Grayling has found a supporter for his legal aid reforms! But caveat emptor

1 Aug 2013 at 11:03

I am delighted to report that our beloved and beleaguered Lord Chancellor has found a friend! Yes a solicitor who was quoted in the Guardian supporting his very popular reform of legal aid. His name is John Wilson of Wilson’s solicitors in Bradford.

This is what he was quoted as saying:

“The legal profession has a vested professional interest in keeping the system as it is. I think we should scrap the legal aid system. Legal aid accounts for 10% of the fee income of lawyers. Every lawyer ought to do 10%of their work for nought. Lawyers are experts at squeezing as much money out of the system as they can”.

As Mr.Wilson has referred us to the Guardian piece on his firm’s website I imagine that he stands by his quotes as accurate.

This isn’t perchance the same John Wilson who wrote to his local newspaper in 2004 saying that Legal aid is a “cash cow for lawyers”?

And is he any relation to a solicitor called John Barrie Wilson?

If it is him it would be useful to read the following ruling at disciplinary proceedings.

No. 9989-2008
SOLICITORS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL
SOLICITORS ACT 1974
IN THE MATTER OF JOHN BARRIE WILSON, solicitor (Respondent)
Upon the application of Peter Harland Cadman
on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority
______________________________________________
Mr. D. Green (in the chair)
Mrs J. Martineau
Mr. G. Fisher
Date of Hearing: 11th, 12th 13th and 14th January and
23rd, 24th and 25th February 2010
______________________________________________
FINDINGS AND DECISION
______________________________________________

Appearances
Peter Harland Cadman, Solicitor & Partner in the firm of Russell-Cooke of 8 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4BX the Applicant, on behalf of the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA).

The Respondent was present in person.
The application to the Tribunal, on behalf of the SRA, was made on 14th May 2008 with Further and Better Particulars dated 2nd October 2009.

Allegations
The allegations against the Respondent were that he had:-
1. Failed to provide adequate confirmation to clients contrary to Practice Rule 15, Solicitors’ Practice Rules 1990 and Solicitors’ Costs Information and Client Care Code 1999.

2. Failed to provide adequate advice to clients of the firm as to the funding of litigation.

3. Failed to act in the clients’ best interests.

4. Failed to keep clients properly informed of cost liabilities.

5. Taken unfair advantage of clients.

6. Acted where there had been a conflict of interest between his own interest and that of the clients.

7. Raised bills of costs in a matter to decrease funds available to legitimate creditors.

8. Improperly provided a business card to a client, Mr Foster, describing him as a consultant of the firm contrary to the Solicitors’ Publicity Code 2001.

9. Failed properly to supervise staff.

Factual Background
1. The Respondent, born in 1961, was admitted as a solicitor in 1986. His name remains on the Roll.

2. At all material times, the Respondent was in practice in partnership as Wilsons (the firm) at 6A Rodley Lane, Rodley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS13 1HU. The Respondent is the sole equity partner with one salaried partner.

3. An inspection of the firm had been carried out by the SRA commencing on 15th August 2006 and resulting in a Forensic Investigation Report dated 5th March 2007 (the FI Report). Following correspondence between the SRA and the Respondent, on 6th August 2007 an Adjudicator referred the conduct of the Respondent to the Tribunal.

4. Of the 19 complaints registered by the firm, ten had related to costs. Two of the firm’s general documents had dealt with costs information; “Our client care charter” and “Employment problems”.

The matter of Mrs O
5. From 13th November 2004, the firm had acted for Mrs O in an employment tribunal matter conducted by Paul Jackson, a trainee solicitor. The matter had resulted in a contested employment tribunal hearing that had concluded on 17th October 2005 with an award, in favour of Mrs O, in the sum of £57,227 together with costs of £1,000.

6. The firm had received £58,252.56, held in client account as at 5th December 2005. On 15th January 2006, the Respondent had submitted his first and only bill in the sum of £58,252.56 and Mrs O had not received any compensation.

7. During the conduct of Mrs O’s case, the trainee solicitor had charged at £140 per hour. At the hearing, the trainee and another member of staff had attended and the intention had been that the client should be charged for both. The firm had not submitted monthly bills to Mrs O during the course of the retainer and she had been unaware of the extent of her costs liability.

8. Following Mrs O’s complaint to the Law Society about the costs, the matter had been resolved with the Respondent re-paying £35,000 to Mrs O.

The matter of Mrs W
9. In the matter of the firm’s client Mrs W, on 4th November 2004 the Employment Tribunal had made an award in her favour of £29,426.48. The firm had charged the client £25,745.40 plus a medical fee of £58.60. Mrs W had therefore received only £3,621.48 from the award. Following her complaint, the matter had proceeded to Law Society adjudication on 21st August 2006 when the Respondent had been ordered to pay compensation of £1,500 and to refund costs to the client of £15,936.57.

The matters of Mr & Mrs Foster
10. The Respondent had acted for Mr & Mrs Foster with regard to financial and other matters. On 12th December 2001 an equitable mortgage had been created by the firm between the firm and Mrs Foster. It had related to Mrs Foster’s interest in half of the equity of a property, 8 Stoney Croft (the property). The equitable mortgage had been to cover the legal services provided by the firm to Mr & Mrs Foster. During the period 22nd January 2002 to 18th August 2003, bills had been raised to a total sum of £19,609.31.

11. On 29th June 2005, following the death of Mrs Foster’s Mother, the Life Tenant, Mrs Foster’s sister had agreed to purchase Mrs Foster’s half share of the property for £69,000. On 12th July 2005, the Respondent had written to Mr & Mrs Foster informing them that the firm was looking to recover costs in the sum of £43,000. At that point Mr & Mrs Foster had sought legal advice.

Documentary Evidence before the Tribunal
12. Inter alia, the Tribunal reviewed the Rule 5 Statement dated 14th May 2008 together with the documents exhibited to that Statement and the Applicant’s Response to the Request for Further & Better Particulars. The Tribunal also reviewed four lever-arch files of papers served by the Respondent, a chronology and arguments. In his statements, the Respondent denied all the allegations. A copy of the Adjudicator’s Decisions of 21st August 2006 and 30th April 2007 were also before the Tribunal.

Witnesses
13. Paul Jackson, who had been a trainee solicitor at the firm of Wilsons between September 2003 and September 2005, gave oral evidence. He relied on his statement dated 24th August 2009, dealing with the details of the employment claim brought by Mrs O. Mr Jackson stressed that the Respondent had been closely involved at all stages of the claim. He also explained that Mrs O had been told that her legal fees would be met from any award of compensation and that it was always possible that her legal costs would exceed the amount of any award. However, Mr Jackson agreed that monthly bills had not been sent to Mrs O, with the result that she had not realised the full extent of the costs being incurred on her behalf and, when she had been awarded a large amount of compensation, she had not expected to lose it all in costs.

14. Debra M Tennant, a friend of Mr & Mrs Foster, gave oral evidence. She relied on her statement of 13th August 2009 dealing her relationship with Mr & Mrs Foster and her meetings with the Respondent. Mrs Tennant explained that she had been aware that Mrs Foster was entitled to half the value of her Mother’s house (the property). Shehad also known that Mrs Foster’s sister was to buy Mrs Foster’s share in the property for £69,000. Mrs Tennant said that she had known nothing about a charge and that she had understood that the Respondent had been keeping the Fosters’ creditors at bay and that Mr Foster had been working for the Respondent to pay off any fees. Mrs Tennant explained how she had been aware that Mrs Foster had wanted to buy a static caravan and how surprised she herself had been when the Respondent had said to her that he was not having his money used for that purpose.

