made available. In the festive spirit I will send him a bottle of Maggadone myself.



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Baroness Jenkin is right. Get over it

8 Dec 2014 at 19:25

Now I appreciate that this will really piss some people off, but Baroness Jenkin was right. Some of the poor do not know how to cook. This is an historical problem. My folks and their folks were brought up in the East End of London. Looking back it would seem an horrific childhood. In my mum’s case it was seven to a bed with a father who was a boxer who practiced on her mother. In 1905 she had the courage to divorce him which in those days was courageous. But they all stuck together. And before the days of welfare putting food on the table was a problem. Mothers knew every wrinkle. On a Saturday evening my mum would go to the bakers and get a bag of stale biscuits for a penny. They scoured the markets and got good deals. They ate. Not like princes but well enough to share a meal with one child from the orphanage every Sunday.

The art of making the best of what you could obtain has always been the way the poor have eaten. Go to Italy and France and realise that was is now haute cuisine was basically how the poor ate. Pomme Boulangere is just potatoes and onions shoved in a baker’s oven when it was cooling down after the last bake of the day.

The trouble is that in this country families have been fragmented. Often single mothers are products of other single mothers. The handed down art of cooking nutritiously and cheaply has been mostly lost. In the days of terraced housing mums would be just a few doors down and would always be about help out in cooking and looking after the kids. Society has changed.

Years ago I used to appear on KILROY and other television shows discussing this. A nutritionist would appear and show healthy a cheap food that could be bought from the market at a fraction of the cost of a supermarket. She would be looked on as if she had just been beamed down from another planet. That was in the eighties. We haven’t moved on.

I think it is quite appalling that someone as fundamentally decent and socially aware as Ann should be forced to apologise for something that is true. But a difficult truth.

This has nothing to do with benefit policy, nothing to do with food banks and everything to do with common sense and education. It’s time we taught mums and dads how to cook.


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We don't want an economist as Chancellor we need a politician

4 Dec 2014 at 12:37

Will someone please explain to columnists like Peter Oborne that the Chancellor is actually a politician. And, shock horror, politicians make decisions to persuade the public to vote for them. There seems to be a sneering attitude towards George Osborne from the chattering classes this morning that his Autumn Statement was political. Well, of course it was. It shows a clear blue ocean between the Tories, Labour and to a certain extent some factions within the LibDems. The difference is stark and the message is clear. The Tories will give you as much as your hard earned money back as the economy can afford, encourage, growth and shrink the state whilst the other lot will tax and spend with the abandon of a drunk who has won the lottery.

You can almost smell the burning rubber of the columnist U turns. A few years ago George was an omnishambles Chancellor, cutting too fast and too deep with growth a fantasy and the country heading towards a double dip recession. ‘Where is plan B?’ they would scream. Now he is not cutting enough. He has ignored the mountain of debt. He is gambling with our future.

The truth is that Osborne has proved his critics hopelessly wrong. The man with the plan which was routinely rubbished has stuck the course, avoided the temporary political expedient of a U turn and now presides over an economic success story. But the wicked man is a politician. He realises that employment and growth figures mean very little to the public. They have seen their standard of living fall. They need to feel good about themselves. They want to share in the success that they read about but hasn’t trickled down to them yet. And that is what this Autumn Statement was all about, making people feel more secure in their jobs and persuading them if you work hard you will be rewarded. After all it’s not the government’s money, it’s come from the workers.

The real losers in this announcement is Labour and in particular the two Eds. Their mansion tax is an unworkable shambles. And they talk about reducing the deficit with the eloquence of Satan denouncing sin. Osborne the politician has out manoeuvred them on every flank. They can hardly moan about the NHS a being denied vital cash. They can’t scream that the stamp duty changes are unfair. And they can’t claim without crossing their fingers that the Tories are targeting the poor and the expense of their rich cronies. To build an election campaign on saving the NHS and on the cost of living is not so much a strategy as a cry for help. They might as well make Russell Brand Shadow Chancellor.

And where does this leave the KIPPERS? Time will tell. But when people feel better about their prospects and more secure they are less likely to look for scape goats. When lifestyles improve why take a risk with Labour and a white knuckled ride to oblivion with Farage at the controls.

No, you Fleet Street doomsayers we don’t want an economist for a Chancellor we want a politician.



