When I listened to Lord McNally suggest that I amongst others was hysterical, on BBC radio 4’s Law in Action last week, I was somewhat taken aback. Even if he didn’t mean me personally, but the profession I belong to collectively, there was something discordant about his description. I recall the demonstration outside parliament a few weeks back which must go down as the most orderly protest in history. One where those ‘protesting’ calmly took a few steps backwards to clear the pavement when reminded that they were obstructing pedestrians. These protesters were ‘hysterical’?? Or maybe I am being unkind and its not this group to which he refers at all, but instead the 140 treasury counsel who wrote to the Attorney General complaining about the reforms or perhaps the 90 QC’s who wrote to the Telegraph warning that the reforms could undermine the rule of law. After all QC’s and treasury counsel are renowned for their hysteria. If not them perhaps he means the council for circuit judges that well known hotbed of marxist agitators or maybe even Lord Neuberger, that epitome of hysteria. On reflection, he might simply mean each of the 16000 respondents to the sham of a consultation, the CBA, the Bar Council, The Law Society as well as more charities and law centres than one can shake a stick at.
So it was with more than a little interest I attended the legal aid question time last night to look in the eye and listen to the Minister, Lord McNally explain his position on the proposed cuts (reforms) and of particular interest when Joshua Rozenberg asked him if he regretted using the word “hysterical”. Lord McNally responded that he did not. That “we are in a wage negotiation and for us to deny our vested interest is wrong”. That we “can have our public protest but some of the claims that have been made are hysterical.”
I suspect I was not alone as a dark mood settled upon me. Listening to Lord McNally talk with pride that, “he was not a lawyer” with the obvious sub-text that lawyers are fat-cat, vested interest ridden, hysterical, seditionary idiots, that of course he recognized that quality wasn’t built into the PCT model yet still believed it “would not be a race to the bottom”, I couldn’t help but wonder what world Lord McNally was living in. If he genuinally believed that which he was saying or had simply trotted out the same old lies so many times, that they barely registered upon his brain as they got uttered again.
It was when he said with obvious pride how he had been warned that “when taking on the professions he should not buckle, and he would not” that I really started to get angry. How could his words be squared with the promise that the consultation process was an honest one and not merely a sham, a gossamer thin cloak designed to do no more than prevent the introduction of the PCT model being challenged by way of Judicial Review.
It is a measure of the calm and collected manner of Maura McGowen QC, Chairperson of the Bar Council in answering the question “was she hysterical”, that she started her answer “Not yet..”
Lord McNally, watch this space. What you do not seem to understand is that for too long, the system has creaked on merely due to the goodwill and hard work of those whom you seem to hold in contempt. Without our efforts, often for no payment and which go above and beyond that which most reasonable people would contemplate doing for a decent wage, the system would long since have come crashing down. If you think we are hysterical now, just wait till later should our concerns not be heeded and our goodwill is withdrawn.