15. John Foster gave oral evidence and relied on his statement of 14th August 2009. He gave details of his dealings with the Respondent, inter alia, explaining how the Respondent’s firm had acted for him in a professional negligence claim for some £600,000 against his former solicitors. That claim had settled in 1999 in the sum of £85,000 and subsequently the Respondent had acted, pro-bono, in a complaint, against those same solicitors, to the OSS. Mr Foster said that during the course of the litigation he and his wife had incurred credit card debts that they had subsequently been unable to pay off. He explained that the Respondent had said that he could help them against the creditors and that the Respondent had arranged for Mrs Foster to sign a blank document telling her that he wanted to protect her future inheritance. At that time Mr Foster’s debts had been about £35,000 and Mrs Foster’s some £18,000.

16. Mr Foster told the Tribunal that he and his wife had received bills of costs until 2003 but had believed the Respondent when he had told them that he was doing the work for them for nothing. From August 2003, Mr Foster explained that he had been working for the Respondent, who had provided him with a business card, a car and a mobile ‘phone. His role had been to help with the expansion of the Respondent’s business.

17. In April 2005, Mr Foster said his Mother-In Law had died and, at a meeting in May 2005, the Respondent had confirmed that he and his wife owed the Respondent nothing. However, in a letter dated 12th July 2005, the Respondent had said that Mrs Foster owed the firm £43,000 which, if properly billed, would take the full amount of her inheritance. Mrs Foster’s sister had also received a letter dated 12th July 2005 asking her to forward her cheque for £69,000 to the firm to enable them to deal with the transfer of the property.

18. Mr Foster told the Tribunal that following the adjudication of their complaint by the Law Society, they had been awarded £15,000 and told that no costs had been payable.

19. In response to detailed cross-examination by the Respondent, inter alia, Mr Foster agreed that he had probably received letters from the Respondent, including client care letters and a copy of the equitable charge, but that he could not remember them specifically. He insisted that the Respondent had said that he and his wife would not have to pay him and that all bills should be just put in a drawer and forgotten. Mr Foster said that his wife’s signature on a blank piece of paper had not been witnessed in her presence.

20. Mr Foster agreed that he had become bankrupt in November 2005, on the advice of an insolvency expert, but insisted that he had always known that he would do so eventually.

21. Hilary Foster gave oral evidence and relied on her statement of 14th August 2009. Inter alia, Mrs Foster explained that she and her husband had a meeting with the Respondent at which they had given him all their credit card bills. The Respondent had given her a blank piece of paper with dots on to sign that she had thought had been a form of authority for him to act on her behalf. Mrs Foster said that the Respondent had never advised her to see another lawyer.

22. Following her Mother’s death in April 2005, Mrs Foster explained that there had been a meeting at the Respondent’s office during which he had said to her and her husband that they owed him nothing.

23. In response to detailed cross-examination by the Respondent, inter alia, Mrs Foster insisted that they had not approached the Respondent but that he had ‘phoned them and offered to help in November 2001. Moreover, that she had signed a blank piece of paper in the Respondent’s offices and did not remember subsequently receiving an equitable mortgage deed by post or discussing the property with the Respondent or being advised that her creditors would have to be told about it.

24. Mrs Foster said that the bills had stopped when Mr Foster had started working for the Respondent.

25. Inter alia, Mrs Foster denied knowing anything about setting up a charity or wanting a bank account or being advised by the Respondent that she had already lost her inheritance. Moreover, she did not know why initial correspondence from her subsequent legal advisors had not referred to her signing a blank piece of paper at the Respondent’s offices.

26. Stephanie Young, the Investigation Officer who had investigated and prepared the Report dated 5th March 2007, gave oral evidence relating to her Report and produced further documents as listed in her statement dated 27th November 2009.

27. In cross-examination, inter alia, Ms Young provided details of her professional experience and the purpose of her factually-based Report. She stressed that her role had been to obtain facts and not to reach conclusions.

28. Debra Parkin, who had been employed by the firm, gave oral evidence relating to her knowledge of the file of Mr & Mrs Foster.

29. The Respondent gave oral evidence adopting his original statement together with his Summary Agenda, Arguments and Chronology, copies of which documents were handed to the Tribunal. He also referred to specific documents in the four lever-arch files before the Tribunal.

30. The Respondent provided details of his professional background and of his firm emphasising his intense interest in his Profession. He stressed that the matters of Mrs W and Mrs O had been concluded more or less at the same time. The Respondent explained his firm’s approach to so called “unbundling” in Employment claims and referred to the relevant documentation supplied to clients, including his firm’s client care charter. He detailed the circumstances of the cases of Mrs W and Mrs O and stressed that both clients had been warned that their costs could be as much as, or even exceed any damages recovered. The Respondent insisted that he had been acting in the best interests of these clients.

31. Dealing with allegation 6, the Respondent asserted that conflict existed in all cases undertaken by solicitors. He explained that in Employment cases monthly bills could have been misleading and that all such clients had been told, at the outset, that their costs liability could well equal their compensation. However, he stressed that clients had never been at risk in that if their claims had failed, they would not have been subject to any costs liability.

32. In relation to Mrs O, the Respondent stressed that she had been told throughout that she would not achieve a financial benefit. However, her case had not been about money but about her future ability to work in her field. The problem had been that she had not been informed about her escalating costs and could not understand that because of those very high costs, her compensation, albeit larger than anticipated, had not resulted in any payment to her. The Respondent stressed that her actual benefit had been in being able to continue to work in her field in that previously her name had been removed from the POVA list.

33. In relation to Mr H, the Respondent explained that the client had been receiving monthly accounts, although his costs estimate had not been revised, and that the matter had, at all times, been supervised by an experienced matrimonial lawyer.

34. The Respondent explained, in detail, the system of supervision within his firm.

35. In relation to Mr & Mrs Foster, the Respondent referred the Tribunal to his 71 page statement dealing with the background and all the relevant issues taking the Tribunal through all the key points. He explained that he had completed his statement early in 2007. The Respondent stressed that in October 2001 Mr & Mrs Foster had asked to see him and that he had made it clear to them that while he was prepared to help them in relation to various matters, he was not prepared to sort those matters out for them for nothing.

36. The Respondent insisted that Mrs Foster had agreed to, and had signed, an equitable charge, while being fully aware of what it was and of what it was for that was to secure the Respondent’s costs of acting for both Mr & Mrs Foster. He stressed that he had also served notice of the charge on the sole executor of Mrs Foster’s late Father’s Estate and also on her Mother and Sister. The Respondent explained that he had been instructed to and had sought to stave off the bankruptcies of both Mr & Mrs Foster pending the change in Bankruptcy Law. He stressed that the whole point had been that as at November 2001, because of her debts, Mrs Foster’s inheritance had already gone but could be used to secure legal fees.

37. The cessation of the firm’s monthly accounts in August 2003, the Respondent said, had occurred solely at the request of Mr & Mrs Foster who had found them distressing.

38. The Respondent explained his charity project and its associated activities. He insisted that Mr Foster’s role had been not to work for Wilson’s Solicitors (which had never been charged for his time) but to promote the idea of the legal charity which had been related to un-met legal need.

