Fifth letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,
Mr Chris Grayling,
11th June 2013,
Dear Lord Chancellor,
Don’t get paranoid but everybody seems to be deserting you. Thank you for your reply and yes I did watch those troublesome and articulate lawyers give evidence to the Justice Select Committee today. They seemed to have answers for everything, the bastards. I too am very worried about you being summoned before the committee on 2nd July 2013 as Andy MacDonald MP said you were to be afterwards, and Sir Alan Beith with his “when we have the justice secretary in front of us” and his snide “you can take it that this committee knows all about the MOJ contracts that have gone wrong”. I too remember with embarrassment the last time that you gave evidence to that committee, on 28th November 2012.
Your evidence ranged from the bafflingly contradictory:
• On how you defined your role as Lord Chancellor: “The key is that it is my job to defend the rights of the judiciary to take the decisions they do, even if sometimes I might privately think those decisions are daft….my job as a legislator if I don’t like what the judge does, is to change the law”.
To the gung-ho:
• On why you don’t believe in pilot schemes: “In government, if you are going to be a reformer you have to bite the bullet and reform”.
To dissembling in the majestic third person:
• On who the real Chris Grayling is; “The answer is that he is someone who believes in a justice system the public have confidence in”.
To the prophetic:
• On legal aid: “I suppose my first priority is to stop the situation where legal aid is going to people in a position to pay for their defence anyway”.
On that occasion the MOJ moles on the committee Nick de Bois (C, Enfield North) and Rehman Chishti (C, Gillingham) fed you some good planted questions, for example inviting you to praise IDS’ work on gangs and youth violence, and asking how you felt about Sky TV for prisoners, and whether you were thinking of reducing foreign nationals in prison. Chishti at least asked today’s planted questions, which I personally gave him in a brown envelope on the Edgware Road last night: (1) doesn’t a choice of lawyer simply benefit repeat offenders, and (2) defendants are not good connoisseurs of legal skills are they? But the effect was TOTALLY spoiled when, after a good bluff up front, he crumbled and said they were “not necessarily my views”. Thereby disclosing we’d planted them and showing how untrustworthy he is. I’ve heard of witnesses cracking under the pressure of questions, but this is the first time I’ve seen a cross examiner crack under the pressure of answers. However all is not lost because when you give evidence next time my imps will be under the table feeding you baffling replies and I’ll be under Sir Alan’s chair with a spike (in case it all goes belly up). And that labour member Yasmin Qureshi (L, Bolton S.E.) couldn’t understand the difference between questions and evidence, so she won’t be any trouble.
Who else is deserting you? 150 Treasury Counsel, the panel of lawyers who represent the Government in the law courts, have published an open letter to the Attorney-General saying “we consider that the proposals in the consultation paper will undermine the accountability of public bodies to the detriment of society as a whole and the vulnerable in particular.” One of your Conservative predecessors as Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, said that if your proposals were implemented then standards would plummet.
In other news, all the papers are, one by one, coming out against the MOJ’s proposals. Over the last few days the following have been critical of your plans: Peter Oborne in The Telegraph and Chris Henley and Clare Montgomery in the Financial Times. The Sunday People quoted the leaked CPS email warning that their employees will face disciplinary action if they criticise your plans to their MPs. The Express, today, described the MOJ as the ‘Ministry of Waste’. They drew attention to the MOJ spend on taxis (£4.3 million) hairdressing (£84,000) and actors (£720,000). It seems that they have read my third letter to you! How the devil did that happen when I intended it to be completely secret?
Even the Mail on Sunday (yes EVEN the Mail on Sunday) has turned on the MOJ. In an article last Sunday they criticised your proposals and did a hatchet job on one of your last remaining supporters, Eddie Stobart’s legal director, Trevor Howarth. They reminded their readers that a High Court Judge, having examined a case brought by Howarth against the Gwent Police for judicial review, declared in the judgement that Mr Howarth had no legal qualifications and was “consistently slapdash” and had a “cavalier approach” to case preparation. When Mr Howarth was prosecuted at Bristol Crown Court in 2008 for Doing an Act tending and intended to Pervert the Course of Justice he paid for the defence services of Mr Robert Smith QC. He thus neatly proved two of your most important principles at stake in one blow: (1) if you want to be able to choose the best legal skills pay privately and (2) if you have a borderline judicial review you will have to pay privately too. The business model of Stobart Barristers is to charge for putting members of the public in touch with a barrister (registered under the Direct Access scheme) who any member of the public could access directly and for free. It is the equivalent of Eddie Stobart charging shoppers to enter a Tesco’s car park; that is charging a fee but providing no extra service. It was fitting that Mr Howarth said to the Mail on Sunday when defending this business practice “our business model is in line with government thinking”. Who needs treacherous friends when you have Mr Howarth to support you?
So, to the sound and smell of all these fleeing rats, my advice to you is as follows:
1. Get your chums at GCHQ to divert their Prism programme to McGowan, Scott-Moncrieff, Waddington and Turner. We need all their private email and mobile phone traffic so as to get ahead of the game. We must know what the opposition are doing before they do. And remember because they have done nothing wrong they have nothing to hide and so that makes it all legal. Your knowledge of the law will teach you that.
2. Make sure someone leaks from the MOJ your written ministerial statement (of 11th June 2013) on pre-trial cross examination pilots in Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston-Upon-Thames. You’ve got to get the press talking about something else.
3. Get Nick de Bois and Rehman Chishti sacked from the Select Committee. Is Tim Yeo available?
4. Remember that you are right whereas 600 judges, 90 QCs, 150 Treasury counsel and everyone else who is not in favour of the government in their response to the consultation are, in Lord McNally’s measured word, ‘hysterical’.
5. Distrust everyone (except me) because everyone is out to get you.
Yours, with 100% loyalty