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What if Penny Mordaunt had been a man? The wimmin would be screaming for her resignation

30 Nov 2014 at 10:36

I have been reading with various degrees of mild irritation and amusement Penny Mordaunt’s now notorious ‘cock’ speech. Her real mistake was not so much making a rather foolish and on the scale of things a rather minor error of judgement, but fessing up to it at a public event.

The usual suspects make the usual allegations. She was trivialising Parliament. Er, yes. She was trivialising poultry care. A little bit. So far nobody has been daft enough asked for her resignation. A grovelling apology to Mr Speaker and it will blow over. No fowl play is expected.

Now I don’t want to appear sexist, but what if a man had made that speech, with mildly amusing vagina references? The Eagle sisters would be spitting venom and Hattie would demanding her resignation. And Ed, if he could get it right would accuse Cameron of demeaning women. The poor male miscreant would be hung out to dry.

And this is what we poor things with penises have to put up with. It’s perfectly acceptable to portray husbands on adverts on the telly as dimwits but a national outrage to portray wives as a bit dopey. Personally provided it is in reasonable taste and quite funny I don’t give a damn about either.

However Parliament has been trivialised for years. Remember that drunken, rambling piss take of women’s rights from Alan Clark at the despatch box?And if enthusiastic journos can be bothered they should scan Hansard and be astounded at how many odd phrases will appear. Most as a result of a bet. I can remember ministers would have competitions about how they could place words or phrases into speeches. One minister astounded civil servants by addressing a meeting with, ‘it all started with a meteorite’.

But this was all a long time ago. Well, ish. Parliament and the horrors of modern technology whereby anybody can suddenly appear on U tube stalks every bar and street. MPs, overworked, stressed and in an insecure job environment now have their every off guarded moment likely to be beamed into our homes and crucified in the local press.

Penny Mordaunt will survive this fairly easily. She is not robotically on message, she seems good fun this was a bet with naval officers. After all she does represent Portsmouth. But best not do it again. Misplaced humour never goes down well if you are in the public eye.



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Fire up the KIPPER Quattro. But Farage will not be at the controls. It will be Ed and the SNP

21 Nov 2014 at 15:53

If only the Labour Party could take a few lessons from Tony Blair. He understood the importance of encouraging hardworking people. He understood that if Labour was to win it was vital that the party reached across party divides. More importantly, he understood that voters would not vote for him if they were terrified that the Treasury’s sticky fingers would be perpetually dipping into their pockets. And for three elections it worked. After all he learned at the feet of the Mistress, Margaret Thatcher. She was regarded as the cuckoo in the nest, not a ‘true Tory’,but managed to reach across the parties. It started with the right to own a Georgian door and then to buy the council house that families had spent so much on. She brought back pride in council estates and ripped the heart out of an ‘everyone knows their place’ mentality. Most of all she gave everyone from any background the opportunity to improve their lives.

Sadly, like Blair and all great leaders she went a little bonkers.

But Tony Blair has been demonised as a war mongering Tory. He was regarded by the unions and the left as a cuckoo in the nest as well. The S word disappeared from the New Labour vocabulary. And to a certain extent he was throwing out the unelectable chicks from the Labour nest. He was a very effective political cross dresser. Miliband will learn no lessons from him. Someone who should be admired as an election winner is despised as a class traitor.

And there lies the problem. Grass roots Labour are genuinely horrified at the Thornberry tweet. White Van man deserted the Tories for New Labour. And at by elections they have been migrating to the KIPPERS. In many ways that tweet summed up the problems Miliband’s Labour has. A Westminster elite living in two million pound houses and never having to worry overly about paying the mortgage or the bills. It was right that she resigned. But the damage has been done. Not catastrophic but a serious hole beneath the credibility water line. Chris Bryant, who is more politically savvy than he is often given credit, summed it up well, ‘always respect the voters even when you disagree with them’.

The trouble for Thornberry is that although she represents an Islington constituency, it’s not all posh Labour; she has Finsbury which is not lacking in White Van culture. And she has a majority of just over three thousand. It might be time for her to dust down her wig.

What is fascinating about KIPPER support, according YOUGOV, is that most of them are just fed up and would like Britain to return to life as it was thirty years ago. Fire up the Quattro and put a mullet headed Farage at the controls. Except that he won’t be at the controls. He won’t have enough MPs (I don’t think that he will have any) to be propping up a government. What he could achieve is a Miliband government propped up by the SNP. The SNP who don’t give a damn for the UK, only for Scotland. The most terrifying scenario for any democrat.

So that is what Farage can deliver. The end of everything White Van man and the rest of us hold dear.