39. Following the death of Mrs Foster’s Mother, the Respondent explained that he had sent three letters to Mr& Mrs Foster in order to separate their business relationship from their relationship as friends. He had viewed his letter about his firm’s bill as a starting point for negotiations. However, their relationship had broken down and subsequently both Mr Dyson and Mr Manning (solicitors) had been involved in trying to resolve matters. The Respondent insisted that any matters, including the allegation of the signing of a blank piece of paper, not raised by Mr & Mrs Foster in the letter of 10th January 2006 had been subsequently made up by them.

Findings as to fact and law
Allegation 1 – That the Respondent had failed to provide adequate confirmation to clients contrary to Practice Rule 15, Solicitors’ Practice Rules 1990 and Solicitors’ Costs Information and Client Care Code 1999.
40. The Applicant submitted that inadequate confirmation as to costs had been provided to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mr H, Mrs O and Mrs W in that they had not been provided with adequate, clear and up-to-date information as to the extent of their cost liability arising during the course of their litigation. Moreover, Mr Foster had not been advised as to the merits and benefits of the work to be undertaken.

41. The Respondent submitted that both Mrs O and Mrs W had been aware of their costs liability with the firm and that Mr H had been provided with monthly bills. Mr & Mrs Foster had instructed him to act initially to sort out their debts and subsequently to delay bankruptcy while being fully aware that the monthly bills would be paid from Mrs Foster’s half-share in the house.

42. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and proved in respect of all the named clients. All the clients had costs liabilities to the firm and should have been provided with regular and detailed costs updates. Such bills as had been provided had not been sufficiently detailed.

Allegation 2 – That the Respondent had failed to provide adequate advice to clients of the firm as to the funding of litigation.
43. The Applicant submitted that inadequate advice as to the funding of litigation had been provided to Mrs O and Mr & Mrs Foster. In the case of Mrs O, she had not been provided with any advice as to alternative possible funding. Whereas, Mr & Mrs Foster had not been advised either as to the possibility of alternative funding or as to the actual merits of retaining paid solicitors for the purposes of and for the extent of the work actually undertaken.

44. The Respondent submitted that all avenues of funding had been properly considered with all clients. Moreover, Mr & Mrs Foster had been aware that they would not receive any of the proceeds from the house but had initially wanted the bankruptcy process to be as civilised as possible and subsequently had wanted bankruptcy delayed to benefit from the changes in the relevant law.

45. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that adequate advice as to methods of funding had not been provided.

Allegation 3 – That the Respondent had failed to act in clients’ best interests.
46. The Applicant submitted that in the matters of Mrs W, Mrs O and Mr & Mrs Foster, the Respondent had failed to act in their best interests.

47. In the cases of both Mrs W and Mrs O, the Applicant submitted that they should have been properly advised as to the amount of the costs of the litigation and that that obligation had increased as the litigation costs had become disproportionate to the possible benefits of the litigation.

48. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster, the Applicant submitted that they had not been properly advised as to the benefit of retaining solicitors to act in the particular matters. Moreover, Mr Foster had never been advised adequately as to the likelihood of avoiding bankruptcy or of the benefits of an immediate bankruptcy as opposed to the matter being drawn out for a number of years prior to the occurrence of the actual bankruptcy.

49. The Respondent submitted that at all times he had acted in the best interests of his clients. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster, he stressed that bankruptcy had not been inevitable.

50. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and proved in respect of all the named clients. The Respondent’s failure to keep each client informed in detail about costs and prospects of success had resulted in those clients not being in a position to make an informed decision.

Allegation 4 – That the Respondent had failed to keep clients properly informed of cost liabilities.
51. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O, Mrs W and Mr H.

53. In the case of both Mrs W and Mrs O, the Applicant submitted that they should have been provided with appropriate costs information, the extent of which should have included, on a regular basis, the quantum of costs, the degree of risk and the cost benefit to the clients of continuing with the matter.

54. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster, the Applicant submitted that they should have been provided with appropriate costs information and that they should have been informed as to the extent of the cost on a regular basis especially with relevance to quantum, the degree of risk and the cost benefit to them of continuing the matter to its conclusion. Moreover, the Applicant submitted that although bills had been delivered to Mr & Mrs Foster they had not been bills that the firm had expected to be paid.

55. The Respondent submitted that Mr H had been provided with monthly bills and that Mrs W and Mrs O had been warned about the potential level of costs. Mr & Mrs Foster had initially been sent monthly bills until they asked not to be sent any further bills. However, Mr & Mrs Foster had been fully aware that not only were they to be charged for the Respondent’s work but that those charges would be satisfied by way of the equitable charge entered into by Mrs Foster.

56. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and proved in respect of all the named clients. The Tribunal noted, however, that Mr & Mrs Foster had been informed regularly, but only up to August 2003, about the amount of their costs and had been aware that those costs would have to be paid eventually. Mr H had received monthly bills but his costs estimate had never been updated.

Allegation 5 – That the Respondent had taken unfair advantage of clients.
57. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O and Mrs W.

58. In the case of both Mrs W and Mrs O, the Applicant submitted that their litigation had been allowed to continue when in fact they would not have been the net beneficiaries of any successful litigation in that the only beneficiary would have been the Respondent’s firm.

59. In the matter of Mr & Mrs Foster the Applicant submitted that bills of costs had been generated by the Respondent’s firm with regard to Mr Foster in circumstances where Mr Foster had believed that no bill would need to be paid in part because of the services that he had been providing to the Respondent. Also that the Respondent had charged fees for work that had not been undertaken and had included such fees in the bills submitted to Mr & Mrs Foster.

60. Further the Applicant submitted that the charge taken over Mrs Foster’s beneficial interest in real estate had been improperly obtained and had not been in the best interests of Mrs Foster and moreover that the billing arrangements between the firm and Mr & Mrs Foster had not been in their best interests.

61. The Respondent submitted that there had been benefits for both Mrs O and Mrs W notwithstanding that their costs would reduce their damages. He stressed that claims in the Employment Tribunal were not made for the primary purpose of recovering compensation and that all clients were told that they should proceed on the basis that they would recover nothing. Monthly accounts would have been both misleading and not of benefit to clients.

62. As to Mr & Mrs Foster, the Respondent said that they had never undertaken any work for or on behalf of his firm. He submitted that the evidence before the Tribunal fully justified a finding that the equitable charge had been properly obtained and signed.
63. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that the Respondent had taken unfair advantage of his clients Mrs O, Mrs W and Mr & Mrs Foster.

Allegation 6 – That the Respondent had acted where there had been a conflict of interest between his own interest and that of the clients.
64. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O and Mrs W.

65. The Applicant submitted that with regard to Mr & Mrs Foster, Mrs O and Mrs W there had been a conflict between the firm’s interest for fee income and the obligations to act in the best interests of individual clients. In the case of Mr & Mrs Foster the conflict had been exemplified by the circumstances in which a charge had been taken over the assets of Mrs Foster and the lack of any independent legal advice.

66. The Respondent submitted that any conflicts had been managed appropriately by the firm in the best interests of the clients.

67. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that the Respondent had acted in a situation of conflict of interest with his clients Mrs O, Mrs W and Mr & Mrs Foster.

Allegation 7 – That the Respondent had raised bills of costs in a matter to decrease funds available to legitimate creditors.
68. The Applicant explained that the allegation related to Mr Foster only in that he should have been advised earlier to enter into bankruptcy or an IVA. He submitted that there had never appeared to have been a realistic possibility of Mr Foster being able to reach a settlement with his creditors or compromise his debts.

69. The Applicant further submitted that the work, undertaken by the firm and the bills of costs created had been un-necessary and could have taken precedence over the rights of creditors. He stressed that that had been exemplified by the legal charge take over the assets of Mrs Foster which had secured the Respondent’s own position as against those of Mr & Mrs Foster’s creditors.

