Saving justice

savingjusticecoverIf we were conducting a survey to find the Coalition’s most objectionable and destructive policy then we’d very likely end up with a long list of contenders.

Parts of the policy agenda – such as welfare reform, education policy, or the privatisation of NHS delivery – have attracted plenty of media attention, although they have not encountered anywhere near the level of informed critical scrutiny they needed. Other parts of the Coalition’s policy agenda have been moving forward relatively unnoticed, except among those directly affected.

Most notably, Chris Grayling’s single-minded and boneheaded attempt to destroy the English legal system as we know it has been progressing without attracting a huge amount of attention beyond legal circles. We have seen the House of Commons wave through a series of profound changes that are undermining key principles of our justice system. It is so egregious that it can only be intentional.

These changes have been “justified” with the Coalition’s characteristically cavalier approach towards evidence. That is, they have imagined some large numbers, shouted “austerity”, and argued that these large numbers justify cutting funding to support access to justice. This strategy has so far proven almost entirely impervious to reasoned argument. It doesn’t matter how many times informed commentators have pointed out that the Coalition’s case is misleading and its proposals damaging, the Lord Chancellor remains pretty much unmoved. He continues to pursue his anti-access agenda. [Read more…]

Jeremy Hunt and the limits of credulity

David Cameron’s performance in the House yesterday in response to Labour’s urgent question about Jeremy Hunt seems to have split people. A large number of people thought he was an offensive and evasive bully. Tory loyalists thought he valiantly defended a minister whose reputation had been unfairly impuned.

This is just the latest installment in a very peculiar saga.

As John Rentoul reminded us on Sunday, there was never a golden age when Ministers were routinely doing the honourable thing: resigned at the first sign of impropriety – let alone illegality – in their department. But you have to ask quite what sort of evidence has to be in the public domain before Cameron would feel compelled to concede that maybe, just maybe, it was time for Hunt to go. [Read more…]