The next election will about who governs Britain and who can fulfil the aspirations for those who work their guts out and feel unloved.



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UKIP has now become a fully fledged Westminster bubble party. It is tearing itself apart

18 Nov 2014 at 13:30

It may have passed by the good people of Rochester and Strood but UKIP have finally grown into a fully fledged Westminster bubble party. They are tearing themselves apart. This is not about the racism, sexism homophobia and general bonkerism that simmers unpleasantly below the surface but something even more damaging; economic policy. The scythes are out for their economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn.

I have known Patrick since he was a young journalist cutting his teeth in Westminster. Our political views are on different planets, but basically he is a a thoroughly decent if wholly misguided fellow. As the former political editor of the Express he knows that if UKIP is to be taken remotely seriously at the General Election they must have the semblance of a credible economic policy.

His first set back was rather a wacky idea to tax luxury goods which was disowned by his leader within a few hours. But his real crime according to those close to Farage is that he is a ‘Pinko’. On the Bloom scale of barminess this measures at about scale 8. Bloom sets the bar high. On Question Time he had the temerity to suggest that big business aggressive tax avoiders should be made to pay tax. Not particularly controversial one might think. But in the wacky world of UKIPism this is about as serious as granting Juncker an honoury knighthood.

And this is not the first time that they have snuggled up to those who are less than honest. They oppose the European Arrest Warrant and want to go back to the bad old days of the 1957 Convention whereby anybody wanted for tax evasion or fraud cannot be extradited. Yet I have not heard a single minister, not even the admirable Shapps call them the fraudster’s friend.

The difficulty is that the KIPPERS are great at talking the talk on democracy, but that’s as far as it goes. Farage possesses the qualities of the infallibility of a medaeval Pope and the terror of Joseph Stalin. Few dare to cross him and if they do they tend to disappear.

This is going to be a problem for the rather cerebral Carswell, but not a burden for that fine example of nominative determinism, Reckless. Anyhow, in Westminster he is regarded as a bit of a shit. The most serious charge of all.

So after all the brouhaha of this by election O’Flynn will have a simple choice, submit himself to his master’s whims or kindly leave the stage. I just wonder whether the KIPPERS ever sit down and actually discuss policy with Farage. After all, the 2010 manifesto was denounced by him as total drivel. Yes, I know he wasn’t leader then, it was in the Edward Scisserhands of Lord Pearson. But he was a back seat driver. So none of us have a clue what UKIP’s economic policy is. More worryingly neither does its economic spokesman.

But the real chimpanzee in the room is the EU. Cameron is in an impossible position. Say anything remotely in its favour and there are howls of protest from the Rampton Wing. They really don’t want a debate they just want to get out, no matter what the consequences. And they want to trap Cameron to reveal his negotiating position to undermine it. So it was left to John Major, a past master of negotiating with Brussels, to spell out the obvious. There is room to negotiate on migration, there is room to negotiate on transparency and democracy. But most importantly, he warned that although we could trade outside The EU we would have to pay for the privilege. It is about time sensible ministers shouted this from the rooftops. It is rather important. And hopefully might just prevent us from accidentally sleepwalking out of Europe.



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Cameron and May must be incandescent with rage. It looks like the Whips Office have panicked.Not their finest hour

10 Nov 2014 at 20:47

It is not often that I get really, really angry with my party, but today’s disgraceful, degrading fiasco has made my blood boil. The European Arrest Warrant, as I have written before, is eminently sensible. It is, apart from the Tory brain dead, a no brainer. May has skilfully neutralised its deficiencies with checks and balances. British judges ensure British justice before British citizens can be extradited to a requesting state. It is supported by the Lib Dems and the overwhelming majority of Conservative backbenchers. The rebels without a pause had been reduced to a rump of about thirty. Neither the EAW nor the government were in jeopardy. Even better David Cameron promised them a vote. Not some wishy washy omnishambolic pot pouri of prattery that has been served up. The Speaker read the mood of the House correctly. What MPs were offered was a wholly dishonest artifice.

Two people will be incandescent with rage tonight. Cameron and May. Cameron because it has made him look shifty. May because it has used up all the goodwill she has built up with the troublemakers. And what of those Eurosceptics who put their necks on the line bringing round the wavers. It’s made them look like bloody fools. In the long run this is remarkably dangerous for the Tories. The Rampton wing will say it was all about trust. ‘If Cameron broke his promise on this’, they will say, ‘how can we be sure he really intends to have an in out referendum?’