70. The Applicant explained that the allegation had been presented as one of general misconduct but that it had also been a breach of Practice Rule 1(a) – Solicitor’s integrity, 1 (b) – Solicitor’s duty to act in the best interest of the client and 1 © – the good repute of the Solicitor or of the Profession. It had also been presented as a breach of Rule 17.01 – a breach of an obligation of fairness by taking unfair advantage.

71. The Respondent submitted that there had never been any possibility of an IVA in that Mr Foster had had no funds with which to finance any proposals. He stressed that Mr & Mrs Foster had wanted his firm to undertake work for them and the whole point of the equitable charge had been to ensure that, with the Fosters’ full agreement, the firm got paid for all the work done on their behalf.

72. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and found it proved. The Tribunal particularly noted the contents of the retainer letter and was satisfied that the amount of work done and the costs incurred had been excessive and completely disproportionate. The Tribunal was satisfied that the Respondent had been aware that those fees generated by him would reduce the funds available to meet the debts owed by Mrs Foster.

Allegation 8 – That the Respondent had improperly provided a business card to a client, Mr Foster, describing him as a consultant of the firm contrary to the Solicitors’ Publicity Code 2001.
73. The Respondent submitted that the evidence was clear that Mr Foster had been a consultant to the charity AdviceNet Trust and not at any time to the firm.74. The Tribunal found the allegation to have been substantiated on the facts and the evidence and found it proved. It noted that the business card had been similar to those issued to other members of the firm and the words Wilsons Solicitors appeared clearly on its face.

Allegation 9 – That the Respondent had failed to supervise staff properly
75. The Applicant submitted that the lack of supervision related to Paul Jackson, a trainee solicitor, in the litigation matter on behalf of Mrs O.

76. The Respondent submitted that the evidence, particularly that of Paul Jackson himself, had supported a system of full and effective supervision.

77. The Tribunal was not satisfied that it had been proved, to the required standard, so that the Tribunal was sure, that Paul Jackson had not been subject to proper supervision by the firm.

Mitigation
78. The Respondent said that most of the more serious charges against him had not been found proved and although he did not underestimate the seriousness of the proceedings, he did feel justified in defending those proceedings as he had done as he had succeeded in defending his integrity. He stressed that his firm was now providing costs estimates and regular costs updates and that he had been operating as a full-time manager rather than as a fee-earner. The Respondent reminded the Tribunal that the relevant events had taken place some six years ago and he offered his apologies. He hoped that he was facing a financial rather than any greater penalty and possibly no penalty at all given that he had spent the last five years defending his good name.

79. The Respondent provided details of the current financial circumstances of his firm and of his own financial circumstances. He submitted that the Applicant’s costs schedule of almost £60.000 should be subject to a detailed assessment and severely reduced. Moreover, that he should be awarded some costs.

Costs Application
80. The Applicant submitted that all of the allegations had been properly reviewed and prosecuted, that there had been no admissions by the Respondent and no allegation of dishonesty before the Tribunal. All the allegations had come before the Tribunal as fully contested matters. The Respondent had insisted that the Forensic Investigations Officer be called but had failed to provide a statement himself in answer to the specific allegations and cross-referenced to all the documents submitted by him in four lever-arch files. Such an approach, the Applicant submitted, had added to both the time of and the costs of the hearing.

81. The Applicant agreed that a summary assessment of the costs would be inappropriate.

Sanction and Reasons
82. The Tribunal had found five of the nine allegations proved on the evidence presented to it. It considered that those allegations were of a serious nature affecting as they did the reputation of the Profession and the trust placed in members of the Profession by the Public. In the view of the Tribunal, it was vital that clients were provided with full costs information and updates and that instructions and advice were clear, recorded in writing and updated as necessary. It was for clients to be provided with full information and to be advised, in the light of that information by the solicitor, but it was for the client, with the benefit of that information and advice, to make his or her own decision.

83. The Tribunal had been extremely concerned about the Respondent’s actions in relation to the bills of costs raised in matters relating to Mr & Mrs Foster: large sums to achieve very little. Taking into account the nature of the five allegations proved, the Tribunal considered a fine of £25,000 appropriate in all the circumstances. It had considered suspension, but in the light of the time that had passed since the events leading to the allegations, the results of the adjudications and the changed procedures within the firm, had determined that a significant fine would be appropriate to mark the serious view that the Tribunal took of the relevant events.

Decision as to Costs
84. The Tribunal was of the view that the Applicant was entitled to costs, subject to a detailed assessment, as it was satisfied that all the allegations had been properly brought. It considered that had the Respondent made appropriate admissions to certain of the allegations, agreed certain parts of the evidence and submitted a clear and concise statement, referenced to his documents, that could have been adopted as his evidence in chief, substantial costs could have been saved and the hearing would not then have taken seven days.

85. The Tribunal did not find any reasons for making any order for costs in favour of the Respondent.

The Orders of the Tribunal
86. The Tribunal Ordered that the Respondent, JOHN BARRIE WILSON of 6A Rodley Lane, Rodley, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS13 1HU, solicitor, do pay a fine of £25,000.00, such penalty to be forfeit to Her Majesty the Queen, and it further Ordered that he do pay the costs of and incidental to this application and enquiry subject to a detailed assessment unless agreed between the parties to include the costs of the Investigation Accountant of the Law Society, such costs not to be enforced through the Courts without the prior consent of the Tribunal but it is to be understood that this Order does not prohibit agreed terms for payment between the parties.

Dated this 29th day of June 2010
On behalf of the Tribunal

D. Green
Chairman

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I received this information from the Solicitors from Hell website.

I wouldn’t have thought that they would be popping the corks at the MOJ just yet.

Although John Barrie Wilson seems just the sort of chap who fits all of Grayling’s criteria to get a contract to provide a “quality” legal service.

It goes without saying that if the John Wilson in the Guardian who practices at Wilson’s solicitors Bradford is a totally different person from John Barrie Wilson formerly of Wilson’s solicitors in Leeds then he can hold his head high.

However I have done some research. Looking on the solicitor’s roll there is a John Barrie Wilson whose registered office is Law Offices Ltd. When you google that office have a guess which solicitors firm you are directed to? None other than the same Wilson’s solicitors whose very own John Wilson refers us to his comments in the Guardian.

Interesting.

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Diary wars no Kidding

25 Jul 2013 at 18:48

The first thing I do when reading a newspaper is claw my way to to the diary section. I have a view, which may not be entirely bollocks, is that editors are obsessed with the front page splash and the diary.

As someone who wrote a political gossip column for PUNCH for five years the golden rule is quite simple. Make a list of your proprietor’s friends and enemies and puff the former and slag off the latter. If you want to pay the bills never ever get it wrong as the P.45 is never too far away.

I used to work for Mohammed Al Fayed. And under the skilled tutelage of some seriously brilliant editors, James Steen, Dominic Midgeley and Richard Brass they drilled into me the rules of the game. I would never write a nice piece about Michael Howard. “Zee man is a crook and a liar” or my mate Neil Hamilton “a rent boy”. Nor Mick Jagger “Zis man has eyes like a frog. What does that beautiful woman Jerry Hall see in this fuckwit?”

Mr. Libel lawyer I know that that all these allegations are baseless and totally mad and they are not attributed in anyway to Mr Al Fayed.

Welcome to Fleet Street.

