I feel obliged to publish this rather amusing piece (although it’s a few weeks old, and some of you will have seen it) in the interests of balance and even handedness. A lot of people are being rather rude about him, but the Lord Chancellor has a supporter. It would be completely unfair to assume that just because the author, Leo McKinstry and Chris Grayling happen to be the same age and went to the same college – Sidney Sussex – that this is anything other than a well-balanced and carefully researched piece of independent journalism. After all, it lists among Grayling’s achievements changes for which he was not responsible.
Perhaps it’s time for Leo McKinstry to put pen to paper again. It can only help. All 38 comments on this piece were quite rude about both men.
Chris Grayling… At last the minister who puts the public first
By: Leo McKinstry
Published: Thu, May 2, 2013
Chris Grayling has shown he has the steel to bring about the changes Britain badly needs
FOR far too long, our legal system has been dominated by progressive dogma.
The judicial elite inhabits a narrow, privileged world where criminals often receive more support than the law-abiding British public, where so-called human rights have perverted traditional justice, and where a fortune in legal aid is squandered.
This is a politically correct culture of short jail terms and soft prison regimes, of arrogant judges showing contempt for democracy and of greedy lawyers showing disdain for taxpayers’ money. The ultimate symbol of the modern judiciary is the Islamic extremist Abu Qatada, who should have been deported years ago but has been assiduously protected by phalanx of self-serving lawyers.
Until recently the coalition has proved hopelessly ineffectual in taking on the legal establishment. Indeed, the Lib Dems have been passionate defenders of the current system, refusing to countenance any reform of the disastrous Human Rights Act, while Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary during the first two years of David Cameron’s Government, was rightly notorious for his self-satisfied attachment to the liberal orthodoxy.
But at last we have a politician who has the courage and radicalism to put the public first. Chris Grayling, who succeeded Clarke as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor in September 2012, is proving to be a formidable crusader against all the vested legal interests and conventional Left-wing nostrums that so badly undermined faith in British justice.He might lack televisual charisma or fiery oratorical skills, but he has shown he has the steel to bring about the changes Britain badly needs.
Yesterday, he announced a crackdown on ambulance chasing lawyers and businesses.In their ruthless exploitation of the no-win, no-fee rules introduced by the last Labour government, these judicial vultures have fuelled the destructive compensation culture. Personal injury lawyers alone are estimated to make almost £2billion a year through this work. It is partly thanks to their selfish antics, encapsulated in their rapacious slogan “where there’s blame, there’s a claim,” that our society is now deluged with safety regulations, while insurance costs have rocketed.
Under Grayling’s plan, the fees that lawyers can charge for processing minor claims are to be slashed by more than half. In addition, there is to be a ban on the lucrative practice by which management companies are paid referral fees for providing details of accidents to personal injury lawyers. As the compensation racket declines, so insurance premiums should drop significantly in the coming years.The ultimate symbol of the modern judiciary is the Islamic extremist Abu Qatada
In the same crusading spirit, Grayling announced that prison regimes are going to be toughened. Perks like satellite TV and adult DVDs are to be ended. Inmates will have to wear uniforms at the start of their sentences, and undertake work programmes or other rehabilitation courses.
Perks like access to gyms and spending money will have to be earned through good behaviour rather than dished out automatically, as happens now.
Inevitably, this more rigorous, spartan approach has provoked anger in the anti-prison lobby, which likes to portray all criminals as tragic victims of society. But the public, fed up with institutionalised leniency, has been crying out for just such a move. Why on earth should some prisoners receive satellite TV when many law-abiding taxpayers, cannot afford such a service?
Grayling’s zeal can also be seen in his recent proposal to cut the colossal £1.7billion legal aid budget by around £300million, through the introduction of fee limits, competitive tendering for contracts and restrictions on foreigners making claims. So furious is the opposition to Grayling that the Northern Bar even called a one-day strike last week, while other lawyers have blathered about “the end of our profession.”
But their indignation will attract no sympathy from the public. Legal aid lawyers have brought this on themselves through their eagerness to pursue a deluge of outrageous cases, particularly misnamed “human rights” claims from illegal immigrants, bogus asylum seekers and foreign prisoners.What really annoys the legal establishment is that Grayling is not one of them.
In fact, he is the first non-lawyer to hold the office of Lord Chancellor since 1673. But his status as an outsider is precisely why he is so effective. Someone reared in the cosy world of the elite, would find it much harder to challenge the vested interests and outdated working practices.
In one respect, Grayling might seem an unlikely warrior against the liberal hegemony, for in his student days he was something of a progressive himself. At Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, he was a member of both the fledgling Social Democratic Party and human rights pressure group Amnesty International. His first job was as a news trainee in that bastion of political correctness, the BBC.
But, he journeyed rightwards as he grew older, becoming a Tory councillor in 1998 and then winning election as the Conservative MP for Epsom in 2001. Since then he has become one of the party’s most solid figures. He has talked tough on Europe, human rights, and immigration, creating controversy in 2010 when he declared his sympathy for the Christian b-and-b owners who refused a booking from a gay couple.
For all such rows, Grayling is exactly what our legal system needs. The real enemies of justice are the professionals who continue to support the failing status quo.