So who is to blame? May? No. Cameron? No. Far too busy to deal with the wording of a motion. Grayling? I’d love to say yes, but not even this poisoned chalice passed from his lips. The fault lays at the door of the business managers, the Chief Whip Michael Gove and the Leader of the House William Hague.

There has always been tension between these two great offices. Technically, the Leader sorts out the business and the Chief sorts out the tactics. Normally, these guys are very safe pairs of hands. So what an earth has gone wrong?

Firstly, I don’t buy the line that this is Gove’s way of getting his own back on May. He is not that petty nor that stupid. His job is to get the government’s business though. If that fails so does he.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Whips panicked. I suspect that because the EAW had the overwhelming support of the House those who would have been onside might just have decided to disappear into the night to be able to say to their jittery associations that they never actually voted for it. That it why poor old May had to filibuster while the Whips scoured the drinking dens and eateries for the disappeared ones. But it knocks Miliband off the front page and it makes the Whips Office look like the Keystone Cops.

Not their finest hour.

I like Michael Gove. He is a good man. Somehow, if he is still in office by PMQs on Wednesday, he has to convince his backbenchers that the business managers can actually manage. Most of all he must try and restore trust. I am not at all sure that he can. This may be the last straw for his close friend Cameron. But I doubt it. To move him from DFE was a terrible mistake.



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In politics always shoot to kill and never to wound

10 Nov 2014 at 09:03

In the early eighties as a young and foolish backbencher I was accused of plotting to oust Margaret Thatcher. It was, of course, nonsense. Francis Pym, a sacked and bitter Foreign Secretary, gathered a group of wets together to try and put a more compassionate and human face on Thatcherism. We called ourselves Centre Forward. Needless to say the Number 10 rubbish machine blew us out of the water. We were not so much strangled at birth as aborted.

A few days after termination I was invited to drinks with uber Thatcherite Nick Ridley. He gave me some very wise advice. ‘Always shoot to kill, never to wound. There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded politician’. He was right. And in 1990 that advice was successfully implemented.

It is pretty obvious that it much easier to butcher a Tory Leader than a Labour one. We are swift and brutal executioners. Labour can’t be because of the Byzantine methods of elections. To keep Miliband would be a disaster, but to get rid of him a catastrophe. Weeks of infighting between Brownites and Blairites would wreck any chance of taking power.

There are some fundamental differences between the defenestration of Thatcher and the amateurish attempts to oust Miliband. The main reason he will stay is because the electorate are blissfully unaware who the main contenders for the crown are. In 1989 Michael Heseltine and John Major were household names. By 1990 the polls indicated that if Thatcher was replaced by any of the contenders there would be a massive swing to the Conservatives. Remember that Thatcher was trailing Kinnock by about 25%. So backbenchers like me made a calculation. Would we have more of a chance of saving the government and our seats with or without her? The rest is history.

But today Labour does not have that luxury of a swing of any sort, let alone a game changing one should the Number 11 bus come careering towards Ed. In the next few days Labour MPs will have to make the same calculation as we did. I would be amazed if they didn’t just grit their teeth mumble that ‘they need to listen more’ and quietly tell those ambitious members of the Shadow Cabinet to shut up.

Ironically, Miliband’s real problem isn’t that he looks like the chairman of the school chemistry club and is not a very good communicator, its that the public don’t like his policies. The current line to take that this is all drummed up by the right wing press is laughable nonsense. The New Statesman is hardly a Thatcherite think tank.

No, Miliband’s problem is baggage. Ed Balls created Gordon Brown and cannot bring himself to accept that they trashed the economy. The Mansion tax is a disaster and will have be binned, or changed out of all recognition. And Andy Burnham knows that his claim that the Tories are out to destroy the NHS by handing it over to their fat cat friends is a dangerous lie. The public are not fools. Provided care is of a good quality and free at the point of delivery they don’t care if some of it comes from the private sector. Never forget that the horror of Mid Staffs was on his watch. He really is going to be slaughtered at the general election over this.

There is only one way Milband can hope to capture the imagination of the people, dump his baggage. But he can’t sack Ed Balls and order a U turn on economic policy. It is far too late and the Unions would go berserk. And there is the other problem, the likes of Len McLusky have more influence than ever before as private donors evaporate like snowballs in hell.