Similarly if I had taken the Dacre shilling I would never have the stupidly of writing a nasty piece about his mate Michael Howard. Out of the door I would have been.

Although Paul I am available.

The skill of a diary writer is the polishing of the turd. It’s all in the writing. My two favourites are Hugh Muir of the Guardian and Sebastian Shakespeare of the Standard’s Londoners Diary. Both are works of art.

To read Muir’s diary is like reading James Joyce. Beautifully written, linked, waspish and entertaining.

It is like wiping your arse with silk.

And Sebastian sits in his eyrie, looks at the depressing copy from some of the children sent off to dreary parties, spots the little nugget of gold and writes it like dream.

This is not journalism. It is an art form. From diaries you can get a real insight into the lives of our lords and masters. It is a gateway to their souls.

It is also a great way for journalists to learn their trade. Martin Ivens, Sarah Sands all started off on diaries.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a funny quote. But most people don’t have a clue how to extract it.

And politicians, despite what they say, love the publicity.

I once wrote a piece about Stephen Byers who was then Industry Secretary. I rather cruelly said that he had a double first in toss pottery pure and applied. He spotted me at a party and came up to me. There is nothing worse than a journalist meeting his victims. My heart sank.

“Hi Jerry. Loved your piece. Let me buy you a drink and give you a story.”
That man knew how to play the game.

A different approach was adopted by Charles Clarke then a junior education minister. I really can’t remember what it was I wrote about him. It may even have been true. But he was not amused.
“Hi Jerry you lying little cunt”.

Believe it or not I rather like Charles. He was a good Home Secretary. Although a tad right wing for my taste.

But now we have a new kid on the block in the shape of Patrick Kidd. Times editor John Witherow had the good sense to reintroduce the diary. And his inspired choice was Kidd who trained (or rather lunched) under Giles Coren. If you haven’t read it yet please do. It is classy, stylish and a very good read.

This seems to have ruffled feathers at Telegraph Towers. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Tim Walker, veteran diarist, seems to have taken against Kidd and seems to miss no opportunity at having a pop. At the last count he has devoted nine paragraphs disparaging the Times Diary.

This mystifies me. Tim deals with Tatler type tales. Lots of Royality and lots of “when I spoke to Lady Chlamydia launching her new gallery promoting the works of the Honourable Tarquin de knob heir to the rampant rabbit dildo empire” sort of stuff.

It is a different market.

And before I receive a paragraph “how desperate Kidd is to get the services of failed MP Jerry Hayes to promote his lost cause” let me declare a non interest. I’ve only met Kidd once for ten minutes and the Telegraph Diary was never a topic of conversation.

But I do have an interest in good writing. And the Times Diary is a classy confection.

However let me be an honest broker. I will happily host a lunch at the Savile Club for the pair to end their differences.

Diarists should never fall out.

But I do miss writing one.

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Why I almost agree with Owen Jones

22 Jul 2013 at 20:33

It is not often that I agree with Owen Jones, but his piece in the Independent about Sunny Hundal’s rather sad attempt to villainise the Conservatives as “evil” struck a sensible chord.

Firstly, I must declare an interest. Although I totally disagree with Owen about most things, I rather like him. His views maybe hopelessly wrong (to me) but they are well held and genuine. When he writes I don’t get the impression that he is trying to create a bit of cheap publicity.

He, unlike so many lefties, has a sense of humour, sometimes against himself. He is one of the few flag bearers of the sentient left. Blimey, he actually believes in Socialism!

They are, I suspect an endangered species. But when the Miliband meteorite finally strikes (I won’t hold my breath) I would rather like Owen to be spared having his bones displayed in the Natural History Museum.

Sunny Hundal I don’t know at all. But anyone who considers themselves a commentator to be taken seriously should really be careful about their use of words.

Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussain and Robert Mugabe can be easily considered evil. Their policies were murder and genocide for a political end.

But the Tories? For heaven’s sake get a grip.

Or does he want to get a grip? I suspect not. A load of silly season publicity certainly. And apart for his fifteen minutes of fame, what serious political commentator is ever going to take a word he says seriously again? How is he going to ratchet up his next piece? “The queen presides over a theocracy that demonises Islam”?

Sadly the poor fellow has become a caricature of himself. He has gone beyond parody. A sort of left wing Daily Mash.

This is all a terrible shame. The left really do need a sentient voice. People who can challenge the anti benefit orthodoxy.

The trouble is that Milliband has realised that Labour is on the wrong side of the argument here. Not even the most swivel eyed loons on the Tory backbenches honestly wants to demonise the poor. The essence of Thatcherism was to give everyone a fair crack of the whip. Not just the boss classes jambocking the working classes.

Equality of opportunity.

We haven’t got anywhere near that yet while the trade unions seem to be content for women to be paid less than men for doing the same job. Strangely, the most recent statistics show that the gap between rich and poor is the smallest since records began.

In rock terms Thatcher “stuck it to the man.” In every sense.

If I had been born in the 1900s I would have been on the picket line with Manny Shinwell. I would have been a card carrying communist.

There were no benefits and if you lost your job with the colliery or the mill you would have been turned out of your tied home with nothing.

I know, my grandmother scrubbed floors to keep her family alive.

Yet this was not just capitalism at its red, toothed viciousness. It was pure ignorance of the governing classes as well. Until Joseph Rowntree delivered his report on poverty the ruling elite genuinely believed that the poor were poor by reason of choice.

Incredible by today’s thinking, but back then it was the received wisdom, even by the so called “enlightened”. Pretty depressing.

What I find so remarkable is that the only champion of the poor, the only spokespeople for those ashen faced mothers who have a daily dread of their young boys being seduced into the drugs gangs, is the Coalition.

Which include the “evil” Conservatives.

Quite honestly, I am probably totally wrong for giving Sunny Hundal a single column inch. But he is indicative of how totally out of rhythm the left are with ordinary people trying to scrape together a living together in very difficult times.

And Owen? Sorry to cause you embarrassment, but you are rather good news even if I thoroughly disagree with you!

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The swivel eyed loons have halted manoeuvres against Cameron because they can sniff a winner even though they despise him.

21 Jul 2013 at 09:51

Where are all those panicky Tories who were so frit with the Kippers that they wanted Cameron do deals with them? Is Peter Bone still wanting to have a chat? Is Nadine Dorries still wanting to negotiate? And I doubt whether the splendid Micky Fab is quite so keen on dialogue.

Panic can do strange but predictable things to a politician’s judgement.

It would be foolish to write UKIP off before the Euro elections as I suspect that they will do very well as the National Spitoon Party. They will once more ride high in the polls only to have their numbers diminish in the run up to the election that matters where I would be amazed if they are not wiped off the map. And there are dark jealousy fuelled plots to to clip the wings of offshore Farage who is seen to be getting a little too big for his boots.

Their fox has been run to ground though not yet shot over immigration.

Cameron knows how to use good luck to his political advantage. And he has had a hell of a lot of it. The UNITE vote rigging scandal has been bubbling along for years. For the Tories to have run with it alone sounded hollow and opportunistic. But jump on the coat tails of the Blairites exiled to the Miliband political death camps who decided to put the boot in and you create a lethal weapon of mass distraction.

And It makes Miliband look weak and ineffective for not acting earlier, which of course he couldn’t have. I don’t think that we will be hearing too much about his bravery in slaying the vested interests for a very long time.

There seem to be two schools of thought about how to handle the horrors of the Health Service. Some say it shouldn’t be used as a political football, others think that we should be putting the boot in as it happened on Labour’s watch. Personally, I am a putting the boot in man.

