Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Tide is Turning

So, Chris Grayling has decided on a humiliating climb-down over a key plank of his Legal Aid reforms. Faced with an absolutely solid wall of resistance from the legal profession to the imposition of centralised contracting and the removal of client choice of solicitor, he's decided to cave in on the principle ahead of his appearance at the Justice Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday.

Having previously said that basically clients were too thick to make informed choices about legal representation, all of a sudden their right to choose will remain as the Guardian reports here:-   

Acknowledging the strength of the campaign, Grayling said – in a statement released before he appears at the Commons justice select committee on Wednesday – that "client choice" would now be kept. 

He declared: "Removing the choice of solicitor for clients receiving criminal legal aid was only proposed in order to guarantee lawyers had enough business to make contracts viable. It is clear the profession regards client choice as important and so I expect to make changes that allow a choice of solicitor in the future.
"Any future scheme for criminal legal aid must guarantee that quality legal advice and representation is available, but we still need to make significant savings.
"I am therefore pleased the Law Society has acknowledged the government's requirement for savings. We agree that a managed market consolidation is the best way to meet the challenges of the future. We are discussing their proposal about how to achieve this."
Removal of client choice has been one the main focuses of opposition to the MoJ consultation on legal aid. Many questioned why a Conservative minister was so determined to impose a centralised contract system that will stifle competition between small businesses.
In a comment last month that came back to haunt him, Grayling defended the proposal, telling the Law Society Gazette: "I don't believe that most people who find themselves in our criminal justice system are great connoisseurs of legal skills. We know the people in our prisons and who come into our courts often come from the most difficult and challenged backgrounds."
Politics is only ever the art of the possible and here we have the first sign that if an idea is crap and lots of influential people keep reminding you about how crap it is, eventually you have to admit defeat and move quickly to a plan B. This government seem to have had rather more crap ideas than most, hence we have yet another u-turn to add to the long list to date.
I commented the other day on how glum Chris Grayling was looking during the Chancellor's recent cuts speech. I think the tide is turning for this previously smug-looking guy as his probation omnishambles rolls on. In politics there's only so many misjudgements, u-turns, cock-ups and bad luck allowed before your job begins to look a little less secure than it once did and there's bound to be a summer cabinet re-shuffle in the offing. Just thought I'd mention it.     


  1. I despised the Thacher government and being a scouser I feel I had good reason. Managed decline was to be the way forward for Liverpool. But I think this government is actually even worse.
    They remind me of a bunch of school bullies that get upset and nasty when they cant have their own way. It's more like a dictatorship then a democracy.
    Having said that it's very satisfying to see Grayling turn a little more gray over his leagal aid reforms. It's also worth pointing out that a high degree of solidarity within the legal profession has brought this uturn about. Probation staff should note that well!
    A summer reshuffle? What odds would you get on Grayling being health minister? surely the NHS would welcome some of his well thought ideas and appriciate his outstanding success rates in other offices.

  2. Totally with you on that one - anon from Liverpool.....this Government are a bunch of heartless gits...I especially enjoyed all the debates yesterday about MP's getting their pay rise...all that guff about paying for 'experience' seems to me this Governments only experience, is that bestowed upon them by accident of birth - of privileged hedonism; clearly evidenced by Failing Graylings suggestion that those who use the Legal Aid system are not connoisseurs of legal skills - how wrong can someone be???? Most users of Legal Aid can see a uninterested, lazy, poor reputation coming a mile off.

    1. Those who use the legal aid system have more knowledge of legal process then Grayling has.

      Remember he's not even a lawyer himself.

  3. I see the e-petition - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/search?page=2&q=legal+aid -
    pulled in over a hundred thousand signatures. Probation by contrast is unlikely to get anywhere near this figure. There is no leadership within probation and no leadership coming from the unions. Meanwhile, it's tea and biscuits and networks to be forged amid talks about transitions.

    1. Chris Morrison11 July 2013 at 17:19

      Well the news in from today about the fact g4s are now under the snout of the serious fraud office for years of overbilling their tagging contracts and serco are getting a second audit for the same perhaps suggests the days of tea and biscuits should be limited. There isnt another company who could even begin to take this on. Id be a lot more bullish about the current strength of your position :-)

  4. "In politics there's only so many misjudgements, u-turns, cock-ups and bad luck allowed before your job begins to look a little less secure than it once did "
    Oh, I don't know. Look at Theresa May.