It is a popular myth that a lot of political capital rests on the Rochester and Strood by election. In reality it means very little. If UKIP wins will this be the end of Cameron? Good heavens no. It will be a couple of days of bad publicity a few grumbles from the usual suspects arguing for a some sort of pact. They will, of course, be ignored. Rochester is far more damaging to Labour. If they lose their deposit all hell will break lose, resurrecting all the old Miliband leadership hand wringing.

So their are two messages here. It would be helpful if those Tory rebels put aside their ill informed views of the European Arrest Warrant and actually listen to the powerful arguments in favour. As Labour is seriously on the run they would be insane to allow the headlines to change back to ‘Tories Split on Europe’. But they are just manic enough to do it.

And the message to Milband? You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks. Don’t even try. Run for office not for cover.



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Grayling is a menace. His department is frighteningly Kafkaesque

4 Nov 2014 at 16:21

In that great Palais de Wankerdom, the Ministry of Justice, Grayling’s peculiars have been up to their usual tricks. A few months ago I was defence counsel for one of the defendants in the Leicester fire bombing. This was the case where an innocent family were burned to death. This was an emotive, high profile and complex case which needed specialist and senior counsel. A High Court judge granted a certificate for two counsel per defendant. He also granted us our hotel expenses, which nowadays is a rarity. After a long trial, which was considerably shortened by the cooperation of the bar, we put in our bills. And this is where the trouble began.

Let me take you down a little trip down memory lane. A few years ago Jack Straw came up with a brainwave. Rather than the trial court computing and paying counsel, which was free, fraudless and quick, it was taken out of their hands and put into the paws of a new tier of bureaucracy now called the Legal Aid Authority. Needless to say the system is a fiasco. Whereas we were obliged to be paid within 28 days (we took a fee cut to secure this) it can take up to three months or longer. I would love to know how much extra this bureaucracy costs the taxpayer. The LAA is a dysfunctional, hopeless organisation who will use any excuse not to pay us for work done.

Now back to my Leicester case. I submitted my bill with the order by a High Court judge for a certificate for two counsel. Several weeks later the LAA were of the view that this was not valid. ‘But it is an order given and signed by a High Court judge. What do you think that we were doing for 9 weeks?’
‘Ah’, came the response, ‘it should have been headed In the Birmingham Crown Court. It is headed In the High Court of Justice’.
‘Of course it is, he is a High Court Judge’.
‘That may well be, but it doesn’t accord with our audit’.

So for weeks they refused to pay, until the High Court judge personally intervened. I was paid a couple of weeks ago. But they are still refusing to pay my hotel bill (no booze allowed) despite a schedule and receipts. This is not just nod and a wink to Kafka but a disgrace. As each counsel’s bill is ‘audited’ by a separate pointy head the same argument is on going with other counsel in the same case. And this is happening all the time.

Another little trick is putting evidence on disc. We are not paid to look at evidence on disc, like CCTV. But they have moved the goal posts. Now, telephone raw material is put on disc. I have one case that I have finished where there is the equivalent of 4000 pages they are refusing to pay. Despite that inconvenient fact there is legal authority to say that they must pay us it, is ignored. In large conspiracies where there are many defendants and flotillas of telephones the raw material has to be cross referenced and checked for accuracy. This evidence is vital, it can either destroy a defence or undermine the prosecution case. It is very often inaccurate. I would be rightly disciplined if I didn’t read it as I would be failing in my duty to my lay client. But despite courts saying that we must be paid, the LAA ignores them.

Can you imagine what the reaction if a consultant surgeon or a GP was treated like this? There would be an outcry. But we are just ‘fat cat lawyers’ (I bloody wish) representing alleged criminals. Who cares? Well, we do. Even the most wicked deserve a competent defence. That is why our system of justice is the envy of the world. Until Grayling vandalises and finally destroys it.

You may remember a few weeks ago Grayling was judicially reviewed over suppressing a report that undermined his plans to destroy the High Street solicitor and replace them with the likes of G4s and Serco. The latter, you may recall, is being investigated for claiming for tags of those who have died and were in prison. The money extracted from the taxpayer is over £100 million. The review was I the middle of a ‘consultation’. But an MOJ pointy head who gave evidence said that the suppression of the report didn’t matter as the decision had already been made! It is no surprise that Grayling wants to seriously curb judicial review. Mr. Putin would be so proud.

But there are no votes in lawyers. They can do what they like to us and the red tops will cheer. Until one of their own is accused of a crime. But then they can afford to pay privately. Grayling is a menace and the end of our cherished system of justice is nearly nigh.

Will nobody act?


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