Jeremy Hunt has been remarkably good as Health Secretary. I thought he would be excellent at charming patients and reassuring everyone that the service was in safe hands. Not only has he been politically astute in wrong footing Labour over the one area in which they lead in the polls he has shown strong and tough leadership in getting things done.

The problem for Miliband is does he move his accident prone Shadow Health Secretary the rather pleasant Andy Burnham and admit some form of Labour guilt or let the poor lad stumble on?

A tough one.

So with the economy perking up, crime going down, benefits being capped and education given a dose of rigour the runes aren’t looking at all bad.

And James Wharton’s EU referendum Bill has been a tremendous success in discombobulating both Labour and the Lib Dems. There’s more mileage in this little wheeze too.

But Tory backbenchers are an odd bunch. When things are looking so good (Labour’s low double figure lead is now in single digits, remember Kinnock was running at a 29 point lead in the eighties) you just wonder why some of them come out with such mindless crap as the other day, “another Coalition cannot be an option for Cameron”. Somehow I thought that was for the electorate to decide. And they are less likely to vote for an absolute Tory majority after reading the alternative Queen’s Speech (ban the Burka, Thatcher Day and other swivel eyed loonery) if they think that the the patients are taking over the secure hospital.

The Lynton Crosby problem is still not parked. But it is only a problem and not a catastrophe waiting to happen. The Brooke’s, Coulson trials start in September could kick start public interest but it will be interesting to see how the papers will spin the coverage.

The niggle with Crosby that he is he is a lobbyist by trade. What Cameron has to do is be a little more straight forward about it. The line on Marr today was that he won’t say whether they spoke about tobacco advertising and that all will tell us that Crosby didn’t “intervene”. This is a mistake because it makes Cameron look shifty when he doesn’t have to.

Why not be honest? Why not just say that Crosby advises on strategy and the strategy on tobacco advertising is that we should wait and see what all the evidence is before making announcements? Of course we talked, its just that he was advising us, not lobbying on behalf of anyone else.

Number 10 are lucky that we are in recess. They have time to tweak the official line to take.

But at least Cameron can pop off to Cornwall knowing that the chances of a leadership challenge which was deadly serious a few weeks ago has melted away. Even the swivel eyed loons can spot a winner. Even if they still can’t can’t stand him.

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The Darling buds of May versus Hurricane Grayling and why Simon Burns should be allowed to use his car

15 Jul 2013 at 14:14

You have to hand it to Theresa May she has been a very gutsy and determined Home Secretary. She has given her dysfunctional department a serious dose of reality, abolished the hopeless and disloyal UKBA and through sheer tenacity finally managed to kick out the ghastly and very dangerous Abu Quatada. And she is wise to tackle the ludicrous abuses in the appeal process in these sort of cases.

For David Cameron this is very good news. He likes to have a chairman of the board approach and gets irritated when ministers lose the plot or are unable to sell the message.

Sensibly, she has put slavery back on the radar, which has been avoided by politicians because of racial overtones. She has not been afraid to tackle this head on with the promise of legislation. This is very good news both morally and politically.

She has also been canny about the abolition of the Human Rights Act by simply saying that everything is on the table because she realises that pulling out of the EHCR is fraught with danger.

Her response to the Lisbon Treaty opt outs over Justice have also been measured and pragmatic. The European Arrest warrant is something whipped through by Labour. In its present form it is unattractive. But rather than opt out of it, which wouldn’t be in our interests when some of our own baddies are fleeing Justice, she wants to reform it in terms of proportionality. How Labour have the nerve to try and do deals on this with the Tory Euro Loony Tunes puts the crass into hypocrisy.

Like David Young to Margaret Thatcher, May brings Cameron solutions not problems.

I wish I could say the same about Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. He should be called Hurricane Grayling as everything he touches is a disaster. To be a good Cabinet Minister requires judgement, political nous and the ability the administer his department. He hasn’t shown any of these qualities. His legal aid reforms are in tatters and his daft and dangerous proposals to privatise the probation service are doomed to fail. When ministers start talking about “aggressive timetables” and “challenges” to the professions you know that they are trying railroad through unworkable and unpopular policies.

Surely he should have identified the problems of the alleged overcharging of the ill fated G4s, the alleged overcharging of SERCO for tagging prisoners and the disaster that has been the CAPITA management of interpreters which has lead to the aborting of 400 trials. And then come up with a solution. Did he hell. Not only has he done nothing of substance, he wanted and as far as I can see still wants, this lot to bid for defence solicitor contracts. Utterly, bonkers.

And unlike May has become very bootsy over “ripping up” the Human Rights Act. Despite the fact that this not what the Commission will recommend, that it will not be supported by the Coalition and that several members of the Cabinet including the Attorney General have warned of an impending disaster.

So what is to become of Hurricane Grayling? He has no right wing power base anymore as was obvious at the debate of the legal aid reforms which I have no doubt will be blown out of the water by the Justice Select Committee. Clearly, he cannot continue in Justice as somebody needs to get to grips with this dysfunctional department.

He could be moved to that convenient graveyard for Ministers on their way out the Office of Leader of the House. Poor old Lansley, good egg as he is, looks pretty miserable there and he has the brains ability to sit on the backbenches and earn an honest few bob on the side without any shame. And as with Gerald Howarth a knighthood to be gazetted on the day of his resignation.

And what about Transport Minister Simon Burns? I do hope Cameron ignores all this nonsense being dragged up by the Mail on Sunday that somehow he is abusing the taxpayer’s money for using his ministerial car. It really is dreadfully unfair. Ministers of State in a Department like Transport have their red boxes stuffed with policy and commercially sensitive material. Do his box on a bus, or on a train when the world and his wife can take a peek? And what about the phone calls he could make in the privacy of his car which would be imprudent or impossible to make on public transport?

Burns is a thoroughly able Minister. I hope Cameron appreciates this and encourages him to use his car in the way it was designed for and either keeps him in post or promotes him.

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Ed's problem is not the unions but their leaders. Is he up to the long hard and bloody struggle?

9 Jul 2013 at 08:11

Sadly for Ed Miliband the Labour Party has no future only a present which is an ever recurring past. It is quite insane to try and break the link between the Party and the unions as their relationship is symbiotic.

The Labour Party was founded by the unions so that working men could be represented in Parliament. Their roots, their beliefs their very core is to represent the interests of working men and women. And there lies the problem.

The “working Class” is now such an abstract concept that, apart from in very small northern enclaves, it does not exist except in the mind of radical academics. Most people regard themselves as middle class.

Before Thatcher everyone knew their place. Working class people were easily identified. They lived in council houses. They worked with their hands. A steam whistle would tell them to have their breaks, their lunch and when to go home. They would wear mufflers, cloth caps and walk or bicycle to their factories. They deferred to authority. They knew their place and they accepted the patronising paternalistic, “we know best” attitude from successive Labour and Conservative governments.

And then there was the working class royalty. They still worked in factories, but were skilled, earned more money and could afford to put down a deposit on a mortgage.

Then Thatcher came along. She made it clear that any “place” that people had in society was not through birth but through hard work and aspiration. That education was the way out of poverty. That everyone, not the few could be property owners. She democratised the unions. No more strikes as a result of a few raised hands in a car park. There had to be a ballot. With union power came union responsibility.

But the Thatcher revolution was not without pain and suffering. So Tony Blair tapped into the national psyche and delivered Thatcherism with a heart.

And that is why the left hate him so much. He wanted to give people choice. He wanted public services which were accountable and delivered. He wanted to free people to live their lives as they wished and not be told by the governing classes how to live them.

And he was thwarted every way by Brown and his acolytes, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband.
When Ed Miliband was feted by the left for giving them back their party and the beginnings of the genocide of all things Blair every sentient commentator knew that the party had shifted to the left. The first shots of the civil war had begun.

All Len Mcluskey is doing now is bayoneting the wounded.

There is nothing new in entryism in the Labour Party. In the seventies and eighties Militant Tendency would send in their troops to take over moribund but safe constituencies. They were the cuckoos in the Labour nest. Frank Field bravely fought them for most of his political life. Eventually the party ventilated them. But not without one hell of a struggle.

No matter what Milband promises today it is too late. He should have stamped his authority on the unions to be responsible from the moment he was elected.

It has been the history of the unions that there has been a struggle. At first it was with unscrupulous employers exploiting their members and then it became a struggle for an ideology. Frank Chapple of the electricians union fought all his life to expel the communists. John Spellar, an old trade union fixer, could teach Miliband a thing or two.

But it is too late. The cuckoos are back. The entryists have not just entered, they have stormed the barricades. They pay for and run the sweet shop.

There is a way out, but it will be long, hard and bloody. The Trade unions are not the mischief that has to be cured, it is their leaders. The majority of trade unionists are not affiliated to any political party. They want their interests to be represented at the work place and not have their hard earned subscriptions frittered away on a political dogma that was becoming out of touch even in the sixties and has no place in modern Britain.

This is Ed Miliband’s challenge. Is he up to it?

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Not a penny more

1 Jul 2013 at 16:58

It is strange how history has a nasty habit of repeating itself. The row over MP’s pay is going to be boringly predictable. There is an independent review. They compare the salaries of middle management and come to the conclusion that MPs aren’t paid enough. Party leaders go mad. The cabinet and Shadow Cabinet are instructed not to trouser a penny more. There are rumblings of discontent on the backbenches. There is a vote. The payroll vote opposes any increases. The backbench trade unions, the PLP and the 22, organise the snout in the trough lobby. Those with safe seats vote for. Those with marginal seats think of a more important constituency engagement to attend and those who face execution at the next election vote against. The Lib Dems then put on hair shirts and demand that every Tory and Labour PPC swear an oath in blood that they won’t take the extra money.

Whatever happens the public will just feel sick to the stomach.

The trouble is that in the old days the assumed wisdom was that the punters wouldn’t take revenge as they thought everyone was on the take anyway. So despite the horror of the Party Leaders on salaries, they allowed a little leeway on allowances ( the word “expenses” has always been considered beyond the Pale).

So what has changed today? Well, it won’t be MPs who will decide how deep their snouts will go (although the pigs have been complaining for years) but a really, really independent body called IPSA.

As much as I like Keith Vaz I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I heard him on Breakfastime punt the new backbench line which was that it was quite invidious for members to have to vote on something so vulgar as their pay. Let us wait for the report. Let us consider how savings can be made. Let us pass the buck. Let someone else shoulder the blame. As John Junor used to say, “pass the sick bag Alice”.

But surely someone is going to have to take a decision? It is hard to believe that IPSA’s recommendations are automatically put into force. After all most MPs regard them as Satan incarnate. What if there was a recommendation that pay would be reduced? All hell would be let loose.

I have no doubt that one of our faux hair shirted tribunes will force a vote even if it isn’t binding. There will be naming and shaming. It will be the first question on every local reporter’s lips, “did you vote yourself an increase?”

The truth is that IPSA is so independent that they are despised. But they are the enema that was needed to expel the toxins of Tony Blair’s dash for cash in 2005, when doctors, consultants and Parliamentarians were showered with cash to keep them under control. Not so much the liquid cosh as the liquid dosh.

Are MPs paid enough? No. Are the majority hardworking and honest? Of course. Should they be getting an increase when living standards have been plummeting for everybody else? Don’t be daft.

There will be all sorts of quasi compromises floated. A further cut to allowances, higher contributions in a very generous pension scheme. I wouldn’t support either. Allowances are now at the bare minimum and darn difficult to claim, and the pension scheme is generous simply because being an MP is as precarious as being a football manager, but without the perks.

There will be grumblings on all sides of the divide. But surely they must know that none of the Party Leaders can afford to give an inch.

It is all desperately unfair. Welcome to politics, where at the moment you have to take the rough with the rough.

Quite honestly any MP who supports any sort of increase (no matter what other savings are made) will be strung by the goolies from a lamp post. And that’s after the pitch forked mob have run them out of Dodge.

It will be interesting to see how Offshore Farage will play this one as his party has got a Turner prize for excessive trousering . My guess is that he will plug in with the public mood and flog this one for all its worth.

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Make David Davis Minister For Europe with Cabinet rank and discipline will be restored and talk of a leadership at thing of the past

22 Jun 2013 at 14:09

As the nation is gripped with reshuffle fever (well those poor sados who would sell their own grannies for a job) I suppose I ought to be totally honest and tell you that I haven’t got a clue who will be up or down the greasy pole. I’ll go even better, nobody except Cameron and a handful of trusties have a clue either. So anything that you read about Downing Street insiders and their view is complete speculation usually by those who want to push their own people.

The dilemma that Cameron has is that he has so little talent at the very top but for political reasons he can’t move them. With the exception of Theresa May who is a perfectly adequate Home Secretary, the women are hopeless. Theresa Villiers has sunk without trace. Maria Miller is a catastrophe waiting to happen and Justine Greening is unspeakable. But if Cameron gets rid of them everyone will start accusing him to reverting to an Etonian phallocracy. I suppose he could get rid of one of them (Miller would be the favourite) and replace her with Anna Soubrey but even she has her fishwifery moments.

And the men aren’t that much better. Apart from Osborne, Hague, Gove, Pickles and IDS they don’t actually glitter. O’Patz is living out his fantasy of badger genocide and Grayling has achieved something no other Lord Chancellor could dream off, he has united every judge, barrister and solicitor against his insane reforms. There will be a debate in the Chamber on Thursday when he will be slaughtered by both left and right. Normally I don’t approve of blood sports but I will be there bayoneting the wounded. He would be easy to get rid of. He has no power base and is a dangerous liability. If only he could be replaced by the cerebral and well liked Dominic Grieve who would make the real savings that can be achieved in the totally dysfunctional MOJ. The trouble is Dominic is not all that keen on the idea.

At the moment.

And I am not convinced that George Young will survive. But not through any desire on Cameron’s part who has made it very clear that he would like him to stay. I understand that George has made it clear that he has just had enough. This should be the time to right the wrongs done to Andrew Mitchell. He has been silent, loyal and has shown no bitterness towards Cameron. He should be brought back as Chief Whip.

For what it’s worth I am of the view that there are three people who deserve to be in the Cabinet. Nick Boles, Jesse Norman and David Davis. The former because they have ideas intellect and political nous. But David Davis could be a game changer for Cameron. Yes I know they dislike each other intensely, but if you want a friend in politics buy a dog.

There will be the usual suspects who will say that this would be a mistake as he is not a team player. They would be wrong. Davis may have had his moment of madness by causing a by election for reasons that I still don’t comprehend, but things have moved on. The right just don’t have a respected and seasoned heavyweight who can rally the troops both in Parliament and in the country. They feel unloved, lonely and ignored. Mind you some of them deserve it, but that’s not really the point.

With Labour flatlining and Miliband on his knees this is the time for backbench discipline. No matter what sense Cameron talks on EU renegotiation the right just don’t believe him. And they are so jittery at the moment they are mad enough to launch a coup. I know, I know, it would be utterly insane and a gift to Miliband, but the Tory backbenches are not unlike the Wild West at the moment. They’ll shoot at anything.

So the solution? Give Davis his old job back as Minister of Europe with Cabinet rank. The right would be creaming in their jeans. And Cameron would at last be believed by his enemies. Discipline in the ranks would be restored. Springs will be in steps and chins held high. Europe will be in the news again but in a positive way. And an old bruiser like Davis would take the fight to Labour’s door step and give offshore Farage a run for his money.

The chances of this happening are remote as I suspect Cameron would regard it with distaste. But both are big enough men to rise above it. If Cameron can sup with Clegg the spoon wouldn’t have to be that much longer for Davis. And frenzied talk of leadership challenges would just be the ravings of the deranged.

Oh, and a lot of marginal seats would be saved.

Courage mon Brave!!

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No member of any Select Committee should have any paid interests which could cause a conflict

11 Jun 2013 at 19:54

It’s not often that I am shocked to the core, but the Tim Yeo affair has left my gob truly smacked. Did I hear him correctly on tape boasting that he told a business colleague what questions his select committee was going to ask? Forgive me but if that’s not coaching then my cock’s a kipper.

But what is so bollock clenchingly sphincter rattlingly awful is why didn’t the whips office step in years ago, or more worrying, why didn’t the members of the select committee take action? Didn’t anybody think to tell David Cameron that this was a disaster waiting to happen?

It is beyond belief.

Paul Goodman has put forward a very sensible suggestion that select committee chairman should not have paid interests which could conflict with their duties. I would go further. No member of a select committee should have paid interests which could conflict with their duties. In my naïveté I honestly believed that this was the case already. It may not be in the rules, but it is just common sense.

It’s the right thing to do.

What is so remarkable is that Yeo’s interests were well known for years. Guido and Iain Dale have been banging on about it for rather a long time. Yet nobody took a blind bit of notice. What none of us knew was the sheer scale of his trousering. When you add up the share options and cash in hand it is not far off a million quid. Now, Yeo earns about £67k as an MP and an extra £14,582 as a committee chairman. It’s not up to city standards but its hardly up shit creek without a paddle.

And if I hear another MP moaning about the pay I will scream. Yes it’s hardish, dull repetitive work with unsocial hours and precious little thanks from a fickle and ungrateful public. But boys and girls that’s the choice you made. Nobody twisted you arm to be an MP and most of you plotted, schemed and dreamed of nothing else for years.

Oh, and if I hear another little piggy caught on the telly by a journo sting proclaiming innocence because they didn’t break the rules I will bite my own head off.

And here lies the problem. We can have a register of lobbyists, we can tighten the rules, we can have draconian watchdogs, we can even have recall. But it won’t make a shred of difference if people are prepared to think of new dodges. And unless the culture of, " I’m a Parliamentarian I’ve sweated and slaved for my constituents so I’m entitled to make a few few bob on the side" disappears, whatever credibility (which is not a lot) politicians have will be lost and the country will sleepwalk towards the worst sort of shysterism from the likes of UKIP.

But enough of the ghastliness and greed of some of our politicians, there is another agenda which is rather worrying. The press are utterly terrified of a world post Leveson and will do anything to prevent it. So I suspect these stings are a gentle reminder to the public that if there is over regulation of the press these sort of stories would never come to light. Well, up to a point Lord Copper.

What troubles me is that I suspect that the damage to the reputation of politicians is irreparable in the immediate future. There is a danger that there will be a move to select Parliamentary Taleban, humourless squeaky clean zealots of propriety. God it will be dull. And rather scary.

I don’t want our tribunes to live the lives of monks and nuns. I just want them too behave with a little common sense and decency even if it is not in the rules.

If they don’t we might as well just hand the whole show over to big business. Let them sponsor the bloody lot. G4s can fund the Justice Committee. RBS Treasury. And Health? The Cooperative Funeral Service of course.

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In the land of the politically blind the swivel eyed loons are kings. A by election in Newark would be a distraction from the Miliband omnishambles

31 May 2013 at 14:53

If I was a Number 10 strategist (discuss) I would be doing my damnedest to prevent Patrick Mercer from causing a by election in Newark. It will be a little while before we know just how daft/venal/pissed he has been, but from reports so far he has been the victim of yet another faux lobby sting.

Perhaps “victim” is not the most appropriate adjective. Most MPs suffer political death by their own hand (not in the Stephen Milligan sense), caused by arrogance, desire, greed or breathtaking naivety.

I suspect the latter in Mercer’s case. He has serious form for shouting his mouth off to the press after a few sherbets, usually in the form of visceral attacks on Cameron. It all goes back to the days when he was a shadow minister and made some vaguely inappropriate remarks about the way people joshed each other about their colour and gingerarity in the army. Well, inappropriate in the bonkerish political correctness that politicians are duty bound to pander to. As a former army officer it was just plainspeak to Mercer, but as a front line politician it was political suicide. And as Cameron was doing his best to de swivel and de loon his party, Mercer was given the order of the hobnail. I suspect if he had towed the line and kept his head down he would be in government.

Sadly it all became very personal, very vocal and usually after closing time. Mercer is in the Mad Nad league of Cameron defenestration. And that is why he is so potentially dangerous.

One of the most depressing things about politics that I encountered, apart from my personal horror of dick swinging partisanship is to witness how rejection can corrode the purist of souls. One moment you are cock of the walk, the next; just a cock. It is a sad sight seeing these lost souls tramping the bars and the tea rooms in search of other bitter kindred spirits and trying to spread the poison.

And this is the problem for Cameron. No matter he tries to connect with his backbenchers, either at Number 10 or just with a pat on the back there are a significant minority who deeply resent him for even trying. The charm offensive has not been a success. What will make the difference in a few months time is when the economy picks up, unemployment regularly falls and business has a spring in its step. Cameron again will look like a winner to even the most disaffected who will slink back into the shadows until another opportunity arises for the poisoned stiletto to be unsheathed.

But never mind the future, lets look at now. In the land of the politically blind the swivel eyed loon is king.

The enemies of the modernisers will see this as an opportunity to strike. Not a fatal blow but enough in their eyes to make the Cameroons see the good sense of doing a deal with the Faragistas. Pressure will be put on Mercer to cause a by election. Not to stand himself but to clear a way for a Kipper victory.

For those of unsound mind having Patrick Mercer as Nigel Farage’s John the Baptist is very attractive. This could panic the Cameroons into making more concessions over the EU (a snap referendum would be a start) and scrapping the wickedness of gay marriage.

Those sentient Conservatives realise that this just won’t happen. Lines have been drawn. There will be no more concessions. They will have scoured the opinion polls and have realised that the two Eds are poison to the voters. The Spending Review is the point of no return for Labour. They are either going to make a massive U turn or accept that they are on a white knuckled ride to oblivion.

I hope that the majority of backbenchers, particularly the ones with marginal seats, appreciate the good sense of keeping their real enemy within their sights.

But if Mercer is not a headache La Belle Dorries could be. I hope it has not escaped anybody’s attention that she comes up for re-selection in her Mid Beds seat in a couple of weeks time. It may not be the triumphant coronation that she expects. I have spoken to a number of people who will be at the meeting who are thoroughly fed up with her antics and want rid of her.

And if she is no longer the Conservative candidate does she cause a by election for the Kippers or does she stand for them at the general?

This could be fun.

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